So we have been talking about the impact that live coaching with our Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs) has on the quality of calls they produce along with their initial productivity.
Some people just seem made for this job. They have the gift of gab, their words flow smoothly, and they just have a naturally keen ability to deal with people. Others need some encouragement and development to reach that status (and that is OK) – your job as a coach (more so as a leader) is to identify the good things your Conversational Marketing Expert (CME) does and foster a sense of collaboration and desire to keep improving.
In my opinion, one of the most crucial parts of coaching a Conversational Marketing Expert (CME) is following up with them and checking on what you asked them to improve on in your initial coaching session.
Here are some of my own methods that help me develop my Conversational Marketing Experts:
High-impact Follow-up Coaching Tips
- At the end of your first coaching session, set a date and time to do a follow-up, and stick to it.
- Ask your rep to take ownership of their areas that need work, and ask for a date by which you can expect improvement to have taken place. Remember to be reasonable and S.M.A.R.T about goal setting, and hold them to it on their coaching form.
- Have a specific area of improvement that you are listening for based upon your initial coaching. Example: Second-attempting, rebutting, information verification, etc.
- Reinforce the good things your rep already does in his or her calls.
- Personally take a few calls for them, and have them listen to you doing what you want them to work on and how to do it correctly.
- Begin to pinpoint specific areas that need to be improved upon by focusing on metrics that directly affect back-end performance.
- Continue to listen in and do live monitoring specifically on actionable items that you and your rep have agreed needs improved on over the next day(s) following your follow-up.
There you have it. It is as easy as that. Coaching and training people to improve can be an expensive cost to any contact center, but what price do you put on creating high-quality calls? Do a majority of your reps make calls that you can show your clients without shame? If you want to be able to say yes to that question, consider how much of your coaching is actually followed up upon.
What are some ways that you make sure your reps are improving their call quality?
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In the moments prior to victory, we have all seen the scenes in the locker room where an athlete is doing his best to pump the team up and motivate them to take home the win. Sometimes I think I forget, as a person who uses spoken dialog as part of their job every day, how powerful, encouraging, and guiding such words can be in the development of a team or person.
I pride myself on being an Incept Saves Program Results Coach. Basically the job entails making sure that our Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs) hit specific parts of their scripts, such as promotions, the need for certain blood types, and donation types as well as to make sure they truly are strengthening the relationship with the donor in the correct process. No matter what, you have to remember: there is no “i” in team, but there is in win! Needless to say, the process of coaching my Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs) face-to-face after a live monitoring session results in real-time improvement.
Here is a breakdown of my specific coaching strategy. These techniques are widely applicable to many different contact centers as well.
How to Coach Towards Consistent Improvement
- Make notes about specific things you heard in the calls you listen to. Live monitoring is crucial to successful coaching in the rows of your contact center. When you hear your representative say something good, write it down and note why it was good (and vice versa). This helps the representative remember the call you were talking about and identify with a specific situation.
- Enable and foster collaboration by the way you deliver your coaching session. People are going to tune out what they consider condescending or abrasive. It’s just the mind’s natural psychological defense to associate negative feelings with negative interactions. Eliminate that right off the bat by considering the way you approach your representative and the way you deliver your coaching to them. Rather than stand over them, take a knee on the ground next to them. Ask them how their day is going. Make them feel like you actually care about their success and take a nod at proposing a more collaborative “coach to representative” relationship.
- Consider “the sandwich” technique of delivering your coaches. More often than not, people can get nervous during a coaching session. They aren’t too sure what you are going to say. I really enjoy using, “the sandwich” technique when I deliver my coaches. No matter what, I always recognize positive points to start out my coaching session. I deliver the things I thought I heard that were good in their calls, and then transition into what I think can be improved in a non-negative way. When I talk about what someone can improve upon, I use realistic examples of how I personally would handle a situation or how I implement what I am teaching in my own calls to them, so there are no questions about what they should do. I follow-up these improvement points with a final layer of something positive that representative does in their calls. It leaves them feeling good about what they are already doing while giving them a positive mental boost to focus on the improvements I’ve asked them to work on.
It truly is the front line management team that helps foster results and talent in a contact center environment. It’s like having a general in the trenches with the troops. If anything goes wrong, someone is there to coach them right back onto a positive track and keep the results rolling. Positive coaching that enables representatives and coaches to work together towards higher quality calls and increased client results is obviously one of the most important (and continual) investments your contact center can make.
What other coaching methods does your company have success with?
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I’ve been at Incept almost three years of my life now. I was hired on when I was 20, and now looking back at 23, even I feel old.
In my time at Incept, I’ve been able to accomplish a lot for someone my age, but I always seem to mentally remark at how this job as a Conversational Marketing™ Expert (CME) has changed me and the way I interact with people face to face. If you have been employed in the telecommunications industry for a period of time, you too can almost certainly relate to the points I’m about to make.
Here is a short list of how my job at Incept has rubbed off on the way I live:
It Rubs Off on You
- You always make sure to tell the people at the drive-thru, the checkout counter, or any other person that works with people all day to have a good shift.
- You don’t mind calling in to customer service centers for personal issues; you even fill out the customer service satisfaction surveys in your email.
- You find yourself talking louder among your friends and family.
- You know effective ways to initiate conversations with people, as well as how to gracefully bow out of a conversation.
- People tell you that you have a great speaking voice.
- You know how to deliver the perfect rebuttal to change a situation.
- You feel confident in yourself.
From the first time I walked in to the office at Incept to now, I never knew what possibilities an entry-level office job could deliver a young person like me. So far the ride has had much in store, and hopefully there will be many more opportunities for me to recognize.
If you work in the telecommunications industry, what else could be added to my list?
Without a doubt, Incept Team Lead Greg Ernst is young, but that doesn’t take one bit away from his leadership abilities! On the contrary, it is nice to have a young mind around the office who really looks for any way possible to improve. Greg encourages the results generated from his team by being a champion of the company’s goals and needs. He conveys them very well, which ultimately empowers his Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs).
It goes to show you that there are many methods by which you can increase results in your own contact center. At the end of the day, treating your own Conversational Marketing Experts (CMEs) as donors themselves and strengthening the relationship with them can go a very long way towards positive results.
Do words really affect us?
The very essence of my job as a Conversational Marketing
™ Expert (CME) at Incept
, I am a communications specialist, and I communicate through a voluminous mental library of different words every single day.
The average woman will speak either about or over 20,000 words per day!
Us males on the other hand only use an average of around 7,000 words per day. At the end of a week at Incept, I’m convinced that a Conversational Marketing™ Expert (CME) easily uses around 100,000 words per week as we interact with hundreds of blood donors week in and week out. Our jobs are centered around conversation. Conversation is even in our job title. But at the very core of a conversation lies the spoken words themselves that we use to communicate.
I’m willing to bet that you have heard the idiom, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Such a phrase rings true in our daily social environments, as we interact with each other primarily through spoken language. We tend to remember moments in our lives where we have been touched on some type of mental level in a profound way. You remember the time when your sports coaches yelled at you. You remember times when you have received praise in front of your classroom. You remember the funny one-liners and inside jokes that you share with your friends. You feel a certain way when your significant other tells you, “I love you.” Words can truly be what build someone up or tear someone down and precede the actions that come next.
As I sit here in my cubicle and type, I am drawn to think about the way I talk to donors on the phone. What I say to them will be what results in action or inaction. As a CME at Incept, my job might have an end goal to get an appointment to donate from a blood donor, but it is ultimately my words that will build them up to do it again in many cases. The same can be said for many people who work in the telecommunications field.
Good, old Isaac Newton stated as the third law of the Laws of Motion, “For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction.” Keep that in mind if you are recruiter or telephone representative. The way you use your words in interactions with customers will result in some type of reaction for sure. It is up to us as humans to really understand the power of what we say. The spoken word can either be something that is as sweet as a glass of ice tea on a summer’s day or can be as hurtful as stepping on a stray nail. You have to recognize the basic philosophy behind being truly conversational and the effect that even the smallest word or phrase can have with your donors. Only then can you truly master using the power of spoken words.
Monitoring the calls of your organization’s own Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CME) is something that is necessary if your contact center is to succeed!
How do you get better at an instrument? How does an athlete become more competitive? How do people improve at anything? The answer is through listening to the feedback and knowledge of others. It is always intriguing when we are able to take constructive criticism. Throughout our lives, we are almost conditioned by our teachers, coaches, and parents to want to be better at whatever it is we are doing.
Since we are in an industry where our product is our service, monitoring the quality of our calls here at Incept is an essential part of the process when it comes to strengthening the relationship with our clients and their donors. Needless to say our Conversational Quality department takes their mission seriously. They look at their jobs not as being the doomsayers of the phone lines, but as supportive educators of how to get better on the phones.
Here are a few points on how Incept is able to count on our Conversational Quality department to not only monitor but support a Conversational Marketing™ Expert’s (CME’s) professional growth.
- Each and every call is recorded. The ability for your contact center to have every call recorded is a no-brainer. One of the best things is it gives us the ability to have any Conversational Marketing Expert (CME) listen to their own calls so they can pick things out. We find that this creates a sense of accountability, affording Conversational Marketing Expert the opportunity to be able to “own” what it is that they wish to improve upon.
- We can track if we are strengthening the relationship. One of the biggest goals Incept has is to always strengthen the relationship with the blood donors that we are talking to. What that means is that no matter what the outcome of the call is – whether that be that we scheduled that donor to donate blood or not – we want to leave them feeling happy and positive about the interaction they had with us. Based upon painstakingly analyzing each call and how each donor reacts throughout the call to our Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs), we are able to begin to quantify this information into data and use it in our education and coaching efforts.
- The forefront of our process is our values, continuing education, and self-assessment. At Incept when the Conversational Quality department is scoring our Conversational Marketing Experts (CMEs) as an organization, we want them to understand how they can improve in the easiest ways. We do this through Conversational Quality forms that are graded out of 100%. These forms are handed to the Conversational Marketing Expert’s (CME’s) respective Team Leader for review. If a Conversational Marketing Expert (CME) is marked off or, on the contrary, does exceptionally well at something, comments are included for the specific phone call listened to. The Team Leader will establish some type of goal that the Conversational Marketing Expert (CME) can hold themselves accountable to and then monitor them live on the floor.
Overall, upholding the conversational quality of our conversations at Incept is a task that is really between multiple departments and never really stops anywhere. The Conversational Marketing Expert (CME) is able to hold themselves accountable by having the access and ability to listen to their own calls. The Conversational Quality department is able to pinpoint the exact strengthens and weaknesses of each Conversational Marketing Expert (CME), and the Team Leader is able to initiate the educational process to become a better recruiter with that Conversational Marketing Expert (CME) through live monitoring and coaching.
What does your organization do to make sure call quality stays at exceptional levels?
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As we close out 2012, it’s amazing to reflect on a record-breaking year and the progress our TEAM has made. It’s remarkable that only a year ago we were coming off the best year in company history and looking ahead at some very aggressive goals. Our leadership team talked about how challenging it was going to be to continue growing at the pace of roughly 40% per year that we had been achieving for the past 6 years. We continued to mature as an organization and this was going to require a lot more growth, very rapidly. Looking back at some of the highlights, it’s exciting to know that the extraordinary can be accomplished when good people strive for great things. I am blessed to work with some of the best people I’ve ever met and proud to have watched them achieve some of these accomplishments throughout the year:
- 14 internal promotions for employees who showed they were capable of achieving more
- The addition of 2 leaders from outside the company to fill growth positions
- Generated almost 250,000 blood donations for our clients
- Nearly 1 million conversations with blood donors around the country
- Two awards from the Professional Association of Customer Engagement (PACE)
- Foundation of America’s Blood Centers President’s Award
- Practicing what we preach with our own employees giving 187 life-saving blood donations
As important and proud as I am of each of these accomplishments, the project I am most proud of is our InceptGives initiative, which provides donations and support for local, national and international charities. Now in its 3rd year, InceptGives supported more than 20 different charities in 2012, including Red Cross Military Services, Donors Choose, Partners in Health, and Migrant Students Foundation, Inc. Our team’s hard work has given us the opportunity to provide for those less fortunate, and for that I am grateful.
2012 required large adjustments for us as a company and stretched us more than any year in recent memory. As we close it out, I’m thankful for everyone’s hard work, everything we learned and the opportunity to go out and try and exceed this year in 2013.
I hope your 2012 provided its share of records and growth opportunities and put you in the position to make 2013 the best year ever. Good luck!
What we try to do at Incept on behalf of our clients is to strengthen the relationship with each and every call we make, no matter if the donor wants to donate or not. You see, building a relationship cannot be looked at in the same sense as putting together a Lego set or as some type of black-and-white formula of success between your organization and your donor base. Building a relationship with your donors has to come naturally, and to be successful you must prepare your own recruiters to feel natural in their calls.
When a Conversational Marketing™ Expert (CME) builds a relationship with a donor, we follow these points to help us strengthen the relationship more easily.
Ways to Strengthen the Relationship With Your Donors
- Appreciation is key. Showing appreciation for the donor’s previous donations is a very easy way to open them up and create a great first impression. At Incept we have the donor’s lifetime donation count on screen, so we know exactly how many times that donor has donated successfully. People liked to be thanked. Don’t you? It feels good to be thanked for a good deed and to feel recognized. Showing appreciation as an out-of-the-gate approach works very well with getting new recruiters comfortable with their job as well.
- Be a real person with your donor and not just a voice. In this modern age we have grown accustomed to the automated voices of inbound lines, the over exuberant personalities put on by the telemarketers calling our homes, and more and more occurrences that seem to transcend customer service and personal life. Try treating your blood donor as a person, and don’t be afraid to be real with them. Tell them how blood donations have affected your life or someone you know in your recruitment pitch. Make them feel important by telling them they are important because of what they do! Relax your approach and talk to them as you’d want to be talked to by a recruiter. Be calm confident while listening.
- Strengthen the relationship above all else. No matter if your recruitment call ends in an appointment or not, you can still always work on strengthening the relationship by handling the needs of your donor. At Incept we always want to second-attempt asking a donor to donate. Sometimes people just need to be asked in a different way. But when we have second attempted, and feel as if the donor can’t or doesn’t want to donate, our jobs as Conversational Marketing Experts (CMEs) default to handling their request and documentation as professionally as we can. The quality of our interactions with the donor at any given time can ultimately result in a repeat donor. And with a selfless act such as donation blood, we are never looking to practice any aggressive sales techniques, but rather show appreciation.
Building a relationship doesn’t have a set of instructions and isn’t something you can “touch”. Building a relationship can have a set of methods that work, and while a “relationship” isn’t tangible, it definitely is something that is real.
What does your organization do to build real relationships with your donors?
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