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Test Your Customer Service Coaching Skills

Test your customer service coaching skills

Being less of a boss and more of a coach is the cornerstone for most customer service team leaders or managers. In business, as in sport, the coaching role favours the facilitator. What we stand for (ie, our values) drives the type of coaching relationship we strive to create and maintain. The basic values you bring to coaching situations can be determined by picking the response below that best describes you.


1      Your customer service team members’ performances vary from the superstar to the substandard. When coaching your team members do you:

a      Get around to it when and if you can find the time?

b      Only spend time coaching your problem team members?

c      Try to divide your coaching time equally between your problem and average team members?

d      Concentrate on coaching your problem and average team members, coaching your high performers if time allows?

e      Devote equal time to team members because everyone can benefit from coaching sessions?


2      One of your customer service team members is really struggling with a difficult and new assignment. You are fairly confident that he has the capability to perform well on this task, but believe that he is lacking in self-confidence. Do you:

a      Stay out of the assignment but work with the employee to develop independence and meet his responsibilities?

b      Work on the assignment only when requested by the employee?

c      Take responsibility for the critical aspects of the assignment?

d      Take the lead on the assignment and allow the employee to play a supporting role?

e      Jump in and take over the assignment, letting the employee observe and learn how it should be done?


3      During a coaching discussion your employee asks for a performance assessment. You believe any discussion about another person’s strengths and weaknesses should be:

a      Avoided?

b      Only about the other person’s strengths?

c      Predominantly about strengths, with a few weaknesses interspersed along the way?

d      A balance between strengths and weaknesses?

e      Done with clarity, candour and support?


4      You and the employee seem to have different agendas during a coaching discussion. Do you:

a      Take note of the employee’s concerns?

b      Subordinate your agenda then listen, accept some responsibility for the present situation, and work to understand the employee’s concerns?

c      Debate over whose agenda should be the focus of the meeting?

d      Listen to the employee but keep to your agenda?

e      Tell the employee you would be willing to discuss his concerns in a later meeting and focus the present discussion on your agenda?


5      It has come to you through the grapevine that one of your customer service supervisors is insensitive, abrasive and pushy. You don’t particularly like this employee. Do you:

a      Accept what others have said until proven wrong by the supervisor while conducting your own secret investigation?

b      Attempt to listen to the supervisor, knowing full well that he cannot be objective?

c      Seek to empathise with the supervisor, understand her perspective, support her, and reserve judgement?

d      Give the supervisor the benefit of the doubt, but remain cautious?

e      Accept what others have said and concentrate on rectifying the situation?


6      You and your employee are planning some changes in his customer service and client approach. You can’t seem to agree, so do you:

a      Stop focusing on the method, seek a common goal, and then allow the employee to develop the alternative approaches?

b      Present the benefits and costs of your approach, then let the employee decide on the course of action?

c      Let the employee know that you favour your approach, but will try to be objective in your final decision?

d      Let your experience dictate and mandate your approach?

e      Stick with your approach until the employee can prove you wrong?


7      During a discussion with one of your customer service team members it becomes painfully obvious to you that you have negligently contributed to the present situation yourself. Do you:

a      Ignore the role you have played, since the focus of the discussion is the employee, not you?

b      Pass the buck, since the employee can’t possibly know the pressures you face?

c      Justify your behaviour with reason and logic?

d      Seek to understand the employee’s viewpoint without making any commitments?

e      Verbally acknowledge your responsibility?


8      When you think about coaching your customer service team members, you feel that:

a      Every interaction you have with your team members presents a coaching opportunity?

b      Coaching should be reserved for only dealing with problem situations?

c      Coaching should be reserved for your formal performance review meetings?

d      Coaching is for times when you have good or bad news to deliver?

e      You should only coach when requested by the employee?


9      One of your troublesome team members is making a good faith effort to improve. The change is very slow. During your coaching discussions do you:

a      Focus on the past, since history is our greatest teacher?

b      Balance the discussion between the past and the present?

c      Use the past as a springboard to plan for the future?

d      Focus on the here and now?

e      Focus on the future, since the past can’t be changed?


10    Your customer service team has been very successful in meeting or exceeding objectives. New competition and changing conditions have increased pressure on them to perform. In talking with each of your team members about objectives and new directions, do you:

a      Encourage caution and acceptance or only calculated risks?

b      Encourage moderate and prudent risk taking?

c      Encourage them to take risks, stretching you, them, and the department?

d      Keep final approval of any new approaches?

e      Encourage caution, since failure is to be avoided at all costs?


The answers

Question 1 A=2, B=4, C=6, D=8, E=10 Everyone on the team can benefit from coaching: good, mediocre and substandard employees. Not everyone is willing to be coached, but the manager should make every effort to spend time coaching the team members she works with. Focusing on only substandard or problem team members may cause the attitudes of good team members to atrophy.
Question 2 A=10, B=8, C=6, D=4,


Self-management is the name of the game. Coaches want to build independent, healthy team members who can make choices and determine the right course of action to take. Internal motivation versus external pushing from the coach is the desired state. Coaching should focus the responsibility for the situation and the required action on the employee. Independence is based on helping the employee develop ownership for both the problem and the solution.
Question 3 A=2, B=4, C=6, D=8, E=10 An open, honest, straight-forward discussion between employee and manager/coach is fundamental to building trust and respect. Even though difficult, to deceive another or withhold information is not supportive. If this person were your best friend would you be honest or withhold your perceptions? Coaching requires the courage to be willing to offer both good and bad news for the purpose of helping the other person change and grow.
Question 4 A=8, B=10, C=6, D=4, E=2 To be a good coach you must be coachable: flexible, open to new ideas, alternatives, and differing viewpoints. Coaching is a two person game: there has to be a willingness to be coached as well as to coach. Dogmatically sticking to your agenda presents a vivid example to the other person that you are not willing to do what you are asking them to do — be open, listen, and change.
Question 5 A=4, B=6, C=10, D=8, E=2 Coaches whose actions and words affirm their desires to be supportive are seen as approachable, someone who cares and can be counted on to help. Actions such as listening, encouraging, understanding, and accepting are examples of supportiveness. Being supportive has nothing to do with liking or disliking the other person: it is a decision you make about the type of relationship you want to foster with others. The good coach offers unconditional support.
Question 6 A=10, B=8, C=6, D=2, E=4 “My way, or the highway” does not develop committed team members. Through discussion, the coach needs to exhibit flexibility and develop common goals that individuals can support and become excited about. Those who succumb to the “authority trap” and try to tell and sell their ideas are not coaching: they are instructing, or dictating.
Question 7 A=2, B=4, C=6, D=8, E=10 Coaches who are supportive are willing to accept responsibility for their role in creating the current situation. Every situation is not just the employee’s fault. Sincerely owning up to the role you have played builds trust and a collaborative climate between manager and employee.
Question 8 A=10, B=6, C=4, D=8, E=2 Coaching is a process, not an event. Look for coaching moments in every interaction you have. Effective coaches are constantly teaching, helping and receiving feedback. Day-to-day coaching is easier, more effective and develops consistency in the relationship between manager and employee.
Question 9 A=2, B=4, C=6, D=8, E=10 Effective coaches are forward looking. They inspire hope. The past can’t be changed so don’t dwell on it. If you’re not moving forward, the chances are that you’re losing ground.
Question 10 A=6, B=8, C=10, D=4, E=2 A winning coach encourages risk-taking and establishes a safety net called support to catch those team members who falter or fail. Failure is looked at as a learning situation with the opportunity to grow. Team members and coaches, who do not dare, stagnate.



Evaluating your score


82-100 Your coaching values are consistent. You help to create a high-performing, self-managing group of team members. Your values align with the view of coaching as a process to facilitate employee growth and development.


62-80 You believe that the effective coach is supportive, open, collaborative and emphatic. You may feel constrained to really implement a total self-management concept. Keep fighting, you are way ahead of the game. Remember, coaching is one of the most important acts of customer service leadership.


42-60 Middle of the road. Confused between listening to your heart and doing things right. You send off conflicting and confusing signals to those who work around you. At best they are confused, at worst they don’t know if they can trust you. Get out of their way and let your human side show. Take a risk and experiment with a more open, collaborative approach to coaching team members.


22-40 You often experience confusion over what it means to be ‘in control’. The unfortunate thing is that you are probably a nice person away from work, but feel you have to assume the role of ‘authority’ when coaching team members. The role models you have had were probably very autocratic and believed the right thing to do was tell team members what needed to be done and not ask or involve them.


Under 22 If you have a role model you have definitely chosen the wrong one. For you, the transition to collaborative facilitation will be very, very difficult. If it disturbs you that you seem to be doing more work than anyone else and that your team members are less and less committed, maybe it’s time for you to reassess the basic values you bring to the employee-manager relationship.


Have you seen our ‘Coaching for Brilliant Customer Service!’ course? Read more

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