As a customer service manager, it may seem like there’s never enough time to step back from the daily grind and reflect on the overall performance of your reps. You’re constantly putting out fires and directing traffic on the fly. You have brief meetings with each of your reps on a weekly basis, but only to discuss the most urgent issues at hand. It’s easy to lose track of how each rep is doing individually. That’s why it’s important to conduct meaningful customer service performance reviews.
At the end of every quarter, you should conduct performance reviews with each of your customer service reps. Each review should take about 90 minutes — you don’t want them to be rushed. This is your chance to speak with each rep about the big picture and evaluate their performance in-depth.
With the right approach and execution, customer service performance reviews will motivate your reps, improve your entire team, and keep everyone in the loop. Let’s take a look at the best practices to help you make these meetings as productive as possible.
Email Each Rep in Advance
Nobody wants to be caught off-guard by a performance review. Be transparent and inform your reps about their upcoming reviews at least a week in advance. Let them know exactly what they can do to prepare for their reviews. If you plan on going over specific conversations they had with customers, tell them to look back at those conversations beforehand. Advise them to spend a little time doing a self-evaluation, and encourage them to think about ways they could improve.
Lower the Stakes
Your reps may feel nervous when they find out they have a performance review coming up. You should tell them, via email or in-person, that their performance reviews aren’t going to be high stakes. Rather, these reviews are more of a chance to step back from the daily routine and consider ways that you can make more customers happy. Nobody is going to be given a formal grade or be fired as a result of this review, and it’s your job to make that clear.
Review Real Conversations
In order to evaluate the quality of each rep’s work, you will need to review actual conversations that they have had with customers. It’s best to look at 2-3 conversations of different lengths, to see how reps handle short chats and lengthy interactions. You can select these conversations at random, or choose ones that are representative of larger trends.Text conversations are easy to reflect on. Phone calls, on the other hand, can be tricky. For the sake of maintaining a relaxed environment, you may be better off telling each rep to listen to one of their recorded phone calls on their own time, and have them relay their comments to you during the review.
Crunch the Numbers
You should also be using customer service metrics to track performance. Analyze this data to find out how reps are performing, according to the numbers. Looking at metrics like first contact resolution, time to resolution, and handle time will help you gauge the performance of each rep and pinpoint areas of weakness. This is critical for showing your reps what exactly they are doing well and what they need to work on.
Telling people that they are bad at something isn’t easy, especially when you work with them. However, during customer service performance reviews, you need to talk to your reps about ways they could improve in a diplomatic fashion. One way you can make this process easier is by dishing out compliment sandwiches.
In other words, start and finish with compliments, while squeezing criticism in between. Here’s an example: “You’re doing a great job responding to customers within our SLA, but I’ve noticed that your initial responses sometimes seemed rushed. If you clean up those first responses while maintaining a quick first response time, you’ll be in great shape.”
Use Instructive Phrases
It’s important to be thoughtful about the language you use when talking to reps about their performance, as well. During customer service reviews, certain phrases are more effective than others at clearly conveying your meaning. Here are a few examples of positive phrases:
- Uncanny ability to solve complex customer issues
- Makes customers feel human
- Able to calm down angry customers
- Continually relays valuable feedback to the product team
If you’re looking for more phrases to use, there are plenty more out there. But don’t use too many canned comments. You’re better off having authentic dialog with your employees and explaining truthful observations about their performance.
Give your reps the chance to walk you through their thought processes as they respond to customers. Ask engaging questions to get them thinking critically about their day-to-day performance. Here are a few sample questions:
- Do you think you’re using your time efficiently?
- Do you enjoy certain aspects of customer service more than others?
- Are there certain product areas that you want to specialize in?
- Is there anything you are concerned about?
- Can you think of any ways that I can make our service team better?
- During the next quarter, what do you want to improve on?
These questions will challenge your reps to think a little harder about their work. The best reps will have thorough responses that make relevant points that you may not have considered.
Once you’ve decided which areas each rep needs to work on, you should brainstorm ways to go about actually improving their performance. You should start by giving each rep the chance to spitball ideas and come up with strategies on their own. Then, you should take the lead, offering advice on various approaches to finding solutions. Together, you should have no trouble coming up a constructive plan.
After brainstorming, you should outline measurable goals for how each rep will go about improving their weaknesses to become a better rep overall. In order to track each rep’s progress, you should set individual goals. These goals should be designed so that they can realistically be attained by the end of the next quarter, at the time of the next series of customer service performance reviews. Here are some sample goals for individual service reps:
- Resolve more than 200 cases (find more resolutions)
- Resolve cases in under 10 days on average (find resolutions faster)
- Get your average first response time below our SLA (respond to cases faster)
After working with each rep to create goals for the next quarter, your reps should walk away with specific plans to achieve their goals. Each rep should know exactly what they have to do in order to improve. And if that requires individual coaching, set up meeting times for these sessions so they don’t get pushed to the back burner.
You should also ask reps about their career goals, either biannually or annually. Your reps will appreciate your interest in their careers. If you can take action to help reps work towards their career goals, don’t miss out on this opportunity. Reps will work harder if they know it’s helping them work towards a goal that they have their sights set on in the long-term.
The best customer service performance reviews leave reps feeling appreciated and motivate them to improve on their weaknesses. Setting metric-based goals will allow you to track improvements over time, and allow reps to keep tabs on their individual efforts. Check in with your reps each quarter, and you’ll elevate your team’s overall performance.