Technical support and customer service is not a picnic.
It’s a difficult, sometimes grueling job with little recognition or reward, where agents often feel the brunt of unhappy consumers. Consumers can be:
Well, you get the point!
Combine this with agents who are often undertrained, understaffed and underpaid, and saying it’s a hard job is not an exaggeration in the slightest!
Much of why I do what I do is to find those agents who can defuse the tension and transform a difficult situation into a smiling customer. I’ve been in support for more years than I sometimes care to count, and the reason I get up in the morning is the joy I take from fixing those difficult problems and situations.
Over the years that I have been in business, in a multitude of different industries, I’ve come to realize that while this mindset is rare, it is not unique. There are others out there like me who want to make things better and improve the service that consumers receive.
After all, in the end, the goal is to either create that perfect product or service that does not require a call for support, or if it does, ensuring that the call is handled in a professional and knowledgeable manner. Your agents are perfectly positioned to provide you with the information you need to get your organization to that next step.
Agent Self-Evaluation, in a nutshell, is allowing your agents themselves to not only measure their own performance (through surveys and reviews) but also the service that the organization provides as a whole.
So, why is this important?
The service industry is playing an increasingly significant role in the economies of many countries around the world. With the rise of globalized economies, customers now have the ability to be very selective in their purchasing decisions, and a successful service operation is often the key differentiator between companies which are successful and those that are struggling.
To ensure that customers receive the service that they deserve, many companies have embraced service quality as a key metric in their offerings, and many have spent thousands of dollars measuring the satisfaction level of customers across a host of different factors.
In most cases, these quality measurements have been focused on the customer’s perception of that product or service, for example through customer surveys or post-contact feedback ratings.
However, customers are not the only source of information when it comes to assessing the quality and value of a service.
Often, your internal employee has a wealth of insight into the problems and issues that your customers can experience – and this is where Agent Self-Evaluation comes into play.
Frontline staff often have a different view of problems and issues than management. Not only do they have to deal with resource squeeze due to staffing constraints, they often have to work with tools that are not fit for purpose, and are often expected to support peers who have received only the bare minimum training to do the job.
Making things worse are those instances where the customer has received a product or service before it has even been introduced to the teams meant to support them! Although this is an extreme example, many agents will be familiar with processes that simply cause extra pain to customers, old or outdated ACD systems, and other tools which are simply not as efficient as the newest offerings in today’s interconnected world.
While you might not relate closely to these issues, ask any of your frontline agents and they could confirm that they exist within your organization. Unfortunately, many of these issues are endemic to the service industry.
Agent Self-Evaluation works because it puts the power into the hands of the people actually dealing with the problem. By giving them input into advising what is not working, and potentially allowing them to help in solving these issues, employee morale is almost guaranteed to improve.
Note that this cannot just be a paper pushing exercise. If you start this process, you will need to actually action the suggestions and ideas put forward.
Otherwise, not only will service continue to suffer, but you will also negatively impact your workforce.
Having your agents contribute to the solution sounds well and good, but how do you go about implementing this process? Surprisingly, it is probably not as difficult as you might think – as most of the preconditions for this are already in place.
Hopefully, you are already utilizing quality surveys to evaluate your product and service levels with your customers. This can be done through a variety of methods, but regardless of the method you use – post phone/chat or email interaction, delivery as a pop-up, an email or snail mail, the purpose is to gain an insight into your customer’s perception of your service.
Phone and chat are perfect for Agent Self-Evaluation as the surveys between your agents and the customer can be quickly and easily correlated together. This allows you to measure, compare and contrast the agent’s perception of the case directly against the customer’s.
Similar mapping in email and snail mail, while possible, is significantly more difficult to perform due to the timeframes involved, if nothing else.
Choosing which questions to ask for your survey can be as simple or as complicated as you like. A key consideration, however, is that if you keep your agent occupied for too long on a survey, they’re unable to take that next interaction.
Some simple questions that can be used are:
Before you roll Agent Self-Evaluation out to your teams, it is important to train them appropriately on its use and what you expect from them. Agents can sometimes be too critical of themselves (or sometimes not critical enough) so it is essential that they understand how an outside and unbiased observer would score them. It will take some time, but this training is essential to ensuring the success of the program.
For telephone interactions, bear in mind that agents should be able to get hands-on with call recordings to help them evaluate the call appropriately.
When an agent is actually engaged in a telephone interaction with a customer, it is very easy for certain behaviors to go unnoticed. Phrases, attitudes, and tone can easily be misinterpreted, so agents should have access to recordings to evaluate the whole call from both points of view.
The above steps work exceptionally well for the analysis of specific incidents and cases.
However, there are scenarios where a more general analysis of the positives and negatives of your service need to be obtained. In these instances, you can conduct a quarterly or bi-annual survey of your team.
It is important to have these surveys on a regular and scheduled basis (they should not simply map directly to your Performance Appraisal process!) as the insight they provide can truly help your team get to that next level.
You would be amazed at the ideas we’ve received for improvements “from the floor”. Even more importantly, by involving the team in the improvements, it you can show that their concerns are being heard.
One step that is often missed by many companies is sharing the results of the surveys with your team. Details of some of the common themes – training, tools, equipment reported – are useful as a starting point in the conversation.
Feeding back on improvements made off the back of employee feedback does not have to be specific – we mix up anonymous and named surveys to try and get a true picture of our environment – but should at the least include some of the highlights.
By giving your agents a voice, you can begin to transform the service that your organization provides – taking it from reactively responding to customer feedback, to proactively fixing issues identified by agents before your customers even encounter them.
Companies rarely connect customer feedback surveys with their agent surveys (if they even perform agent surveys at all!) but those that do show a significantly increased retention of customers along with a definitive reduction in employee churn.
Either one of these accomplishments is remarkable in itself. But both together can be truly transformative and well worth the investment in time!
What has your experience been in implementing Agent Self-Evaluation? Let us know in the comments below!