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Customer Service Performance Reviews – A Detailed Guide

Apr 29, 2021
  |  
Customer Service
  |  
6 min read
customer-service-performance-review
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Customer service is a tough job.

Not only are customer service representatives on the frontline representing the company, but they also have to deal with unhappy, anxious, and sometimes even difficult customers.

They need to have an impressive number of soft skills to handle everything right from glowing praise to tricky questions and negative feedback.

Due to the high stakes involved, customer service teams often see unhappy, stressed-out team members and a high turnover rate. This makes managing customer service teams a very challenging job.

One way to manage customer service teams better is by implementing customer service performance reviews.

As a customer service team manager, it may seem like there’s never enough time for you to step out of the daily grind and take time out to review your team’s performance. You’re always busy putting out fires, directing your team on the fly, and this can make it difficult to keep track of your team members’ individual performance, goals, and career aspirations.

A well-structured, on-point, meaningful customer service performance review can help bring these back into your focus.

Table of Contents

What is a customer service performance review?

In a nutshell, a customer service performance review is a periodic process designed to keep your customer service team focused on the job and help them develop the ability to handle customers and their queries in the way you want.

This process ensures quality and consistency in your level of service and gives your team members critical feedback, identifies opportunities for growth, and keeps them motivated to perform better.

Why is it necessary to conduct a customer service performance review?

An obvious benefit of managing a customer service team is that you get to shape your team’s goals, and set objectives for their career growth and success. As a manager, as long as you’re in line with your company’s overall goals, you have the complete freedom to decide what’s important and how you want to measure it. And there’s no better way to improve your team’s performance than with regular reviews. So here are some more reasons for you to conduct a customer service performance review for your team.

Increase employee retention

As a manager, talking to your team members regularly about their performance, and giving them actionable feedback goes a long way in helping them feel like you are invested in their success. It encourages them to better themselves each day, motivates them, and prevents them from jumping ship.

So as a customer service manager, structuring these conversations into performance reviews can help retain employees for longer.

Create a level-playing field for your team members

Your customer service team is the sum-total of the unique skills of each team member. By conducting regular performance reviews, you’ll help every member of your team identify their strengths, develop them further, and end up with a diverse, high-performing team, where every team member brings something new and equally unique to the table.

Improve consistency and quality

Frequent customer service performance reviews give you the opportunity to ensure consistency and quality in your team’s communication and documentation.

This is important as your team scales and support volumes go up. You need to ensure that every customer gets the same level of service, no matter which customer service rep they are dealing with or which channel they are using to communicate.

Align team objectives with the larger company goals

We’ve said this earlier, and we’ll say it again – a lot of what happens in customer service occurs on the fly. In such situations, it is easy to lose sight of the larger picture.

Reiterating company goals and aligning them with individual goals during feedback sessions can help bring them back into alignment and make your team members feel like they are a part of the organization.

It gives them a deeper sense of purpose and builds their affinity towards the organization.

How to conduct a customer service performance review

Every customer service review can be broadly divided into four phases.

Phase 1: Preparation

Give your team members an adequate heads-up: Nobody wants to be caught off-guard when it comes to a performance review. Be transparent with your team. Let them know at least a week in advance. Give them tips on how to prepare for the performance review. If you plan to address certain specific customer conversations or metrics, let them know to have these ready before the review. Advise them to introspect, and think about their strengths and weaknesses.

Lower the stakes: Do not make a performance review seem like the end of the world. Your reps may feel nervous about the upcoming performance review, which may lower their confidence levels leading to poor performance.

Instead, take time out to talk to your team members in person about the upcoming review, and tell them that the stakes aren’t all that high. Instead, ask them to treat the review as a check-in, a process that allows them to take a step back, introspect, identify areas of improvement, and delight customers.

Phase 2: Evaluation

Review real conversation transcripts: To objectively review every rep’s performance, it’s best to look at actual conversations that they’ve had with customers. It is also a good idea to review conversations of different lengths and possibly ones that have happened over different channels.

This gives both you and your team members a chance to conduct a more comprehensive review, get more valuable insights, and spot performance trends that can help optimize customer service channels.

Crunch the numbers: In addition to reviewing conversations, you should also use customer service metrics to track every team member’s performance. Analyze this data to understand how each rep is performing accurately. Metrics like first response time, time to resolution, CSAT scores, etc., can help you find each rep’s areas of strengths and weaknesses. This is critical because it provides them pointed feedback and helps them understand their areas of improvement.

Provide feedback with empathy: Telling people that they lack in certain areas isn’t easy, especially if you work with them on a daily basis. One way to make this process a little easier is by adopting the compliment sandwich.

customer-service-performance-review
The compliment sandwich | Glenda Faye Mathes

In simple terms, start and finish with compliments while squeezing criticism in between. For example, you can tell a rep, “You’re doing a wonderful job in adhering to the SLAs, but your initial responses seem a little direct and rushed. It’s okay to take a little extra time and respond to these messages with a little more care. If you take care of this, you’ll be golden!”

Asking the right questions: While a customer service performance review might seem like a chance to provide your team feedback, it is also the perfect opportunity to ask them the right questions.

By asking your reps the right questions, you’re allowing them to introspect better. You’re kickstarting their process of critically thinking about their day-to-day performance. Here are a few questions that you can ask:

  • Do you think you’re using your time effectively?
  • Do you enjoy certain aspects of customer service more than others?
  • Are there certain areas that you want to specialize in?
  • Is there anything that you are concerned about?
  • Can you think of ways in which I can help make our team better?
  • What would you like to improve upon in the next quarter?

These questions will not only help your team members think about their performance deeply, but they’ll also help you get significant insights that you may miss in a one-way conversation.

Phase 3: The way forward

Brainstorming sessions: Once you’ve established each team member’s areas of improvement, you should give them the chance to brainstorm ways to improve their performance. Give each rep the chance to come up with strategies on their own. Once you’ve had the opportunity to collate all of their responses, take the lead and help them develop a constructive strategy to address their weaknesses and achieve their goals.

Setting SMART goals: After brainstorming, as a manager, you should outline measurable goals for how each rep can go about improving their weaknesses, achieving their career goals, and becoming better customer service professionals on the whole. A good framework for this is to set up SMART goals.

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Setting up SMART Goals for your customer service team | GHCC

To help each rep become better, you should set individual goals aligned with the company’s goals. These goals should be specific, realistically achievable in the timeframe, and measurable so that you can provide them with the right kind of feedback during the next performance review.

For example, here are some goals that you can set:

  • Increase CSAT score from 90% to 95%
  • Reduce first response time on chat from one minute to 30 seconds
  • Lead product training sessions for new customer service representatives

Phase 4: The follow-up

After helping each customer service team member set up their goals, you should also help them create specific plans to achieve their goals. If you feel that they need coaching to achieve their goals, you should help to facilitate that.

Set up informal, short one-on-one sessions with each member of your team. Talk to them about their immediate goals that you have set, also ask them about their larger career goals. Your team will work harder if you make them feel that you are invested in their long-term success.

Set up schedules for the following performance review, make sure there is a set cycle, and once again, remember to give your team members a good heads-up.

Customer service performance review checklist

Here’s handy customer service performance review checklist that you can use for your team’s next review:

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A simple customer service performance review checklist

Wrapping up

Conducting a customer service performance review can be a challenging exercise. But by putting in place a framework, going about it in a transparent manner, and making the performance review a meaningful exercise, managers can make this process significantly better and easier.

Customer service is one function in an organization that often suffers from a lack of alignment in terms of performance and goals. By creating a regular review process, you’ll align yourself better with the company goals, set your team up for success, and end up with a high-performing, happy customer service team.

Hiver HQ
Tejas Kinger is a Product Marketing Manager at Hiver. Passionate about tech, startups, and all things SaaS. Say hello on Twitter (@TejasKinger).
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