Fact: Creating a culture of coaching accountability is hard. Through numerous coaching effectiveness surveys that Challenger has sent to frontline reps across the last two years, we have received nearly 15,000 rep responses from 77 organizations. Out of the 50+ questions we ask about coaching, the one with the lowest average score is “My supervisor is held accountable for being a good coach”.

If frontline reps feel like the area most lacking is coaching accountability in a normal environment, then how might they feel in the world we find ourselves in today? In this new virtual contact center environment, unique priorities are popping up every week, and coaching is even more difficult because your supervisors can’t physically walk over to a direct report’s desk to talk or observe them in action. This new reality makes an existing issue even harder to combat. As a leader, you have a choice to make:

  1. Continue with the status quo and magnify the existing issue of coaching accountability.
  2. Champion coaching accountability and emerge from this with a stronger culture of coaching than ever before.
    The second option obviously sounds the best, but how do you make it happen? Here are three ideas based on our experience in helping our clients improve coaching accountability at their organizations:

Ask for and Act on Feedback

Working remotely means that reps don’t have the same amount of organic access to supervisors and leadership that they normally would. Subsequently, many may feel as if they aren’t being heard. Despite supervisors’ best efforts, reps can quickly become disengaged and feel like they don’t have an outlet to express the difficult reality of their current situation. Voicing concerns virtually can feel especially awkward for reps, so surveys and focus groups can be a good method for welcoming their feedback. Using these methods to identify current gaps or struggles in coaching will inform your supervisors about areas where they can improve their virtual coaching abilities. Asking for feedback is the first step. The second step, and the one that will drive a culture of coaching accountability, is acting on that feedback! This can be done numerous ways, including sharing survey results in all-hands meetings or outlining next steps based on survey/focus group feedback in a memo or internal news-sharing forum.

Use Social Proof

The world of a contact center rep is tough right now. Not only are customers likely even more stressed than normal, but reps are facing this challenge at home with no one around to share the experience with. Without the communal office environment, there is less of an opportunity to learn from the experiences of others and the traditional “safety net” is harder to access.

Despite this reality, it’s likely that your high performing supervisors recognize these challenges and are still finding ways to provide effective coaching. Use social proof (i.e., sharing positive actions or behaviors publicly to drive broader adoption) to demonstrate the successes and challenges of remote coaching. Many of our clients have started a coaching Slack/Skype/Teams channel to share best practices, or have managers recognize a particular supervisor for a creative coaching best practice. No matter what channel this is done through, it will help empower and inspire your supervisors to find creative ways to deliver consistent coaching during a time where frontline reps need it more than ever. If you include reps in these channels too, you’ll have the added bonus of a transparent focus on high quality coaching.

Invest in Coaching Skills

Without a solid framework in place that supervisors can use to coach their direct reports, coaching becomes inconsistent and ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst. Other priorities can and will take precedence, and it is impossible to hold people accountable for being a good coach when there isn’t a consistent vision of what good coaching looks like. By investing in some form of coaching skills for you supervisors, you demonstrate an investment in them, as well as champion the largest existing coaching gap (accountability) as identified by reps.

At a time when coaching is even more difficult than before, these are three ways that organizations can champion coaching accountability and emerge from this virtual environment with a stronger coaching culture than ever before.

Nick Furman

Nick Furman is a Senior Client Associate at Challenger’s Effortless Experience™ team. In his role, Nick helps implement several tailored product offerings designed to help companies grow in their journeys to becoming low-effort service organizations.