Providing feedback is a delicate art and an important part of a call center manager’s job. You need to be skilled at giving out both praise and criticism and striking the proper balance between the two can be tricky.
While praise is easy to give, it can be challenging and unpleasant to criticize your call center agents. Yet call center management requires you to occasionally show employees where they need to improve. Therefore, managers need to learn how to effectively give quality feedback to their agents, both negative and positive.
Giving and receiving feedback should be something you and your agents look forward to because it will drive the entire team toward common goals: improved call quality and better overall and individual performance in your call center.
If the feedback you're giving your agents isn’t inspiring them to make the changes they need to improve their performance, it is time to rethink your approach.
Here we will look at seven tips to help make your agent feedback more meaningful, while at the same time keeping the lines of communication open, positive and two-way.
Always Provide Timely Feedback
When monitoring agent calls you will undoubtedly hear about the mistakes and missteps your agents are making. Addressing these mistakes promptly is important. This will not only increase the odds that similar mistakes won’t happen again in subsequent calls, but it also addresses an issue that is fresh and that the agent can easily recall and correct. Similarly, if you hear an agent do something exceptional during a call, you should also provide immediate feedback, even if it’s a brief acknowledgement. Something like a quick thumbs up will help to reinforce the behavior.
And when it comes to being timely, don’t limit giving feedback to certain times during the year, like in an annual performance review. Making it a daily practice helps drive home best practices and can help motivate your agents on a more day-to-day basis.
Devil is in the Details
Whether it’s negative or positive feedback you're giving, make sure you know exactly how you’re going to convey the message so you can be specific when you’re giving feedback. For example, instead of telling your agents, they need to bring their calls to a quicker resolution, tell them that they need to finish their calls within a specific number of minutes on average. This makes feedback more tangible.
Always focus your feedback on specific agent actions rather than vague generalities. Comments like "good job" need to be followed up with a clear description of the actions you're happy with and wish to see repeated. This is even more important when giving negative feedback, as the specifics take on even more important meaning, as these are details you don’t want to see repeated.
If you’re using the right call center software you should have plenty of qualitative and quantitative data available, so use it to your advantage! Use all of your QA metrics, customer feedback and call recordings as sources for your feedback and this will enable you to address the right issues with data to back up your assessments.
It’s also important to remember that the metrics you’ll use as part of your agent feedback plan can, and often do, differ from one industry to the next. You wouldn’t expect a support call to a retailer to have the same process and flow as a call to a financial service institution like a bank. The needs, regulation, tone, and context are all vastly different and the call center feedback metrics that you’ll track should adapt accordingly.
Involve Your Agents
As mentioned earlier, the most effective feedback is typically two-way feedback, so involving your agents in the process is key. Make feedback an ongoing conversation between you and your agents. When you’re giving feedback it’s important to listen and understand the responses you get. There may be a reason that things are being done a particular way - and perhaps this reason is something you need to know about.
Once you’ve discussed the behaviors you want an agent to change, the next step is to work with them to create an action plan to bring about the desired changes.
The Proper Setting
As we said earlier, positive feedback is easy to dole out, it’s the negative or more constructive feedback that needs to be handled more delicately. One of the most crucial details regarding negative feedback is the setting in which you deliver it. Negative feedback should always be shared in private, in an environment that is comfortable for your agents. The proper setting will put your agents at ease, making them far more receptive to what you have to say.
As we said, negative feedback requires a different approach from positive comments, so here are four additional tips specific to offering “constructive” feedback to your call center agents:
- Bring sincerity & honesty. We are often aware of our underperformance, so the feedback should not be a surprise, but be sure you also make it clear you are anxious to help, and not simply finding fault.
- Be direct and clear. Once feedback is given, don't let your agent walk away left feeling 'what just happened?’
- Encourage self-reflection. Engage with your agents and ask for their feedback, as it should always be a two-way conversation.
- Stop and listen. Take the time to bring deeper insight into the issues you're discussing.
Scorecards for Tracking Feedback
Scorecards are essential tools for facilitating call center agent feedback. Not only do they allow you to gather quality data on agent performance so that you have valuable objective evidence, but they can help you illustrate both good and bad points that agents can then use to improve.
Quality assurance scorecards are especially beneficial when it comes to remote agent performance because they provide a vehicle for active two-way discussion. Scorecards help you go beyond what an agent did right or wrong for a better understanding of why or how an agent performed the way they did.
By providing remote call center agents with scorecards, you place the customer experience into their hands—giving them the power and autonomy to monitor and improve their interactions at every touchpoint. With scorecards, you can set agents up for self-evaluating the customer journey and how they performed or met goals throughout it.
Scorebuddy’s quality assurance scorecards help you to measure:
- How well your remote agents recognized a customer’s emotional needs/mood.
- How well your remote agents provided the customer with their desired outcome.
- If and how the customer’s perception was changed positively or negatively by the conclusion of the interaction.
It’s important to follow up with the agent after you’ve shared your feedback with them. When there is no follow-up, this is usually where feedback goes to die.
While this will give you the chance to make sure your feedback is being implemented, it also shows that as a manager you care about the agent’s progress and are making every effort to make sure they are progressing toward the goals you set.
Your feedback shouldn’t end after one conversation. Revisiting issues and keeping feedback on the front burner is how you make sure you're avoiding the “in one ear, out the other” syndrome.
Delivering feedback in an appropriate and nuanced way is challenging. To do it well, practice, experience, and observation are essential. The importance of call center quality feedback cannot be overstated. It is the basis for your call center’s success. It’s only through tracking agent performance and providing timely, accurate feedback, coupled with great training and development, that you can consistently improve operations.
Talk to Scorebuddy today about how to give feedback to your agents. Get in touch now for a demo.