From Face Time To FaceTime: Call Center Coaching Evolves

Two Virginia credit unions find new ways to engage and train out-of-office call center employees.

 
 

Top-Level Takeaways

  • To increase efficiency and improve conversations around contact center coaching, Virginia Credit Union and Langley Federal Credit Union have introduced variations on the traditional one-on-one, supervisor-to-employee set-up.
  • Methods such as group coaching and self-scoring appeal to employees and are well-suited to remote work operations.

CU QUICK FACTS

Virginia Credit Union
Data as of 03.31.20

HQ: Richmond, VA
ASSETS: $3.9B
MEMBERS: 296,263
BRANCHES: 18
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 7.6%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 4.9%
ROA: 0.58%

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced remote work to become the norm for the credit union industry. Support teams equipped with newly purchased laptops, monitors, and keyboards made the transition within weeks of the earliest stay-at-home orders, and, quickly, the status quo for how work got done changed.

For call center employees, the pace of work picked up, too. A combination of in-branch changes, federal aid, and economic uncertainty resulted in higher-than-usual call volumes and member interactions. As touchpoints increased, so, too, did the need for coaching. Social distancing precluded in-person coaching, but technology offered the opportunity to instruct remotely.

Rather than stick to traditional one-on-one coaching, two Virginia credit unions — Virginia Credit Union ($3.9B, Richmond, VA) and Langley Federal Credit Union ($3.2B, Newport News, VA) — now offer group coaching and self-scoring. Employees report liking both structures, which are particularly suited to remote work. 

Group Coaching At Virginia Credit Union

Call center design emphasizes efficiency and service. But traditional one-on-one coaching in which a supervisor and a representative spend an hour or more grading past calls doesn’t offer the same level of efficacy as a group session, in which several people can share lessons and insights with one another, says Kate Hopson, vice president and contact center department manager at Virginia Credit Union. 

“Instead of one person listening to three calls in that time, three people can listen to three calls and still hit all the same coaching points,” Hopson says. “You learn from everyone in the room, not just your supervisor.”

CU QUICK FACTS

Langley FCU
Data as of 03.31.20

HQ: Newport News, VA
ASSETS: $3.2B
MEMBERS: 270,194
BRANCHES: 20
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 10.6%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 12.3%
ROA: 0.03%

Every month, the credit union holds one-hour coaching sessions that include a supervisor and three contact center employees. Four participants, according to VACU, provides a wide enough number of experiences to be beneficial without bogging down the conversation. The supervisor prepares for the session by pulling one past call from each of the participants. The supervisor then plays the calls for the group for evaluation by the individual first and then the group.

“We start by asking the employee, ‘What did you do well on this call? What could you have done differently? What’s the big takeaway?’” Hopson says. 

The group evaluates the calls based on four criteria — courtesy, efficiency, trust, and ownership — and the group setting allows for spirited discussion and an institutional memory of past conversations. That’s because groups remain intact for at least two months, giving members the opportunity to learn about one another’s call habits. Group members, and not just managers, hold one another accountable to past observations.  

Kate Hopson, VP and Contact Center Department Manager, Virginia Credit Union

“It’s not just the supervisors who say, ‘Remember last time we talked about this area of focus? How are you progressing on that?’” Hopson says. 

It’s typically the supervisor who selects the calls to review, but once per month, the credit union requires groups to discuss certain relevant topics, ensuring employees are up to date on common questions or occurrences. For example, this past June, supervisors graded conversations related to social engineering prevention, which was relevant amid COVID-19 security concerns. 

Going forward, however, Hopson sees value in having employees drive the content of their own coaching sessions. Right now, supervisors script the content, but the VACU VP recognizes employees bring their own curiosities and competencies to these sessions. Allowing employees to select the topics or run the conversation could provide an additional degree of autonomy and engagement with their work.

“We want them to be excited by the work and want to learn something new,” Hopson says. “If they want to know it, we want to encourage them to bring it to the session.”

Self-Scoring At Langley FCU

In the summer of 2017, Langley Federal Credit Union implemented a new phone system for its contact center employees, one that allowed the credit union to record member conversations. At first, the contact center used those recordings to informally review calls after they occurred. It quickly became clear, however, that the recordings were a valuable formalized coaching tool as well.

“Our representatives can listen to their own calls to ensure they used the correct phrasing or provided enough information,” says Kristi Forehand, Langley’s contact center director.

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They can score their own calls, too. After a call, employees can select calls from their call recordings and complete a 14-question self-evaluation form on which they numerically score themselves on a point scale up to 100. Questions are worth different point totals based on importance — either five points or 10 — and include:

  • Did you greet the member with enthusiasm, professionalism, and respect?
  • Did you look for opportunities to enhance the member relationship by introducing products or services that would benefit the member personally?
  • Did you thank the member for calling or for being a loyal member, ask if you could be of further assistance, and end the call with an appreciation?

Click here to download Langley’s self-evaluation form.

Team leaders and management also use the form to score these same calls. In later coaching sessions, leaders and employees bring together their scoring for an informed conversation built on mutual understanding.

Kristi Forehand, Contact Center Director, Langley FCU

“It’s less about us telling them what they need to do than it is a dialog,” Forehand says. “They’re able to provide their own insights rather than just listening to our feedback.”

With the self-evaluation form, Langley can make changes to the point totals, although not the questions themselves, based on what it wants to prioritize. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, verifying member identities quickly and securely is of high importance, so that is worth more points than other lines, Forehand says.

In the past several months, as most of her team has worked from home, Forehand has noticed more self-scoring engagement. Because employees can no longer complete a call and walk over to a co-worker or supervisor for immediate feedback, the self-scoring prompt has filled some of that need for instant insight.

“You can’t just run to someone when you need an answer,” Forehand says. “Our team members are realizing this is a way for them to learn and develop. Any time you give someone the ability to score themselves, they automatically self-reflect and hold themselves accountable for their decisions.”

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