Off Center
You can’t be a good contact center coach if you habitually tell the truth and speak your mind. As infuriating as it can be to witness agents repeatedly making blatant mistakes when serving customers, that aggravation must be converted into something positive, polite and constructive when it comes time to provide feedback.

Gone are the days when you could just hit an agent with your shoe or send a mild electric shock through their headset whenever they provided sub-par service. That is so 2007. These days if you want to foster continuous agent improvement and engagement, you have to keep your shoes on and provide a nurturing environment where praise flows freely and where friendly pointers – rather than sharp pokes – are provided regularly to help close performance gaps.

Some of you have already mastered the art of controlling your temper and your tongue during coaching via the use of relaxation exercises and prescription tranquilizers. Many others, however, still haven’t quite gotten the hang of how to express yourself to bonehead agents in ways that won’t get you fired or arrested.

I’m here to help. Below are some acceptable translations for what you really feel like saying to staff during coaching sessions.

What you feel like saying: “Your customer service skills make me want to learn how to box. Three callers this week have requested that we remove your larynx. Unfortunately, that would limit you to handling only email and chat, which isn’t really an option either since you don’t know how to spell or use punctuation.” 

Acceptable translation: “I see some areas where we could make you an even stronger rep. This will be good for you and for our customers. There might be a real opportunity for you to join our e-support team – we just need to focus on improving the order in which you place your letters and your breaks when typing responses.” 

What you feel like saying: “You are a horrible person.I’ve seen more tenderness and care demonstrated by lions eating a baby gazelle. Next time a customer calls crying, don’t complain that their sobbing is really bumming you out. Your job is to ease their concerns and let them know you understand how they must feel, NOT to ask them if they have any scotch nearby or to suggest they call back after your shift has ended.”      

Acceptable translation: “You could be among our top performers if you worked on your empathy skills just a little. Try to imagine that each caller is your mother or, if you happen to hate your mother, a frightened orphan. You have the power not only to solve sad and angry callers’ issues, but also to bring them comfort and make their day – even more than alcohol can.”

What you feel like saying: “You couldn’t sell a spray-tan to Paris Hilton. That last customer was practically asking to be up-sold, but you evidently are allergic to revenue. I think you may have a real future as a toll-booth operator, as you have a natural talent for sitting on your butt and idly watching customers pass by.”    

Acceptable translation: “You get high marks for friendliness and courtesy on the phones; now we just need to get you more comfortable with uncovering customer needs and helping our contact center be less poor. Effective selling is actually a part of customer service, as you are providing solutions that make the customer’s life easier. In doing so, you earn a little extra money and reduce the chances of suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning in a metal and glass box one day on some freeway.”  

What you feel like saying: “You are the rudest, most pretentious and self-centered employee I have ever had the misfortune of supervising.”

Acceptable translation: “Have you ever considered becoming VP of Marketing?”

Please let me know how helpful this blog post was, on a scale of 10 to 10.

7/14/2011 06:32:12 am

To paraphrase one of my favorite movies, "This Is Spinal Tap", I give it an "11".

7/14/2011 10:28:50 pm

"We love you, Cleveland!"

Thanks for the off-the-charts rating, Lee -- even though I practically begged for it.

Have a great weekend!

7/14/2011 10:49:14 pm

You're spot on! Now I have to get the spot "out" since I spit coffee on myself while reading this!

7/14/2011 10:59:01 pm

For being such a loyal reader with a healthy sense of humor and sharp sense of wit, feel free to send the dry-cleaning bill directly to me, Sheril.

Glad you enjoyed the post. Sorry you lost your coffee.


7/14/2011 11:46:25 pm

Thanks for the out loud laugh, Greg. Love the reference to mother if you'd like or orphan if you don't. I've passed this along to several of my co-workers. :)

7/14/2011 11:57:54 pm

Thank YOU, Michelle.

I aim to elicit inappropriate uproars in public places. I hope you were in an important meeting or at a doctor's office while you were reading this post.

I also hope your co-workers will forgive you.



7/18/2011 12:06:28 am

This was perfect. I'm pretty sure I may have to distribute this to my call center directors to make sure they are helping their coaches 'translate' more efficiently. And I, like Michelle, laughed out loud about the mother/orphan comment. You get a 10!

7/18/2011 12:13:28 am

Thanks, Morgan. I'm happy to know that this post will help to revolutionize coaching across your call center -- or at least make people laugh enough to forget the pain.

Best of luck!


8/8/2011 03:20:45 am

Greg! I don't know, I think the first statements might get it across better? HA! Coaching the Coach is definitely key in Call Center Management...hit it on the head there! Awesome post as usual! Call Centers definitely need your sense of humor! Cheers from BPA!

8/8/2011 11:08:59 pm

Thanks for the kind words and kudos, Karyn. Check my alliteration, yo!

Always happy to humor-ize this industry.



2/20/2012 12:45:04 am

AWESOME info. I have shared this with my other co-workers and we will be using it! Thank you!


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