What Is Successful Call Center Performance Management And How Do You Get There?
Creating great customer experiences has fast become a focus of many companies for one simple reason—it’s what most consumers want and expect.
Most brands spend a ton of money on customer acquisition. If you want to retain those customers for the long haul, investing in delivering an exceptional experience should be a priority.
Call centers play an integral part in the customer experience. While you may or may not offer phone support, building and managing a high-performing customer service team is something every business needs.
Call center performance management
Call center performance management is the continual process of making sure your call center agents are productive, satisfied, and doing their jobs well. Performance management is usually handled by a support manager, operations manager, or team leads who work with employees through a combination of quality monitoring and 1-on-1 coaching.
Effective performance management in a call center involves three things:
Effectively managing your customer service team is never a one-size-fits-all approach. Every manager will need to tailor their approach to each individual agent’s needs to get the best results and to build the strongest team possible.
Accountability in a call center is the act of holding an agent to the behaviors, responsibilities, and metrics set for their role. In a healthy team, accountability is a two-way street. Leaders should hold their agents accountable to perform well, while agents should hold their leaders accountable to provide support and assist in their development.
Effective performance management requires ongoing accountability.
You can’t expect people to consistently meet expectations if you don’t set clear goals and regularly touch base on how they’re performing. While it’s possible to do this in a way that comes across as micro-managing, avoiding accountability altogether is also unhelpful. In fact, CNBC reported that feeling accountable to someone you respect that’s higher in a hierarchy can be an effective motivator.
Employee engagement is the second part of effective performance management. When employees are engaged with their work, they are more likely to perform well. They’ll take better care of your customers. Studies regularly back this up, highlighting the results you get from engaged employees.
- Engaged employees make it a point to show up to work and do more work—highly engaged business units realize an 81% difference in absenteeism and a 14% difference in productivity.
- Engaged employees also help their organizations improve customer relationships and obtain impressive organic growth
- Highly engaged business units achieve a 10% difference in customer ratings and an 18% difference in sales.
It’s clear that engaged employees perform better. It’s also important for your leaders to take responsibility for their role in employee engagement. As author L. David Marquet says, “A leader’s job is to fix the environment where people have become disengaged; not to fix disengaged people.”
If employees are going to perform their best, they need to feel like you value their professional development as much as, if not more than, they do. According to a study done by the Harris Poll, “34% of employees who have left a job have done so because they craved more career development opportunities.”
Consistent high performance in companies is the result of retaining experienced employees who know your product, your brand, and your customers. Keep employees around longer and they’ll be able to serve your customers better. They’ll also be primed for internal promotions and development opportunities.
LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report shows that “companies that excel at internal mobility retain employees for an average of 5.4 years, nearly twice as long as companies that struggle with it, where the average retention span is 2.9 years.”
How to improve call center agent performance
So how do you incorporate accountability, engagement, and development into your call center performance management?
Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Create a sturdy foundation through training
Empowering your employees is a hallmark of a great customer service team (more on this later), but it only works if you’ve built a sturdy foundation.
Effective performance management starts with training your team well. In training, teach your customer service agents best practices for serving your customers. Reinforce the behaviors that matter most regularly.
Once your team members are equipped to do their jobs well, let them work in a way that suits them.
2. Define your performance standards
Another way to improve call center performance is to make sure you define what good performance standards look like.
You can’t measure—let alone manage—performance effectively if you’re not giving your team a clear target to shoot for. Some standard key performance indicators for customer service teams include
- Average handle time (AHT)
- Contacts per hour
- Service level (i.e. 80% of calls answered in 20 seconds)
- First contact resolution (FCR)
- First response time (FRT)
- Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
Pick KPIs and metrics that make sense for your business and customers. Once you’ve decided on what matters, help your support team understand the “why” behind each metric. From there, keep your goals front and center every single day.
3. Keep your team accountable
Defining metrics is a necessity for your customers and your employees, but neither will benefit if you don’t keep your team accountable to those KPIs. Hold your team accountable by reviewing your metrics regularly on both an individual and team basis.
Individually, hold 1-on-1 meetings with your call center team to share what they’re doing well and what needs to be improved. This sometimes involves having difficult conversations or engaging in formal performance improvement plans. While it can be tempting to ignore low performers, it can actually be demoralizing for your top performers to see their peers consistently failing to do their jobs well.
On a team level, focus on the wins and achievements of the group. Use team meetings and awards huddles to celebrate and reinforce the standards you’ve set. Public recognition of a job well done encourages your team to excel.
4. Focus on coaching
Coaching is about leading an employee to the answer rather than just giving it to them. Coaching is an effective performance management tool because it forces employees to think for themselves, building their confidence and knowledge.
To coach effectively, ask leading and open-ended questions rather than yes/no questions. Asking open-ended questions encourages conversation and critical thinking so your agents can get to the answer themselves. Coach an engaged agent consistently and you’ll eventually be able to be pretty hands off on their performance—they’ll be hitting all their goals.
Effective coaching starts at the top with call center leadership, but it doesn’t have to stay there. Supervisors, Team Leads, and even more senior call center agents can all help with coaching your frontline agents to perform better.
5. Empower your employees
One of the best ways to keep your customer service agents engaged is to empower them to do their best work. Giving autonomy is one of the top motivators for many employees.
Within a customer service team, empowerment gives your employees a voice in two key areas: how things are run within the call center and how you serve your customers.
You can empower your employees by:
- Allowing them to speak up when they disagree with something—without fear of consequences
- Delegating key initiatives to your high performers
- Dedicating time for your team to work on projects and process improvements that will move the department forward
- Asking for feedback regularly
- Putting their feedback into action to show that it matters
- Giving recognition for excellent work
- Letting each employee own their development
Empowering your employees leads to increased engagement, and increased engagement leads to better performance across the board.
6. Engage your team as individuals
While your performance goals will probably be consistent across your team, each team member is a unique individual. If you want every member of your team to perform well, you should figure out what motivates them on an individual level.
According to McClelland’s Theory, there are three motivational drivers that influence everyone—achievement, affiliation, and power.
- Achievement means you’re motivated by accomplishing goals.
- Affiliation means you’re motivated by working in groups and being liked.
- Power means you’re motivated by autonomy and authority.
Take time to figure out which of these three drivers is primary for each of your employees, then incorporate them into your coaching and performance management. When you can align your employees’ preferences with your company’s goals, your team is well positioned for high performance.
Accountability, engagement, and development are the bedrock of effective call center performance management. Focusing on these within your team allows your team members to put their focus on serving your customers.
Creating a high-performing customer service team isn’t easy. At Peak Support, we have years of experience building outsourced customer service teams for fast-growing companies. Whether you’re looking to outsource your team entirely or just need a little extra help, contact us to explore a partnership today!