Coaching for Small Improvements - A Guide

AskNicely Team

The ultimate goal of customer satisfaction is large-scale: it can't be achieved in one go. To get there, your frontline teams must be coached on small, daily habits that are consistently applied.  

In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear describes an atomic habit as a regular practice or routine that is not only small and relatively easy to achieve, but is also the source of incredible power; a component of the system of compound growth. When small improvements to the customer experience add up, they have an immense impact on customer satisfaction. So, how do you successfully coach teams for small improvements? 

When We Say Small, We Mean Small 

Think small. Like, really small. If you overwhelm anyone with large, unrealistic targets, they’re not only unlikely to achieve anything, they’ll lose out on the dopamine hits and quickly lose motivation. Instead use small, realistic improvements (that can be part of a bigger goal) that employees can work on. 

For example, instead of assigning your frontline teams to “Create 5-star customer experiences”, break down what the components of a 5-star experience actually look like. Communication, speed of service,  quality of service etc. Focus on ONE of these things at a time, and even break them down further into smaller improvements E.g for communication, this can be broken down into achievements like “Greeting customers by name where possible”, “Asking customers a friendly, personal question”, “Always follow up with negative feedback”. 

According to a McKinsey survey, close to 20% of US employees have left their jobs because of unrealistic performance expectations, and a big part of that is a failure to coach for SMALL improvements. 

Streamline Your Focus: Try Not to Task Jump 

In the eloquent words of Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation, “Never half-ass many things, whole-ass one thing.” Coaching for small improvements relies on the idea of doing one thing at a time and creating a habit of it before moving onto the next. 

Task-switching or trying to improve multiple things at the same time reduces efficiency, productivity and the sense of accomplishment you get from giving something a big tick. 

Have you ever stared at your ginormous to-do list with so much overwhelm that you end up getting nothing done? Or maybe you’ve piled your plate so high at the buffet that you suddenly lose your appetite? 

Overloading your frontline teams with too many tasks at once will have the same effect. Instead, identify the things that matter most to your customers, and prioritize one improvement at a time. Make a habit out of the improvement though consistently applying it, and then look to the next thing. 

Make Coaching Specific to Each Employee 

Using generic CX training is like casting a wide net and seeing what sticks. While some things will resonate with some employees, it’s time-consuming, irrelevant and inefficient for others. To make the most out of coaching for small improvements, make the coaching specific to each individual employee. 

Each frontline team member will have their individual strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important those are identified in order for meaningful improvements to be made. Using a blanket coaching approach makes the assumption that everyone in a team has the same areas of improvement to work on – which is obviously not the case. 

You may spend time coaching an individual on how to improve communication when they’re already a top communicator. Or you may spend time coaching an employee on how to improve the speed of service, when quality of service is in fact the main concern customers are facing. 

Recognize & Reward Small Achievements 

Celebrate the little wins. One of the most important parts of coaching for small improvements is recognition. It’s what makes this a fun, engaging and rewarding experience for employees. Without it, it’s all about climbing – without stopping to see how far you’ve come, and to enjoy the view. When employees achieve a small improvement and are recognized for it, they feel a sense of accomplishment, pride and determination to keep achieving. 

Recognition creates loyalty as employees feel more connected to their team and the company mission. Company achievements become their achievements. When business becomes personal, people work harder, feel more energized and in turn deliver more awesome experiences to their customers. 

How? With a Little Help From Customer Feedback 

You may be thinking, coaching for small improvements sounds great, but it also seems time consuming and expensive? The good news is - it doesn’t have to be. You can let customer feedback do the work for you. 

Using customer feedback, coaching for small improvements can become automated, scalable and highly effective. 

The great Stoic philosopher Seneca said, “Don’t underestimate the value of a moderate effort consistently applied.” Don’t misunderstand us –  we’re not telling you a moderate effort is good enough. What we’re saying is that when you focus on improving one thing every day, over time you build mastery which the customer will appreciate as will the leaders in your business. 

Want to learn more? Our FREE Customer Experience Masterclass - Personalizing Coaching to Increase Training Effectiveness is open for enrollment. Learn more here. 

AskNicely Team
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AskNicely Team

AskNicely Team
About the author

AskNicely Team

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