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Blog | October 12, 2021

Close the Retention Performance Gap with Real-Time Coaching

From the outside looking in, we tend to focus on results when comparing a team’s top and average performers. Take sports, for example, where top performers are referenced by points Scored, runs batted in, heck, even key passes by grumpy, foulmouthed, lovable soccer midfielders. 

But while we fans focus on what superstars do, coaches are charged with improving the performance of every member of the team. In fact, in modern sports, the most effective coaches are those committed to making every one of their players a superstar. Pat Riley, former NBA head coach and three-time NBA coach of the year, stated this well, “Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.”

That said, the potential in performance management of being able to coach toward continuous improvement (and critical business needs) is relevant to customer satisfaction and service. And it’s especially true of retention teams, where much like sales teams, our performance gap analysis shows that not addressing the differences between top and average agents can be costly, and where the big wins come when the whole team performs like superstars. 

But are there also established elements of coaching in the world of sports that could help close these performance gaps in customer service? According to our recent analysis, yes, there are. 

But before the coaching begins, you have to quantify the gap itself. 

Effective Coaching Begins with Effective Understanding 

You can’t improve what you can’t measure. And comparing actual performance between team members creates the context needed for coaching to take place. In retention teams, performance is measured through metrics such as retention rate, churn per conversation, and lost revenue per conversation.

For instance, our performance gap analysis of almost 20,000 conversations from a Fortune 50 software company revealed that top performers had a 65% higher retention rate than bottom performers. And through our additional analysis of 70,000 conversations from a leading telecom company, we determined that the bottom quartile performers had 42% more churn per conversation and 48% more lost revenue per conversation.

These discrepancies in our metrics represent massive opportunities for retention teams. But why do these discrepancies in employee performance exist in the first place? 

Identify Which Top Behaviors Are Driving the Differences

With the gap measured/quantified, you need to determine which root causes (i.e., behaviors) are making the difference between top and average agents, not just top performer behaviors in general.

Coaching to close the performance gap requires identifying exactly which individual behaviors the top performers are doing over and over that lead to their superior performance (and, by extension, benchmarks). And having data to back your behavioral analysis is paramount because what you discover can be surprising, if not counter-intuitive.

For instance, according to our analysis, high performers: 

  • Offer discounts 20% less than average performers – high performers not only save you money through higher retention but also through fewer discounts
  • High and low performers actually conduct similar amounts of discovery during their conversations – so that behavior is not a major lever to close the retention performance gap

This means it’s imperative to understand both the what and the why behind these ideal behaviors. Take product recommendations – both top and average retention agents make product recommendations to their customers. But top performers are more successful in doing so. Why? Because of how they base their recommendations on each customer’s specific needs, needs they’ve uncovered through specific discovery questions earlier in their conversation, instead of taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach to recommendations. 

Other examples of these top competencies include: 

  • Using assumptive language to ask the customer if they are ready to move forward 
  • Triggering loss aversion by informing the customer of any pre-agreed-upon early cancellation fees
  • Setting expectations to take control of the conversation and let the customer know that the agent needs to ask them a few questions to help them

But, as we’ve also seen, it’s not just a matter of “what” we should do to instill these top behaviors in others. As we’re seeing again and again, it’s precisely “when”. 

Coaching In the Moment Closes the Performance Gap 

With the performance gap quantified and specific behaviors targeted, effective coaching of individual employee performance can begin. And to improve team performance in an effective (and sustainable) way, this coaching has to happen in the moment. In sports, this has been studied extensively and is supported by the Mastery Approach to Coaching (MAC), and its main two themes are relevant to coaching customer service (CS) agents:

First, coaches are encouraged to provide “(a) positive reinforcement, (b) mistake-contingent encouragement, (c) corrective instruction given in a positive and encouraging fashion, and (d) sound technical instruction.” The MAC notes that, by doing so, the effective coach will increase “positive coach-athlete interactions, enhance team solidarity, reduce fear of failure, and promote a positive atmosphere for skill development [emphasis added].”

The second and relevant MAC theme involves creating a “conception of success as giving maximum effort and becoming the best one can be, rather than an emphasis on winning or outperforming others.” What’s interesting here is these MAC themes have been shown to increase both performance and the participant’s enjoyment in the game itself. But is coaching like this possible within the confines of daily contact center operations? With Cresta’s Real-Time Expertise AI, it is.

Cresta easily integrates with contact center systems and methodologies, enriching every interaction with real-time AI-driven Dynamic Coaching and suggested responses. This coaching helps agents hone their skills and follow retention best practices, ultimately helping businesses close the retention performance gap.

At Cresta, we define “Dynamic Coaching” as personalized AI-powered behavioral coaching that is dynamically delivered to agents at the right moment of a call.

For example, analyzing our engagement with a particular Fortune 50 software company, we were able to identify the top behaviors during a conversation that drive higher retention at that specific company (see table below):

Cresta provides Dynamic Coaching on agent behaviors to close the retention performance gap

When looking at all types of Dynamic Coaching that Cresta delivers at the individual level to agents for this Fortune 50 company (many not shown in the table above), top performing agents follow Cresta hints ~20% more than bottom performers. And these results are just one sample from one of our customers. For each of our customers, Cresta is able to identify their unique set of most impactful behaviors and dynamically coach their agents on these behaviors.

Experience the Virtuous Cycle of Success

While there are quite a few differences between the world of professional sports and CS performance management, the means through which sustainably better future performance can be modeled and coached are proving to be incredibly similar. And while we’re thrilled with the day-1 impacts our clients are seeing, much like the MAC advises, CS firms that leverage Cresta show demonstrable increases in employee satisfaction and engagement scores.

So, if you’re looking to close the performance gap at the individual employee level and improve future performance, request a demo today to see how Cresta can help by making every team member a top performer.