Soft Skills Coaching – How to Identify Opportunities and Take Action

A customer’s opinion of a company is largely based on their experience with customer service agents. Companies need to prioritize the right training and coaching for their agents, as their agents represent the brand during these key customer interactions. A focus on soft skills can help avoid negative customer interactions and bad reviews. 

Why Soft Skills Matter

Our research has uncovered that soft skills are one of the most underutilized competencies in a company’s culture. By prioritizing soft skills training, you can put both your company and your team ahead of your competitors and build up customer loyalty.

Developing Soft Skills in the Contact Center

In this webinar article with customer service expert and consultant Myra Golden, we’ll explore how soft skills development in your customer service agents can produce many benefits to both your employees and customers’ experience. Higher soft skills help agents:

  • Feel more confident on calls
  • Empathetically deliver bad news
  • Control calls more easily
  • Predict and prevent client escalation

“The people on your team with the strongest emotional intelligence build rapport with customers.”

Top Five Most Coachable Soft Skills

The importance of soft skills aside, choosing which soft skills to coach your team on can be tricky. Every soft skill is different from another but alike in many ways. When it comes to customer experience, data shows that the following attributes are crucial for your agents’ soft skill development:

  1. Urgency: Demonstrate determination and time sensitivity when resolving customer issues.
  2. Agreeability: Find areas to agree with customers
  3. Empathy: Understand and sympathize with clients’ pain points
  4. Active listening: Preparing to listen, observing, and then providing feedback
  5. Recap: Accurately recap what happened during customer calls

It should be noted that what works for one company may not work for the other. Different industries have different soft skills needs. The graphs below illustrate the most underutilized soft skills in each industry.

The Most Underutilized Soft Skills by Industry

Most Underutilized Soft Skill in B2B Technology - Balto Index
Most Underutilized Soft Skill in Financial Services - Balto Index
Most Underutilized Soft Skill in Home Improvement - Balto Index
Most Underutilized SoftSkills in Retail - Balto Index
Most Underutilized Soft Skill in Collections - Balto Index
Most Underutilized Soft Skill in Health Insurance - Balto Index
Most Underutilized Soft Skill in Property and Casualty Insurance - Balto Index

Balto Real-Time Index

The best way to check what soft skills training could be useful for your company would be to check Balto’s Real-Time Index.

The Balto Real-Time Index provides an industry-level view of call trends and in-depth analysis from Balto’s in-house research team, the Conversation Excellence Lab. The Balto Real-Time Index is based on data from Balto’s 180m+ calls.

Why Agents Don’t Practice Soft Skills

Once you identify the soft skills that are most important to you and your company, you still have to ensure that your agents are putting them into practice. There are many reasons why agents do not put these valuable soft skills into action, but the two most notable reasons are

Insufficient soft skill training can cause agents to forget, get nervous, or be bored during calls.

“When you are trying to coach your team, always think: are they not doing what you want them to do?”

Soft skills aren’t developed overnight and won’t stick after a one-time training. Managers must learn how to properly coach their agents over time so that they can develop and enact the soft skills required to do their job well. 

Best Techniques for Soft Skills Coaching

To avoid wasting time and resources, it is crucial for managers to learn how to properly coach their team. Below are three easy-to-use solutions that accelerate your training efficiency.

1. Easy 2-Step Framework For Soft Skills Coaching

The 2-step soft skill coaching framework is ideal for addressing your agent’s mistakes and minor problems. When talking about soft skills to your employees, follow these two steps:

  • Step 1: “What I appreciate about you is…”
  • Step 2: “One thing I’d like you to work on is…”

This framework is simple and works for casual, quick conversations. Make sure that your compliments are honest and sincere and keep in mind that you should only address a single issue at a time with your customer service agents when using this communication framework in order to best focus their attention.

2. Coach On One Thing At a Time

A common mistake coaches make is training their team on multiple soft skills at once. Not only does this overwhelm your team, but it also doesn’t work. As mentioned above, training on multiple soft skills scatters an agent’s efforts and can dilute the training process.

Instead, successful coaches know to break down complex goals into small chunks for meaningful progress. Focusing on developing one soft skill at a time is a key part of this.

An effective way to get started with this technique is setting S.M.A.R.T. goals for your agents. S.M.A.R.T stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bounded.

  • Specific: Lay out clear directions and goals
  • Measurable: Make sure goals are quantifiable so you can prove their effectiveness
  • Attainable: Goals should be challenging but not impossible
  • Relevant: Make sure goals are valuable to agent performance and business outcomes
  • Time-Bounded: Set dates or time periods to hold agents and your team accountable

3. Soft Skills Coaching Through Questions

It’s possible that your team may feel defensive or anxious when you give them constructive feedback. These negative emotions lead to ineffective coaching results if they cause agents to shut down. To avoid this issue when coaching and developing soft skills, Myra Golden recommends asking many questions.

Here are four simple steps to follow while addressing your customer service agents’ mistakes through questions:

  1. Ask a question.
  2. Listen to the answer.
  3. Repeat steps one and two.
  4. Offer support as needed.

This question-based coaching method sounds simple but it works by creating a positive work culture and can help avoid anxiety creation among your team when receiving feedback. Make sure your questions are simple and straightforward when using this technique.

“All employees make mistakes. Be proactive and work on addressing essential issues with your team more effectively.”

Results of Soft Skills Coaching

By utilizing these soft skills coaching techniques, you can take proactive steps towards preparing your team for growth and leadership skills that lead them to more successful outcomes.

When you adopt and apply effective soft skills coaching, you will become a better leader for your team and your agents will become more effective in their conversations, leading to loyal customers and excellent customer interactions. 

Meet the Expert: Myra Golden

Myra Golden is the founder of Myra Golden Seminars, LLC. She is a long-time speaker and training partner to many Fortune 500 companies across the nation. She creates fun and engaging classes to teach her clients to give their customers the best possible experience. Myra’s engaging approach to customer service training is loved by her clients and many of her clients rave about her workshops. Her impressive resume includes many of the world’s biggest companies, like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, Walmart, Verizon Business, and many more. Myra has both her bachelor’s degree in psychology and her master’s degree in human relations.

Before founding Myra Golden Seminars in 1999, Myra worked at Thrifty Car Rental as the Global Head of Consumer Affairs. Travel Agent Magazine hailed Myra as a Top 100 Rising Star for leading her team to unprecedented customer recovery and customer loyalty in the hospitality industry. When she’s not lighting up the service world, Myra is likely reading a book that makes her see differently, sipping Ethiopian coffee, or writing poetry. Visit Myra’s Website

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