How to give feedback to your call center agents
Working in a call center is a pretty difficult job. Agents spend most of their working hours on the phone with (often angry) customers, and have to deal with a lot of stressful situations. In such a fast-paced environment, there’s always room for performance improvement, and most agents will undoubtedly benefit from appropriate guidance and feedback in order to be able to excel at their job.
So, like it or not, as a call center supervisor, you’ll be expected to provide your agent team with valuable and useful feedback on a regular basis.
Furthermore, as valuable feedback can have a great impact on your employees’ performance, it’s also in your own best interests to ensure you provide appropriate evaluation to your call center agent team.
Of course, offering feedback – good or bad – can be a challenging job. So, to help you out, we collected some useful ideas regarding feedback that will allow you to help your agent team develop their performance. Check them out, and think of them as our feedback on how to give feedback!
The best place to give feedback? One-to-one sessions
The biggest challenge for agents working in a large team in a call center environment is to stand out from the crowd, and for their work to be acknowledged by management. As a result, call center agents can often feel that they are nothing more than just another cog in the call center wheel.
So, if you manage a team of call center agents, our tip is to always allocate time for regular one-to-one feedback sessions with each of them. By doing this, your agents will feel supported and valued by management. Furthermore, as you probably manage agents with different level of performance, a one-to-one feedback session is the perfect opportunity to discuss further career opportunities with them within the call center.
One-to-one sessions are by far the best way to discuss things, and much better than offering negative feedback publicly, which we would never recommend. Of course, it’s part of your job to share your insights – including negative feedback – with your agent team, but always bear in mind that some people are more sensitive than others, and may not handle criticism well. A one-to-one session is the perfect opportunity to share your concerns with your employees without making them feel uncomfortable or humiliated before the rest of their team.
Be specific when offering feedback to your call center agents
Try and make these sessions as personal as possible (without crossing the line of professionality). A little small talk is a good start, as it helps break the ice and creates an atmosphere where both of you can communicate more effectively with each other.
Once you ensured that your agent feels comfortable during a feedback session, it’s time get to the point. When offering your feedback, always make sure to be specific and crystal-clear. Making general comments during an evaluation – whether good or bad – aren’t helpful, as they may be ambiguous, leaving your agent confused about what they did well or badly.
Furthermore, use specific examples as an essential part of your agent feedback. Call centers often record their calls for training purposes, so don’t miss out on this great opportunity to use recorded calls during a feedback session. By reviewing calls together with your agent, they can receive a crystal-clear example of what is and what is not acceptable during a customer call.
Start with the positive
Rule number one: always start with positive feedback. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to motivate your agent by a constant flow of negative feedback, so it’s better to start your feedback session by praising them for what they did well.
Furthermore, always bear in mind that positive feedback is equally important as constructive criticism. When it comes to offering feedback, management often tend to focus on constructive criticism, while their positive comments are rather general. Don’t just tell your agent that you’re really impressed with their work, because they won’t be able to know what they did well or badly. The more specific you are, the easier it will be for your agent to improve their skills based on your feedback.
So, if your agent has done an excellent job in dealing with an angry customer on the phone, then start the feedback session by praising them for it. Providing praise first creates a positive atmosphere, and it helps agents handle constructive criticism better.
Find the golden mean
There’s no doubt that the call center industry is an extremely fast-paced business environment, in which employees have to cope with a great deal of escalations and customer complaints. Unexpected situations always occur, and agents will often have to improvise. And, as they’re human beings, chances are that sometimes they won’t be able to deal with a problem in the most effective way.
However, after having begun with a positive start as mentioned above, we would recommend trying to keep positivity a characteristic of any one-to-one. Of course you want your call center agents to be the best they can be, but don’t become the kind of supervisor who only talks about what should be improved. Although knowing when and how to present negative feedback is an essential skill of any call center supervisor, positive feedback is equally important.
Therefore, try to find the golden mean between providing positive and negative feedback to your call center agents throughout your feedback session, not just at the beginning.
Watch out for the way you communicate your feedback
The main goal of offering feedback to your call center agent team is to help them improve their skills, so they can carry out their tasks more effectively. But are you sure you are making your motivations clear to them?
If you’re not careful, the way you communicate your feedback to your call center agents can be very misleading. So, always watch out for the way you communicate feedback, and make sure you don’t make your call center agents feel uncomfortable.
For example, during a feedback session with one of your agents, always pay special attention to the tone of your voice. If you sound too strict or intimidating, then the employee may interpret your words as purely negative feedback, without any constructive criticism.
Give feedback, take feedback
Giving feedback is a tough job and it may take some time to learn how to do it properly. But don’t forget, a conversation always has two participants. So, allow your agents to react to the feedback you provide them with. By doing this, you’ll have an opportunity to know whether you should still work on your feedback technique.
Furthermore, as we already mentioned in a previous article, customer calls clearly provide some of the most valuable information for your call center, but don’t just learn from your customers’ feedback. As your call center agents spend most of their working hours on the phone with your customers, ask them to share their insights with you. By doing this, you’ll be able to easily increase call center efficiency.
Once you receive feedback from your agents, then make sure you take action on it. This contributes to a healthy and open workplace, and will make you a more respected call center supervisor.
Giving feedback to your call center agents is a challenging job. However, by following our advice, you should easily be able to turn any feedback session into a win-win situation. On one hand, you will be able to motivate your call center agents, thus providing them with a better work experience; on the other hand, you will learn a lot from such sessions and improve your feedback techniques for the future.