How to manage poor performers in your call centre
As much as it would be nice to assume that everything and everyone will run to plan in the call centre, it’s often far from the truth so this article provides some tips on how to manage poor performers in your call centre.
With such a kaleidoscope of employees coming from diverse backgrounds, combined with the pressures of dealing with customers all day it’s inevitable that you will find yourself in a position where you need to manage poor performers in your call centre at some point.
Of course, prevention is better than the cure as it’s always better to retain your top performers so in the first instance, it’s important to try and reduce occurrences wherever and whenever you can.
These tips provide advice on firstly trying to prevent issues, and then, and only then, provide you with some guidance on how to manage poor performers in the call centre from there.
7 Tips on how to avoid and manage poor performers in your call centre
1. Set performance expectations right from day one
There is no more important step than setting expectations from the very first moment the employee starts with you.
An employee not knowing what is expected of them is a sure-fire way of making it impossible to take corrective action at a later stage.
During the induction process make it clear what the benchmark results are and set incremental targets to ensure you can start having conversations as soon as their results start to deviate.
It’s also critical that you educate your new employees on the formal process in place for failing to meet agreed KPIs.
Whilst obviously you hope it’s a process that won’t need to be used, it’s important that staff understand that your business has a formal process in place should the need arise.
2. Explain how your agents’ role impacts the ‘big picture’
It’s easy not to care when you don’t understand how your role contributes to your organisation’s success.
Take the time to show your employee how their individual role contributes to your team’s success.
From the importance of taking breaks on time through to how each customer conversation contributes to sales/service targets for your team.
It’s also important to show how the call centre plays a role in your organisation’s success.
By sharing information (e.g. revenue or cost models) creates a sense of trust and ownership for the employee in how their performance impacts their department and the wider business so they don’t feel like “just another number”.
3. Keep feedback sessions regular
How many times have feedback sessions been cancelled as it’s just been too busy?
It’s easy to skip scheduled feedback sessions but before you know it months have gone past and you haven’t provided any feedback to your agents.
Maintaining discipline in regular meetings enables you the time to not only review individual calls and quality performance but also to get to know the agent, what motivates them, what’s important to them, and what drives them.
It’s a lot easier to correct minor deviations in performance rather than significant shifts – and if ultimately formal discipline is required by having regular feedback sessions will hold you in good stead.
4. Set performance goals together
When setting performance targets, sit down with the agent and develop a performance plan with their input.
Rather than simply expect the agent to meet their required KPIs instantly, work on a gradual improvement plan, and allow the agent to contribute to the timescales and outcomes (use SMART goals).
In this step, I find using benchmarking data of other agents results helps in setting realistic targets.
By enabling an agent to see what others are doing in comparison to their own performance helps promote ownership and engagement and it’s a great way to retain your best performers.
5. Recognise and reward improvement
Hopefully, by now we have convinced you of the need to have a process to reward and recognise your top performers.
But it’s also important to have a process that recognises and rewards staff who may be underperformers compared to others, but who have also made positive gains in their individual performance plans.
By providing them with some recognition encourages them to continue to improve their output that will ultimately benefit the whole team.
6. Document, document, document!
When it comes to managing poor performers it’s critical that all coaching conversations, performance plans, performance results, call recordings etc are documented and filed appropriately.
Not only will this be critical if more formal action is required – but it also demonstrates to the agent that you (and your organisation) are serious about employee development and are prepared to take further action when necessary.
By being lazy in your documentation or skipping coaching sessions provides the perfect ‘out’ for an agent.
7. When all else fails…
There are always going to be agents who test your patience and despite your best efforts, they are never going to perform to the required standard.
By adhering to the steps above you will be in a strong position to manage poor performers by commencing formal disciplinary actions that unless corrective behaviours are observed, will result in termination.
Typically most formal processes will have a number of steps and opportunities for the employee to correct their behaviour.
Maintain strong communication throughout the process, and ensure the call centre agent knows exactly what the next steps are, up to and including dismissal.