SQM Group

Voice of the Customer - Agent STAR Coaching Approach

For Delivering Great Customer Service

April 27, 2022 | 8min read

VoC Agent STAR Coaching

Many supervisors struggle with how to coach their agents to improve their call resolution and Customer Satisfaction (Csat) performance. Based on that need, SQM developed a post-call surveying Voice of Customer (VoC) feedback approach for agent STAR coaching that can be used for a single call or a monthly VoC coaching session. Specifically, the VoC agent STAR coaching approach is designed to help agents improve their call resolution and Csat performance.

Below is how we describe how to use the VoC agent STAR coaching approach and then walk you through how it should apply to a single call and monthly coaching.

The VoC agent STAR coaching approach consists of four sequential steps:

Survey feedback review of results before talking with an agent

Talk with your agent about the survey ratings and feedback

Acknowledge agent performance

Remedy steps to improve agent performance

Star Coaching

https://www.sqmgroup.com/research/customer-experience-studiesThe below figure shows total single call coaching time, monthly coaching time, total coaching time per agent, and total time per agent performance classification (i.e., world-class, high, average, and low agent performers). For example, world-class call centers have their supervisors invest 15 hours or more in coaching their agents on VoC performance per month.

The coaching time does not include team or call center VoC trending reports that a supervisor shares at their weekly or monthly agent team meetings and assumes five post-call surveys per agent per month. Furthermore, the agent coaching time will be substantially higher if quality assurance compliance data is used with post-call survey data.


Coaching Time

Single Call VoC Agent Coaching provides agents with coaching for every survey, either a world-class call or an unresolved call survey. If it is a world-class call survey, only spend a few minutes with the agent. For an unresolved call survey, spend up to ten minutes with the agent, especially if the agent is the source of error for why the customer's call is unresolved. Therefore, the total single call coaching time should be between 10 and 30 minutes per agent per month.

Monthly VoC Agent Coaching provides agents with coaching at the end of the month on a composite report that shows all calls' results. The amount of time spent on monthly coaching varies according to the monthly performance of that agent. For example, if the agent is world-class, the recommended coaching time is only 20 minutes. Moreover, average performers should receive 45 minutes and low performers 60 minutes.

The time frames for the single call and monthly coaching sessions are just guidelines. You might discover that these coaching time frames need to be increased or decreased in your call center depending on your call center's VoC performance. Again, you will also need to add additional time for each survey that has a recording included in the coaching feedback.

VoC Agent STAR Coaching Approach

Now that we have established how much time to spend in the coaching process let's look closely at the VoC agent STAR coaching approach. The STAR approach is a simple and easy to remember guide to follow during the coaching process and will help ensure the highest value for both single call coaching and monthly coaching:

Survey feedback review of results before talking with an agent

Talk with your agent about the survey ratings and feedback

Acknowledge agent performance

Remedy steps to improve agent performance

Survey Feedback Review

Survey Feedback Review of Results Before Talking with an Agent

​Before every single call and monthly coaching session, the agent and the supervisor must review the survey ratings and customer feedback. The VoC agent STAR coaching approach "Survey" review step requires that the agent and supervisor accept the customer feedback as one of the essential aspects of the coaching session, even if it conflicts with what a supervisor or QA evaluator thinks makes a "good call."     

​Two examples illustrate how fundamental this shift in thinking is:

Example 1 - The customer is very satisfied, yet, the voice tone of the agent and the choice of words is relatively informal. Conventional wisdom would suggest that this would not brand the organization well, an internally derived quality view. Therefore, the view of the customer must be accepted as the starting point for discussion rather than a view of, "well, I accept the customer is very satisfied, BUT…" So, if the call is world-class, the agent must be congratulated with no further discussion or examination. In this way, the call center begins to "walk the talk" of its total acceptance of the VoC.

Example 2 - The customer is very dissatisfied, yet it is clear that the organization's processes and policies were followed. Again, the customer's view must be embraced. The discussion should be focused on improving how the issue was explained. For example, the agent's choice of words, resolution options, and the empathy and caring shown to the customer. It is critical that the customer's view is not dismissed in an attitude of, "well, you cannot please them all!" or, "there was nothing you did wrong – the customer did not understand," or, more typically, "it's the organization policies or procedures that are the issue, not you!"


Single Call Coaching:

The below figure shows the single call coaching approach for both a world-class and an unresolved call survey. You will want to share the world-class call survey results with the agent so they know that the customer was very satisfied with how the call was handled. Sharing the unresolved call survey allows the supervisor to coach the agent on what they could do in the future to prevent that type of call from going unresolved.

The amount of preparation time is much greater for an unresolved call survey than for a world-class call survey. For an unresolved call survey, both the agent and supervisor listen to the customer feedback, review the ratings, listen to the recorded call if available and check the CRM notes. When the agent is the source of error, additional coaching should occur.

For a world-class call survey, both the agent and the supervisor need to listen to and read the customer feedback. For both world-class and unresolved call surveys, provide the agent with the opportunity to review the customer feedback within two business days of the survey being conducted. All other survey rating types (e.g., the customer responded they were somewhat satisfied and their call was resolved) can be discussed, but not necessarily at this time as they will be discussed in depth at the end-of-month coaching session.


Survey Review


Monthly Call Coaching:

At the end of each month, the review process is the same for all agent performer levels. This preparation is critical for both the agent and the supervisor to receive the most significant benefit from the coaching session. Therefore, SQM recommends that the agent be given their KPI report card as a printed or digital copy at least one day before the coaching session, with access to the recorded calls (if possible) to prepare themselves for the coaching session.

It is crucial this preparation does not become an exercise in defensiveness but rather is a session that focuses on the successes of the past month, reviews the goals, and includes discussion on what could be even better.

The below figure describes five basic monthly coaching reports. Period performance shows the agent's current VoC performance. The three-month rolling average is a helpful technique to ensure that you have a large enough sample size to depict the agent's VoC performance accurately. Year-to-date (YTD) performance data, especially when there are more than three months of data, is also helpful to ensure that the sample size is large enough to depict the agent's VoC performance accurately.

YTD ranking within the call center or the agent's team can be beneficial in acknowledging an agent's performance or motivating them to improve. The agent's YTD performance compared to the WCC certification target can also be extremely helpful for an agent to see if they are performing at the WCC certification target level or how close they are to performing at that target level. Again, all agents, regardless of their performance, should review and discuss the VoC dashboard with their supervisor each month.


Survey Feedback Review

Talk with Agent

Talk with your Agent About the Survey Ratings and Feedback

When talking with your agent about their survey ratings and feedback, there is no need to have a lengthy discussion with an agent who has a world-class call survey or who is performing at a world-class level. However, with an unresolved call survey or low-performing agent, the conversation between the agent and the supervisor will take longer. The VoC agent STAR coaching approach "Talk" step requires that both the agent and supervisor listen to each other.


Single Call Coaching:

The below figure shows the VoC agent coaching talk step for an unresolved call survey. With an unresolved call survey, the conversation between the agent and their supervisor can take up to 15 minutes and should take place in a private area. The discussion should begin with the agent sharing their view about what they did well and what they could do to improve. The supervisor then shares what they feel the agent did well and what they could do to improve.



Talk with Agents


Monthly Call Coaching:

On a monthly basis, the discussion between the agent and their supervisor is the heart of the VoC agent STAR coaching approach. If the agent is performing at a world-class level, you only need to share their VoC dashboard results, and additional coaching is not required.

However, for an underperforming agent, the agent and their supervisor need to agree on the areas that need improvement. The actions necessary to make improvements and the timeline for these improvements will need to be outlined. In addition, all agents should receive a monthly coaching session.



Monthly Talk

Acknowledge Performance

Acknowledge Agent Performance

The third step in the VoC agent STAR coaching approach is to "Acknowledge" agent performance. This is a simple yet powerful step where the agent is recognized and congratulated for a world-class call survey, performing at the world-class level, or improving their performance. By acknowledging an agent's VoC performance, the supervisor helps create an environment where the agent knows that Csat and call resolution are the metrics that the organization values the most.


Single Call Coaching:

In a single call coaching session, acknowledging a world-class call survey should occur. It does not need to take longer than a couple of minutes, but it will serve to underscore great performance every time it occurs. Agents indicate that the lack of day-to-day appreciation is one of the critical drivers of employee dissatisfaction. Therefore, acknowledging world-class performance is the surest way to recognize this universal need in call centers.

When giving an agent feedback about a world-class call survey, the supervisor must share the customer's actual feedback with the agent. An agent values receiving positive feedback and being recognized for their world-class call survey achievement. When a world-class call survey is truly outstanding, you must use it for coaching purposes to demonstrate what great customer service looks like.

Many call centers give agents $5 to $50 for every world-class call (e.g., call resolved and customer is very satisfied) survey. In addition, they certify agents who have performed at the world-class customer service level (e.g., For 85% of customer surveys, the agent resolved the call, and the customer was very satisfied).



Agent Acknowledgement


Monthly Call Coaching:

At the end of the month, the acknowledgment portion of the feedback takes on more weight. It is an opportunity for world-class performers to congratulate and reinforce performance and inform the agent how close they are to being certified as world-class. It is vital to acknowledge agents who have shown improvement in their performance. Doing so encourages them to continue to improve. For an average or high performer, recognize the world-class call surveys that they achieved and encourage them to continue to improve their performance to the world-class level. Most agents feel that being certified based on customer feedback is the most meaningful and rewarding way to acknowledge the great customer service they deliver.



Monthly Acknowledgement

Remedy Steps

Remedy Steps to Improve Agent Performance

In the final step of the VoC agent STAR coaching approach, the critical message is that the "Remedy" steps only apply to an agent whose call was unresolved and to an agent who is not at the world-class call performance level. The remedy steps involve developing an action plan to improve the agent's performance for a single call or their overall monthly VoC performance.


Single Call Coaching:   

For the unresolved call, the agent and supervisor have reviewed the survey results, talked, and mutually agreed upon the necessary remedial steps to improve the agent's performance for this type of call. Then, the agent and supervisor review the WCC standards for the remedy phase. These standards describe what world-class customer service looks and feels like and what an agent can do to get there.

Another remedy step that can be used is having the agent sit with other agents who are effective in handling the call type that the agent could not resolve. The supervisor could also provide information to the agent about effectively using the knowledge management tool or the CRM system for resolving these types of calls.



Remedy Steps for Improvement


Monthly Call Coaching:

At the end of the month, the remedy steps should be used with agents who are not world-class performers. First, the agent and supervisor must determine and agree upon a course of action to improve the agent's VoC performance. The action plan should be designed specifically to help the agent improve their performance for the types of calls that were unresolved for the month.

The primary remedy steps: review the WCC standards, record calls, listen to examples of world-class calls, check KM or CRM tools, provide training and conduct side-by-side coaching. Additional coaching options that could be used are also shown. Finally, the action plan should include tasks to be completed, when and how they will get done, and whether the action plan goals were achieved.



Monthly Remedy Meeting