Efficiency and productivity are the driving forces behind any call center. As the first line of defense for customer satisfaction, call center agents must know how to harness sales while leaving those on the other end of the phone feeling gratified. But what happens when an employee repeatedly stumbles?

With some of the highest turnover rates among American industries, the call center business must simultaneously work to retain employees while also enforcing a work performance plan that produces optimum results.

Here are some tips to create an effective and efficient performance planning process.

Provide Consistent Feedback

Today’s employees, particularly Millenials, thrive in an environment of constant feedback. They eagerly await acknowledgment for their contributions and anxiously anticipate constructive criticism.

Providing annual (or even quarterly) reviews does not suffice. Instead, offer real-time feedback loops that give information about whether employees are meeting standards or not. Hosting real-time contests that generate a healthy sense of competition can serve two purposes: It encourages agents to drive up numbers and also gives them the desired real-time feedback.

Make Performance Planning and Review Part of Onboarding Process

Employees shouldn’t have to guess what performance goals include. Benchmarks should be clearly outlined and reinforced by the employer. Collaborate with the employee to develop an individual performance plan. This may include individual coaching, reading training manuals, completing e-learning courses, or working with a colleague for mentoring.

To be effective, action plans should include the following:

  • Specific, measurable goals (i.e., finish e-learning module on closing sales)
  • Start and end dates to achieve goal
  • Time allotted to finish tasks
  • Address any foreseeable roadblocks and eliminate barriers.

Examine the Value Stream

When developing a performance plan, identify and measure areas of waste in inbound or outbound calls. Examine the flow of calls, the amount of time at each stage of the call from pick-up to hang-up, and the systems being used.

By recognizing the areas of unproductivity, employees and employers can establish an effective performance action plan. Set goals to address the areas needed for improvement.

Use In Vivo Observations and Monitoring

A key part of designing a performance plan for employees should include observing how employees interact with customers. Identify performance issues by listening in on live calls. There is no better way to check for problems related to a difficulty adhering to the script, refusal to follow company policies and procedures, or less-than-ideal communication methods.

It may be worthwhile to invest in call center software that allows employers to listen in on calls without the agent being able to detect their presence. That way a supervisor can ascertain the agent’s skills without adding to their anxiety level. Combine this data with observations of the employee at their desk to develop a comprehensive outlook for an employee performance plan.

Adjust the Metrics

In the past, call center supervisors merely looked at two pieces of data to determine job performance: length of call and adherence to the script. This approach created a robotic environment for callers and agents, while it also encouraged agents to rush through the phone call with little regard for quality.

If this sounds familiar, it may be time to shift the metrics. Instead, measure the number of complaints that agents successfully resolve in a single phone call, as well as results from customer satisfaction surveys. When providing real-time feedback to employees, offer them this data so that they can form appropriate personal performance goals.

Funnel Customers Appropriately

Improve the routing of your IVR system to effectively pair the right customer to the right agent. Customer satisfaction will undoubtedly increase since callers will be speaking to agents who can respond to their queries without being rerouted. Likewise, agent performance will improve since employees will be addressing issues that directly relate to their area of expertise.

Improve the Agent Desktop

Before pinning all of the performance concerns on the agent, carefully examine whether technology is a barrier. Quite often, the technology is a myriad of complex directions that require extensive training and lead to employee frustration. Revolutionize the agent experience by providing products that help them conduct their job more efficiently. There are even products that recommend what the agent should do step by step.

Coaching call center employees is a sophisticated fusion of art and a science. By following the seven aforementioned tips, you’re well on your way to developing performance plans for employees that are meaningful and create positive change. To create meaningful performance plans, provide consistent feedback, integrate plans into the onboarding process, listen to calls, and ensure that customers are funneled appropriately.