Mastering the art of customer service performance reviews

Management & Annual Reviews

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If your main focus has been on collecting customer satisfaction data and feedback to drive business results, we applaud you. This is an incredibly important aspect to company growth.  But sometimes, we forget it’s just as crucial for managers and supervisors to evaluate the performance of their internal teams, too. When you combine customer feedback and internal performance reviews for your customer service team, you can:

  • Identify high-performing employees
  • Better support career growth
  • Improve consistency across your customer support team
  • Create more happy customers

Employees are no strangers to receiving annual (or regular performance reviews). As a manager, however, there’s an art to conducting an effective customer service performance review. It includes having a structured performance review process that provides honest feedback to ensure growth for the employee and consistency for your customers’ experience.

In this article, we’ll discuss how you can master the art of customer service performance reviews and use them to align your team’s success.

What is a customer service performance review?

A performance review on customer service is when you formally evaluate an individual customer service rep’s performance, success, and growth through measurable data and self or peer feedback. This usually includes gathering specific feedback on that employee’s customer conversations and measurable metrics like customer satisfaction and close rate, then discussing the results and findings.

Most performance reviews for customer service teams will likely include a discussion regarding the following:

  • Communication: How does the rep engage with customers? Do they have an approachable, warm rapport? Are they friendly and provide space for the customer to express themselves without judgment or interruption?
  • Problem-solving skills: How does the rep solve customer problems? Can they independently find solutions without engaging a colleague or superior in most cases?
  • Empathy: Is the rep using language and techniques to show empathy towards customers? Do customers feel this empathy is genuine?
  • Conflict resolution: How does the rep deal with difficult customers or queries? What skills and tactics do they use with angry customers to diffuse upset customers and turn them into satisfied customers?

The goal is to measure the growth of individual team members and align their performance with their peers so you can provide a consistent customer experience that delights customers.

Benefits of regular customer service team performance reviews

Regular customer service performance reviews are an excellent way to reflect on personal and team goals, acknowledge individual achievements, identify performance gaps, celebrate accomplishments, and create a plan forward.

The benefits of doing regular performance reviews with your customer service team include the following:

Employee retention

A regular customer service performance review for each team member can increase employee job satisfaction, encouraging employee retention. When a customer service manager takes the time to do performance reviews and provide actionable feedback, they help the employee feel like they’re part of the team and that the manager is invested in their success.

Leveling the playing field

Every customer service rep will have a different experience level, but frequent performance reviews can help level the playing field. This pulls more experienced customer service representatives into leadership roles and provides junior members feedback and mentorship to support their growth.

Improving customer service consistency and quality

As a brand, your organization should always provide consistently good customer service, regardless of which rep a customer may engage with. Regular performance reviews can help identify those who need support to meet company service standards. You can then provide constructive feedback or mentorship from senior team members to help them deliver outstanding customer service.

Align team objectives and results

From a managerial perspective, you can use data from individual customer service performance reviews to measure the overall success of your team in meeting core objectives and goals. It provides a platform to measure and track employee performance against your core business goals and objectives through measurable data and qualitative feedback.

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How to evaluate a customer service representative’s performance

As a customer service manager, you wouldn’t ask an employee for an impromptu performance review without preparing. Best practices show that you should plan for these meetings and inform your staff about when and where these meetings will occur. This helps them prepare for the meeting as well.

Here are four steps to evaluating customer service performance:

1. Prepare

For a structured and productive meeting, prepare an agenda and come equipped with data, examples, and feedback to provide each employee. Bring data you can attribute to the individual’s results as well as average results that include data from your entire customer service team to compare against.

Gather data from your customer satisfaction software to help with your evaluation, including:

  • Customer feedback scores regarding their conversations.
  • Close rates.
  • Speed of service.
  • Customer service satisfaction surveys.
  • Results or outcomes of customer tickets.
  • Any other specific or benchmarked data you can provide regarding the team member.

When you tell your customer service department that performance reviews are coming, don’t make a big deal over it. Performance reviews can make many feel nervous. Communicate that they’re being done as a check-in. If they’re performed on a regular schedule (such as quarterly or annually), your team will come to expect them and can prepare accordingly.

2. Evaluate

Look at the data to identify areas of strength (providing specific examples of these strengths). Use data to show where there’s clear room for improvement. Some data may be interpreted with bias so ensure you’re clear in your expectations and standards for specific metrics like the minimum acceptable customer satisfaction scores. You can benchmark their performance against the team averages, and if they fall below that score, provide feedback to improve.

Pull transcripts of customer service conversations each rep has had to show examples of their performance to support your feedback.

Your customer support software should also be able to run an analysis per individual representative to help identify trends or correlations in performance. For example, you might identify that a specific employee’s scores are higher for certain types of calls, and lower for others. You may also identify that performance over time has dropped, potentially indicating a loss in the employees motivation and engagement for the role.

3. Reporting and action plan

Whenever possible, customer service performance reviews should be conducted face-to-face, ideally in person or over Zoom if necessary. You should also provide the employee with a written (or digital) performance review or “report card” so they have a physical takeaway from their meeting.

During this meeting, you’ll present your findings and provide feedback on their job performance. Then, you’ll work together to discuss the areas for improvement and develop an actionable plan to achieve these employee goals.

4. Follow-up

All performance reviews should include a follow-up at a pre-specified later date to measure the progress of your action plans and initiatives. Set a follow-up performance review date to discuss progress and amend action plans to optimize employee success and customer satisfaction.

👉 Read more: How to conduct a 9-box talent review

Key elements of customer service that should be evaluated

How you conduct your customer service performance review process will differ depending on your corporate and team goals and the individuals in your customer service team. Here are a few key elements that are included in most, if not all, performance reviews:

1. Strengths discussion (good customer service examples)

A customer service performance review is not just about discussing what’s going wrong. It’s also a chance to celebrate your team members’ successes. Be sure to highlight a few areas where the support team member is currently excelling, and take a moment to acknowledge their hard work.

2. Weaknesses discussion (areas of improvement with examples)

Discuss areas where you feel the team member needs to improve to meet or exceed expected performance standards. These don’t have to be things they do “badly,” but instead areas where you can suggest areas to improve their performance or scores. This is when discussing action plans for change and future goals becomes part of your discussion. Work together to define these action plans and goals.

3. Sample customer discussion transcriptions

If your company tapes customer service calls or saves copies of written conversations and correspondence between team members and customers, bring a couple of these to the meetings. Use them to illustrate their strengths and weaknesses, so the team member is clear about where performance improvement is needed.

4. Customer service metrics

Bring summaries or examples from any customer service KPIs your company is tracking. This may include, for example, close rates, time to resolve customer queries, and customer experience scores from customers. These measurable, key performance indicators can help quantifiably measure agent performance.

If the employee has been with you for a while, bring historical metrics so they can see the rate of performance growth or decline. We suggest combining customer service metrics and other performance indicators (such as customer satisfaction feedback) to apply a deeper understanding of the customer support agent’s abilities.

👉 Don’t get stuck in an awkward conversation. Consult our full list of phrases to use in customer service performance reviews to effectively provide feedback on your employee’s skills.

give effective feedback during customer service performance review

How to give effective feedback during customer service performance reviews

  1. Structure feedback through the “compliment sandwich”

It’s never easy to provide hard feedback. Make this process easier on you and your customer service representatives by using a strategy called the “compliment sandwich.” This means starting with more positive feedback, inserting the areas for improvement in the middle, and ending with positive feedback or compliments.

  1. Avoid vagueness (call out specific examples)

Providing vague feedback is not helpful, nor does it offer any clear basis for what needs to improve. Always provide specific feedback and support it with examples where necessary. This allows the agent to change their processes to boost their scores.

  1. Set clear expectations

As a manager, it’s essential to set clear team expectations, starting from their first day on the job. This may include your team goals for response time or time to resolution scores. This way, your teams have metrics to work towards, and everyone is working towards the same goals.

This also helps support future claims of poor employee performance. If you’ve set expectations that your team’s average response time should be 10 minutes and your performance review uncovers an agent typically taking 30 minutes, there’s a potential cause for concern (unless you can identify other variables causing the agent to have longer issue resolution times).

  1. Work together to create goals for agent success and growth

Once you have identified the areas for improvement, work with your employee to develop S.M.A.R.T goals to improve their performance review next time. Involving employees in this process helps them feel heard and part of the solution. This creates happier employees and often boosts agent retention rates.

  1. Encourage self-feedback

Part of the performance review process should allow the employee to provide self-feedback and analysis. Provide them with targeted questions or a brief performance survey to get their opinion on their progress. This could show a disconnect between perceived and actual performance that you can address. It also allows the employee to reflect internally and analyze their motivations and ability to do their job.

  1. Ask what they need for success

Throughout the performance review conversations, ask them questions like:

  • “How can I support you in this?”
  • “What additional training or experience would help you improve your performance?”
  • “What do you need to succeed in this goal?”

Good managers who value long-term success for their employees will ask these questions. Maybe you’ll discover that your team needs a new tool to do their job better or more training on a specific customer service skill (such as showing empathy or problem-solving).

How machine learning can support performance reviews

Artificial intelligence can help you evaluate the performance of your customer service teams. AI can help you segment and analyze large amounts of customer feedback to dig deeper into the reasons behind seemingly poor-performing customer service representatives. Using this data, you can determine if there are specific calls a rep is more or less adept at dealing with and either reassign their customer service calls to focus on their strengths or provide more training and mentorship to help them improve their metrics.

Idiomatic is a customer satisfaction software that uses machine learning to analyze your customer feedback data according to a variety of custom segments to provide actionable insights; so that you clearly and quickly know which next steps to take. You can use these insights during customer service performance reviews to provide more comprehensive examples, analyses, and predictions.

👉 Request a demo of Idiomatic today to learn how it can support your customer service performance review process.

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