When a customer chats, emails, or calls your service desk, they are reaching out because of an issue or challenge that they are facing. The service those customers receive from your team can make or break their relationships with your company.
Good customer service solves problems and reflects well upon your brand.
Poor customer service leaves users feeling frustrated and reflects poorly upon your brand.
You want the former rather than the latter, of course. But how can you ensure a consistently positive experience for users who reach out to customer service?
Conducting regular customer service performance reviews is essential for maintaining a positive user experience. These reviews are regular opportunities for managers to up-level the skills of customer service representatives, as well as overall team performance.
You may already be conducting customer service performance reviews. Or you may be aware of the importance of customer service performance reviews — but have yet to implement them at your company. No matter where your review program stands right now, here are actionable tips for using performance reviews to maximize the impact your team can make on the overall business.
The Impact of Quality Customer Service
Customer service isn't just a box to be checked at your organization. Customer service overall is a pivotal discipline that can generate bottom-line results for your company.
How does providing excellent customer service influence key business metrics and overall revenue?
Here are three ways:
- Transform bad experiences into good ones: Customer service reps are meeting users at points of need. Put more bluntly, reps are often talking to users who are having a bad experience. These reps are in the unique position of being able to transform that bad experience into a good one. What better way to delight your users than by turning something bad into something good?
- Increase retention and loyalty: Constant problems that require customer service contacts can inspire your users to look at the competition. But high-quality customer service interactions can create long-lasting solutions for your users and eliminate the need for them to contact support in the future. When your users are able to navigate your platforms or other technologies without intervention from customer service, they are less likely to look at alternatives.
- Boost sales: Many customer service contacts come from your newest users who may still be operating within a trial period. When your reps are able to help these new users move efficiently along their journeys, those users are more likely to convert into paying customers. Companies don't always think of their customer service teams as sales multipliers, but that's exactly what they are when they are able to deliver exceptional service.
Objectively, delighting your users with outstanding customer service is one of the best things you can do to grow your business. And conducting high-impact customer service performance reviews is one of the best ways to ensure your reps are indeed delighting your users.
Why Customer Service Performance Reviews are Essential
It's not always easy to conduct regular performance reviews. That holds true no matter the department.
Conducting high-quality customer service performance reviews takes time, and it requires managers to be thoughtful in the way they craft and deliver feedback, both positive and negative.
But holding regular customer service performance reviews can be highly beneficial to your team and to your organization. Here are three ways that good customer service performance reviews help your team maximize its potential:
- Create a culture of performance. What's the culture like across your customer service team? Failing to conduct performance reviews can create a feedback vacuum in which the motivation and commitment of your team members drop. But regular performance reviews can help create a culture of performance across your customer service team.
- Improve service. What metrics do you use within your customer service department? Regular performance reviews are an opportunity to address those metrics on a representative-by-representative basis, which improves overall service levels.
- Align service to corporate goals. Your corporate strategy and goals should trickle down to all departments. There are few opportunities to align the work of a customer service team to the corporate strategy and goals. Performance reviews present one of your best opportunities to make sure that your department on an individual basis is fully aligned with the aims and vision of the company at-large.
Not only are customer service performance reviews beneficial to your business, they can also increase job satisfaction across your support team. In a time when the Great Resignation is capturing headlines, and in customer service departments where turnover tends to be higher than in other parts of your organization, conducting customer service performance reviews can help reduce turnover across your team.
Follow an Effective Performance Review Process
We’ve written previously about how to conduct effective employee evaluations. As you approach performance review season, create and follow an effective process for communicating feedback to your representatives. If you approach performance reviews haphazardly, you risk alienating your employees. You also risk failing at your number one task, which is to communicate feedback that will actually make a difference in how your team operates.
Here's a customer service performance review process that you can follow to ensure that you deliver an effective evaluation.
1. Give your employees notice
Nobody wants to have an impromptu, step-into-my-office-style conversation. As a manager, you should give your employees plenty of notice before a performance review occurs.
A performance review is an opportunity for the employee to think about the things he or she wants to communicate upward to management. If you surprise someone with a performance review, you fail to give them the time and space needed to think about what they want to articulate during the review session.
2. Listen to calls
There are two ways to conduct research before you give a performance review. The first method is qualitative research by listening to customer service calls or reviewing other customer service-related communication.
Spend time listening to a cross-section of any representative’s calls or viewing a cross-section of any other communication. Spend this time picking out things both positive and negative to highlight during a performance review. Even your best employees should be challenged to improve, and finding both the positive and the negative in their performance gives you an opportunity to both encourage and challenge for the future.
3. Look at metrics
You likely have in place a series of customer service KPIs. Review these metrics ahead of any performance reviews so that you can complement your qualitative feedback with quantitative information.
Again, it's unlikely that any of your customer service representatives are performing in the highest brackets across all of your KPIs. Pick out both the positive and the negative to include during a performance review.
4. Deliver balanced feedback
At this point, you've spent time during the research portion finding both positive and negative aspects of job performance to highlight during a review. Use the positive and the negative to provide balanced feedback to your customer service representatives.
You want to do two things during any performance review. First, you want to provide encouragement to your representatives. Providing encouragement gives them a deeper connection to their job and the overall organization. Second, you want to challenge representatives with things to work on in the future. By challenging your customer service reps, you help stave off complacency and, as noted earlier, help create a culture of performance that will drive your entire team to do better.
5. Create a plan of action
Any performance review should include actionable steps for building momentum in the future. Create a plan of action so that your customer service reps know what to do coming out of their performance reviews.
Pair this plan of action with a specific timeline that includes dates for following up. We've all heard of smart goals — goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Without a real timeline, you miss the important time-based portion of goal-setting.
6. Follow up
Follow up when you say you're going to follow up. The last thing you want to do is create a feedback vacuum. When you don't follow up after a performance review, there's no system of accountability. Following up on a set schedule prevents your reps from wandering without direction after a performance review. In essence, follow-ups help keep team members on track for improvement.
Creating a Customer Service Performance Review Template
In addition to the right process, you also need to use an effective template for delivering customer service performance reviews. Templates can be used to create a customized employee evaluation form that includes all of the information relevant to your conversation.
Here's a look at a simple but comprehensive performance review checklist that can be used by any manager when reviewing team members.
1. Responsibilities and expectations
Reiterate the roles, responsibilities, and expectations. Managers may fall into the trap of thinking that responsibilities and expectations are well known across departments, but sometimes responsibilities and expectations get lost in the day-to-day grind. Before diving into a review, make sure that both management and employees are aligned in these two areas.
2. Performance overview
What did you discover when listening to calls and reviewing a representative's KPIs? The performance overview is where you include key points and takeaways drawn from the research process.
Remember that balance is important when providing a performance review. You want to provide the positive as a way of encouraging representatives, and you also want to provide opportunities for growth as a way of challenging your reps for the future.
3. Strengths and weaknesses
The best way to balance feedback is by listing out strengths and weaknesses. None of your customer service representatives is strong across the board. Everyone has a weakness. These weaknesses should not necessarily be looked at as deficiencies. Rather, they are chances for constant quality improvement and professional development. Frame them as such.
4. Satisfaction and work-life balance
Give your representatives a voice, too. Ask them about their job satisfaction. Inquire about what work-life balance means to them.
At a time when more Americans are leaving their jobs than ever before, satisfaction and work-life balance are relevant to any conversation around performance. Good managers have their thumbs on the pulse of the overall department, as well as individual contributors. Simply asking about job satisfaction and work-life balance are great ways for managers to stay in touch with their team members to ensure that no departure comes as a surprise.
Create specific goals for your team members to pursue coming out of performance reviews. These goals will likely be related to either new company initiatives or any individual’s weaknesses. Goals can even include specific training and development opportunities that can drive better performance the next time review season rolls around.
When goal-setting, be as specific as possible. You want to give your representatives roadmaps to follow for future Improvement.
Use timelines to connect goals with deadlines. If a representative needs to improve in relation to a specific KPI, how much of an improvement is expected? And by when?
When you don’t include timelines at the end of your reviews, the open-ended nature of your feedback will mitigate performance improvement. By the same token, clear deadlines can help accelerate improvement and overall team performance.
Where Should You Store Review-Related Materials?
Customer service is one of the most challenging positions within any company. All user complaints and challenges and issues and frustrations trickle into customer service in a way that they don’t trickle into other parts of the business.
Now imagine working in this challenging department without anyone ever taking the time to give you feedback, whether positive or negative or a mix of the two.
Performance reviews are the best opportunity to deliver feedback, to make representatives feel as though they belong, and to make a positive impact on the overall business. Performance reviews can also make your representatives feel positive about the work they are doing day in and day out.
Once you create a performance review template and other materials, where do they live? The best place to store review-related materials is by making use of knowledge base software. Storing and organizing review materials in your knowledge base makes them accessible to all employees at all times, creating transparency that is also essential to building a culture of performance and constant improvement.
If you’d like to use a knowledge base for review materials, Helpjuice can offer solutions. Get in touch to schedule a demo and see how Helpjuice can be a platform that powers your performance review process.