Meetings, training, and coaching are a fact of life in every contact center. From team meetings and one-to-one sessions to online training and on-site coaching, these activities are common throughout the industry.
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But don’t they create administrative overhead and distract agents from their job, negatively impacting utilization and occupancy? And aren't they a nightmare to schedule without impacting KPIs (key performance indicators) like service level (SL)? Not necessarily.
In this post, we’ll cover the importance of investing in the development of your agents through meetings, coaching, and training. And we’ll look at the role of the planner in delivering the benefits while minimizing the costs.
Why meetings, training, and coaching matter
Training and general skill development helps agents learn new ways to serve customers better, to challenge themselves, and to prepare for career advancements in the contact center. They can be effective motivators and directly impact retention as well.
A McKinsey study even showed a direct relationship between an agent’s sales performance and the number of coaching hours received. This suggests that the amount of time spent in training sessions correlates with a long-term improvement in skills and productivity.
Measuring the impact of training and coaching on performance can be done by creating a scorecard for each agent, using key metrics like average handle time, first-time resolution, customer satisfaction, or sales revenues. Start by measuring the status quo and benchmark the impact after implementing training and coaching over time.
How meetings, training, and coaching are perceived
Contact centers are usually a hectic place to work. Phone lines are always buzzing and email inboxes are continuously filling up. It’s easy to understand why managing these channels and resolving the issues that come through them are considered productive, customer-centric activities.
Contrarily, unproductive activities such as meetings, training, and coaching sessions reduce the amount of time we spend with the customer. They are a big part of shrinkage, which is used during the staffing calculation process. The higher the shrinkage, the more people are required and the larger the labor budget needs to be. They also have a negative impact on agent performance metrics such as occupancy and utilization.
Meetings, training, and coaching are often seen in a negative light because they’re viewed as a symptom of turnover and onboarding new agents.
These perceptions should be challenged. Instead of seeing them as something negative, contact center management should view these activities as a pre-emptive investment in order to prevent turnover in the future. If you had to use a label you could call it “indirectly productive” time, because while the benefits may not be apparent right away, they will eventually come to fruition in the future.
Now that we have a better understanding of the benefits of meetings, training, and coaching for contact center agents, how should you factor them into your schedules?
Imagine you’ve created a pixel-perfect forecast. After factoring in your trends and special events, you’ve calculated the staffing requirement needed to cover your desired SL goals. You’ve built a top-notch, fully-optimized schedule that perfectly matches supply and demand. Fantastic! But then you get a message from HR informing you that your 100 agents need to participate in a 30-minute, on-site training session next week in groups of 10. Even if you’re informed of these sessions in advance, it’s difficult to find the best time to schedule them without damaging your performance goals.
The task is of course to choose times for meetings, training and coaching sessions that fit into troughs in customer demand. By scheduling training into periods of relatively low workload, you will minimize the impact on SL.
It is theoretically possible to do this manually, e.g. with a spreadsheet. But it quickly becomes clear that this task is far from trivial, and scarcely less complex than building the initial schedules. It is often difficult just to find enough time slots for all the agents using the manual approach. Trying to pick the optimum times turns the difficult into the near-impossible. In reality, the manual approach is certain to be sub-optimal, with damaging consequences for your KPIs.
Due to the complexity of the tasks and the variables that have to be taken into account, the best way to schedule meetings, training, and coaching is with the help of WFM software. The ability to optimally schedule meetings with a couple of clicks, is a powerful component of the business case for a professional scheduling tool.
Two benefits are:
- Agent performance will be increased if all the necessary sessions take place at the proper time.
- The otherwise inevitable decrease in service level will be minimized. The customer experience will be enhanced, customer satisfaction defended or enhanced, and in a sales environment, revenue increased.
Regardless of how you achieve it, scheduling meetings, training, and coaching with the same rigor that you apply to lunches and breaks is a good thing. Employee development has benefits for customers, agents, and the business. Optimizing the timing of the sessions lets you realize these benefits with the minimum possible impact on your other KPIs.
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Originally published on May 14, 2020, updated on Jun 02, 2021.
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