Feedback is something that many people dread receiving and giving. For some reason, we believe that if we are getting feedback, or if we are in need of training, we must be doing something wrong. However, call center quality feedback is an essential tool to keep agents on track and to help them improve their performance and helps your business achieve their organizational goals.
Think of call center feedback as a cruise ship. During the journey, the ship may steer slightly off course due to bad weather, but the ship's captain will always correct the course soon; otherwise, the ship is destined to sink.
Constructive feedback is critical in a call center and essential to its success. Through consistent and authentic communication based on agent performance, you can help them improve their skills.
As Cord Himelstein, a Forbes Councils Member, explains it, “Positive feedback loops are a fundamental concept in psychology, and the science behind them is simple: Give people feedback about their actions in a timely manner without fear of reprisal, and it gives them a healthy opportunity to work toward better behaviors.”
If you leave your agents to their own devices 95% of the time, they may think they’re doing just fine. Then, if you swoop in once a year and give them a bunch of negative feedback about their actions, not only will your agents get incredibly defensive, they’ll wonder why they were never told anything before. Furthermore, people in general tend to get complacent without encouragement and motivation to better their skills.
The key is to take the drama out of giving and getting feedback. You want it to become a part of the call center culture, so your agents come to expect it and appreciate it. That all starts and ends with you as their manager and leader.
According to a recent Gallup study, managers alone account for 70% of variance in employee engagement. So, if you don’t use your call center manager skills to give feedback effectively, then your employees aren’t going to get the ongoing development they need and want.
So, how do you ensure that you provide your agents with positive and helpful feedback? It has to be given in the right way and at the right time. In particular, there are three critical things you can do to ensure that your feedback is received well.
The best time for feedback is as soon as possible after the event. If you see something positive, immediately praise it. Even if the agent is still on a call, you can give them a thumbs up and a smile to let them know that they’re very clearly doing well. When you give praise, you put your employees in a positive frame of mind that helps them perform even better. As Colin Powell once said; “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier”.
However, when it comes to critical feedback, timeliness is still important but should be handled more carefully. For example, you would not want to jump into the middle of a call to interrupt your agent with negative feedback. These situations require a more delicate and private conversations rather than to call out an agent in front of the entire team to address a problem.
Instead, it’s important to provide critical feedback soon after the call monitoring session ends and in such a way that they do not feel attacked. One way to do this is to provide feedback in as natural of an environment as possible.
For example, rather than calling the agent into your office, see if you can speak to them on their own while getting a cup of coffee or walking to the break room. This is much less stressful and prevents feedback from becoming a 'big thing' to be worried about.
Just be sure the call center quality feedback is provided in confidence. What can also be useful is to implement a tool that can monitor certain engagement techniques that provides a visual element of situations where bad habits could be improved.
How feedback is phrased is critical. Saying something like, “That was horrible! Why would you say that?” compared to “I understand what you were trying to articulate, but it may not have come across like you wanted.” can make a big difference. “Positive Phrasing is about aligning the emotional and verbal content of communication in positive, respectful and productive ways.”- Tao To Ching.
On the www.catli.co.uk site, you can access resources on the lines that are helpful and learn which ones spell disaster and should be avoided.
Non-verbal cues refer to body language and tone of voice, and they support what you’re saying. These signs can also give you clues as to what the agent is feeling.
For example, if you raise your voice, clench your fists, or look elsewhere while giving critical constructive feedback, it can change the entire emotional state of the conversation. It can give the idea that you are angry, annoyed, or that you don’t care about your agent and their performance enough to pay attention.
At the same time, if you recognize that your agent is in a highly emotional state at the start of a feedback session, it can warn you whether or not they will be receptive to your feedback. If the customer was incredibly difficult and the agent is clearly agitated—breathing heavily, pacing, talking quickly, etc.—it might be best to give feedback when the agent calms down. The last thing you want is to increase their stress and push them closer to a breaking point.
Whenever you give feedback, it should be at a time and in a way that strengthens your relationship and improves their performance. That’s why taking the temperature of the situation is essential. There must be a conscious effort to read all non-verbal cues so that healthier communication can occur.
So, what are some good examples of call center quality feedback? It’s highly dependent on your call center goals and needs, but there are a few things that we can recommend.
Most call center software dashboards provide you with call data metrics such as time spent in queue, handle time, number of transfers, hold time, first time resolution and so on. This data can back up your feedback and help you demonstrate for your agent where they fall below and how that reflects on company standards.
Avoid negative language such as “you shouldn’t” or “don’t do” or “this was wrong…” Instead, use language that inspires new methods as its more encouraging and focused on continual success. For example, taking the approach of “maybe you could try” or “Have you considered doing” are much better phrases.
Don’t beat around the bush when it comes to giving feedback. Straight forward constructive criticism and praise are easier to understand and put your employees in a better headspace. For example, you could say something like, “Sara, can I give you some feedback on that last call? I really appreciate how you handled the customer and listened to their complaints for so long. That was very kind. However, I feel that in your effort to empathize with the customer, you may have made it more difficult to make them happy. For example…”
If you have specific performance goals for the customer experience, use those goals as a call monitoring feedback template. For example, let’s look at the goal of emotional intelligence. As outlined, a good call center agent must be able to anticipate customer requests, deliver explanations and justifications, educate customers, provide emotional support, and offer personal information. Provide feedback on each point with examples to back it up in a template format, so your agents always know what to expect.
Training goes hand-in-hand with feedback. If your feedback is only about areas they need to improve on, but you don't offer them training to make those improvements, then you are just telling them about problems. You aren't helping them find a solution.
The following are three essential aspects of training.
In other words, training needs to be results-focused. Create specific objectives and outcomes for each training session—not a corporate tick box. There should be a purpose that can be measured. The idea is that the agent should know exactly how to increase their performance and what steps that will get them there.
Another way to make training measurable is to create a call center quality feedback evaluation for with clear questions, goals, and measurements that outline a successful customer interaction. This evaluation form should include questions based on a range of important skills, such as:
Training works well when it translates into new behavior. This happens when skills are not just heard but practiced and implemented. Make training exciting and interesting, and get agents involved in the learning process to help them retain what they have learned and makes them feel more motivated to implement it. One example of this could be introducing call center training games, which can be a great way to shake things up!
One of the best things you can do is end every training session with an action plan for success. They should have specific goals and steps that they need to complete to resolve their performance problems. Then, you should schedule a follow-up meeting for a few weeks down the road to see how they’re doing.
Trainers and the environment in which the training takes place should inspire energy and involvement. Taking agents away from the phones for training should be something they look forward to. Training that is motivational will be most effective in creating new behavior which will result in better performance.
Technology can help facilitate feedback training by using tools such as voice recording and speech analytics to gather quality data. This technology can efficiently flag calls that contain phrases or errors for managers to listen to and incorporate into their training.
This data is valuable in providing objective evidence when an issue is being addressed. For example: If you are working on reducing average call handling times, periods of silence on calls can be flagged as areas for improvement.
Or you can use Scorebuddy Scorecards to flag calls where the customer was deemed to still be upset by the end of the call, and then use those calls to illustrate good and bad points. The key is to use the scorecards as hard evidence that change is required to improve.
The key to effective training is that it needs to be an active two-way discussion. Don’t just focus on what they did wrong or right. Questions enable you to understand what the agent is thinking or feeling and how they might need help. Ask them for suggestions for improvement, rather than telling them.
Coaching is about helping them find the answers for themselves so that they own the solutions.
Just be sure that what’s discussed in a call center quality feedback session is actually implemented and encouraged by giving positive feedback straight away when you see the new behaviors taking place. And don’t forget to check in with agents regularly to see how they are progressing in terms of dealing with a specific issue that was discussed. This will help motivate agents to improve their performance.