What to Say in Call Center Performance Reviews: How to use Agent Strengths to Inspire Better Performance During your Development Conversations
Companies who strategically invest in employee development see 11% higher profit than those who don’t. And, they’re 2x more likely to keep employees in their seats.
Investing in your employees brings clear and quantifiable returns – we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. And again. (And probably a few times after that, too.)
Yet contact center leaders still struggle to engage agents, develop their teams, and improve performance. Coaching and training in the contact center misses core components that make it stick.
Agents meet up with supervisors or managers for performance conversations, soak in some feedback on metrics they missed, put their headsets back on and jump right back to customer conversations.
The typical call center performance review isn’t structured in a way that helps your agents learn, understand, then improve.
Instead, these reviews funnel critique back to your agents without actionable follow-up steps to help performance. And, without praise about what they’re doing right. (Hey! I’m working really hard over here. I’d like a gold star to supplement that criticism, please.)
That approach doesn’t work. And that’s why, right now, only 14% of workers say their performance reviews inspire them to improve at work.
You can fix it.
Let’s walk through how to handle call center performance reviews to motivate agents and improve performance, not tank morale.
1. Start by talking through the personal and company goals you and your agents set.
Goals-based organizations highly outperform those who don’t have a shared set of values, beliefs, and intended outcomes.
To keep your agents aligned with what matters to your company, address corporate goals often. Review the quarterly goals you set in your contact center and how those goals link back up to your company goals. Then, talk to your agent about progress toward those goals.
Did you set a contact center goal to improve CSAT from 68% to 73%? That’s a specific, measurable goal that’s easy to quantify in your performance conversations.
Did your agents nail it and get more positive input from customers, landing your CSAT at 75% (2% above goal, wahoo!)
Or, did you fall short? And if you did fall short, was it because of factors outside of your agents’ control – like an internet outage that made web chat stall – or did your agents’ attitude lead to poor customer reviews?
Don’t sugar coat it. Transparency builds trust. Review your goals and how your agents’ performance impacts each one, so they understand just how important their daily work is.
2. Ask your agents for their perspective.
What are your agents really proud of since their last performance review? What are the three biggest wins they accomplished? And, what do they want to improve upon most?
Head into your call center performance reviews prepared to ask agents for their evaluation of their own performance. And, ask how you can improve as a manager, too.
Feedback is dual-sided. You can’t inspire better performance without learning what motivates and drives each member of your team. When agents share those three wins, you’ll immediately learn what matters most to them in their role.
“When a manager learns to listen — really listen — to what the employee shares, they’ll begin to hear clues to the employee’s talents. Those clues are the key to inspiring and motivating individual performance.”
3. Give feedback on agent strengths, not just areas for progress.
Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman of the leadership consultancy Zenger/Folkman said to HBR, “Only positive feedback can motivate people to continue doing what they’re doing well, and do it with more vigor, determination, and creativity.”
Turns out, employees who use their strengths are nearly 6x more engaged and have higher performance at work. And, companies who build recognition-rich cultures have 31% lower turnover rates than their peers.
To foster this kind of recognition-rich culture, kick your performance reviews off with the positives. Guide agents to think about their strengths and accomplishments, first. Then, talk through constructive feedback.
People retreat when they hear criticism. It’s our instinct. Leading with negatives will cause your agents to immediately disengage. It’s a huge demotivator for your conversation and will likely cause agents to freeze up, never giving you insight into what motivates and excites them at work.
4. Next, review scorecards and performance data.
Once your agent knows there’s no dark cloud looming above and you’ve set the tone for a productive conversation, dig into performance data to help your agent improve.
Does Mark have visibility into his metrics and progress over the past few months? Does he know how his individual metrics have impacted your overall contact center performance? And, does he know how he’s doing relative to his peers?
With performance data and specific KPIs, managers can come to call center performance reviews with tangible information to showcase agent performance.
Mark may think he’s doing fantastic work with a 70% Active Contact Resolution rate. But if the goal was 75% (and his peers are meeting it), then set new benchmarks for Mark and talk through actionable ways to improve.
“By publishing our expectations, understanding our team performance, showing our agents their scores, analyzing that performance, and searching for our gaps in training, we can effectively manage our teams, even from our basement office.”
– Ric Kosiba, Ph.D., Chief Data Scientist at Sharpen in an article for SWPP
5. Create an individualized plan for development and performance improvement.
Call center performance reviews give you an avenue to actively manage (and coach) to better performance. So, after you’ve reviewed all the details of recent performance, what comes next?
How can you encourage positive changes in behavior rather than just exhaling criticism?
There’s no use reprimanding your agents’ past performance without offering up actionable tips and feedback to help them improve next time around.
Use your data as a resource to understand where your agents help. Then, create a strategy to improve together. Give specific and actionable feedback on interactions that held up your agents’ metrics and didn’t deliver the best outcomes. And coach collaboratively to build loyalty and trust with your agents.
When you use call center performance reviews as working sessions to help agents understand where they can challenge themselves to do more, and how you’ll help them along the way, you inspire confidence. Agents learn they can lean on you when they need to find a way forward for better performance, no matter what.