Being able to tell someone that they suck is an art. You have to be able to tell it like you mean it but careful enough for the recipient to think that he is still okay. Employers and managers are all for competence and honesty, but how do you actually tell employees they are underperforming? Do you raise your voice, write it down in a memo, subject them to a heart-to-heart talk or act sorry and sound apologetic?
Leaders and managers in the call center industry know this all too well. Call center agents are expected to meet certain work demands and expectations, perform duties, meet quotas, deal with rude clients, etc. These are the top of stresses in their personal and social lives. Of course, no manager or employer should accept excuses borne out of things that all working individuals around the world have to deal with.
But in the spirit of a healthy and competitive workplace, managers must be able to articulate and communicate what some call center agents are doing wrong, what can be done, and how each one can benefit from the action taken. But first, how do you say it? What should you do?
Be Honest and Be Specific
You have to assess the situation carefully and be honest with what you think and how you feel. When you sit down with the employee, be honest with the reason why you called him to the office in the first place. Enough of small talk about the latest episode of The Walking Dead. Get on to it immediately. After all, if you delay it for 10 minutes, what’s the difference, right?
This is your employee, and his performance is as important to you as it is to him. So treat this conversation as important. Tell him what concerns you and why. Share what you have personally observed and never start with “I was told by this agent that blah, blah…” Employees do not like that and you too, probably. Be specific with the issues to address. Is it about tardiness? Is it about not following instructions? Lack of focus? Behavior? Before you talk to an employee, be sure you know what you are about to say.
Listen and share what you know
You called an employee to a discussion, not a monologue, so let him talk and make sure to listen. Call center agents were trained to communicate so let them show you their communication skills. Remember that effective communication is key if you want to reap the benefits of healthy call center workplace. So listen to the employee’s side of the story and reserve your judgment. In the process, you will learn more about what matters to him: Is it family? Is it the shift? Is it the team?
After the employee has spoken, tell him what you think. Share what you know about the situation from your own experience. For example, if he is finding it hard to get along with other team members, tell him what you know about what he’s going through.
Remind them of the goal
When people lose sight of the goal, they become disinterested, disengaged, and unfocused. They suddenly lose all the reasons why they started out in the first place. For a call center team to work, everyone must be constantly reminded of the shared goals and objectives of the team. This assures them that your observations and feedbacks are nothing personal. While you’re at it, remind the employee of what is expected of him and what his role is on the team. Make him realize that he is part of something bigger than himself. This should inspire the employee to get back on track.
Assign a Mentor
Mentoring is a professional activity as much as it is a trusted relationship. When it comes to our jobs, we always need someone who we can talk to about our goals, frustrations, and aspirations. This is one way of managing stress in the workplace. If we have someone we can talk to, we’re fine.
Mentorships help ensure better career growth for employees. In a 2010 World Economic Forum report on corporate practices covering 20 countries, 59% of the companies surveyed say they offer internally-led mentoring and networking programs. This shows just how much mentoring is important. It doesn’t only focus on skills and performance, mentoring also works on personality development in call center agencies.
Subject them to Training
Employees need constant skills training to make them more competitive and efficient. Most of the call center agents are millennials and they do want to invest in themselves. A recent survey by Mindflash found that 88% of working millennials are shocked of “the lack of company support for training and development.” So next time you come across an employee who is not performing well, ask yourself if your company has given him enough training for skills, personality, and career development. Employees, in general, want to climb up the career ladder. They just need a hand to lead them there.
Follow up on Progress
Talk about what you want to achieve. Set targets and follow up on progress consistently. What’s the point in calling their attention if you don’t really intend to address a problem and see it through its resolution? Employers and managers should be able to track an employee’s progress and give him a pat on the back if he does a good job.
Non-performing and disengaged employees can bring a team or a company down. Do not let it come to that point. Resolve employee-related concerns immediately. Remember that they are your greatest investments so make sure they are exactly where you want them to be. Sometimes, all it takes is just one honest conversation.
John Anderson is a Web Developer, Creative Content Director, Social Media Specialist and Commissioned Artist. He is particular in watching web and social media changes and uses. He is also a commissioned artist and cartoonist. He is interested with various internet trends.