As a contact center leader, you spend a great deal of time observing Communicators during customer interactions. In this way, you have become quite familiar with the individual strengths and weaknesses of your team members. Your job is to convey these observations to your Communicators on a regular basis and help them perform their best.
Understand, though, that what you say to your Communicators, and the way you say it, will go a long way in shaping the culture of your contact center. Regardless of your intent, constructive criticism can actually be very destructive if poorly communicated. It can undermine the working relationship of those involved, making it less likely that they will be able to collaborate well in the future. Harsh, or inept, criticism has also been found to increase the likelihood of future conflicts, as well as directly impair the ability of people to do the work for which they have been criticized.
So, rather than attempting to give Communicators constructive criticism, try approaching them with positive feedback and coaching support. By doing so, there will be no hurt pride or animosity in your contact center. Act as a mentor and emphasize the Communicator’s strengths. Granted, sometimes you have to deliver criticism—in which case, break your feedback down into three segments, the Praise-Improve-Praise technique.
Begin by highlighting your employees’ skills, and express your appreciation for their work. Then, transition into the improvement stage. Be clear, but considerate, on the areas that they can improve upon. Reiterate both the praise and the improvement, and conclude with a final praise—this is crucial to ensure that the Communicator feels appreciated and welcomed.
Communicators who feel appreciated are more likely to lengthen their tenure with your company, reducing turnover, which is expensive and bad for team morale. Plus, when Communicators do move on, they will be more likely to post positive employee reviews on employment websites, helping you to attract qualified workers in the future.
Use these guiding principles when delivering your Praise-Improve-Praise conversation to employees:
Offer feedback privately: Generally speaking, direct feedback is best given in private, even when it is positive in nature, to avoid embarrassing the Communicator in front of others.
Avoid accusations: Even if you are certain that a Communicator is in the wrong about something, don’t hurl accusations at him or her. Ease into the topic at hand, and give the person a chance to explain his or her reasoning for taking a particular course of action. Ask questions, and try to figure out the root cause of an issue.
Be genuine: Reinforce the fact that you are trying to help the Communicator improve. Tell a story about a time when you made a similar mistake. Then, explain what you learned from it. The Communicator will appreciate your honesty and willingness to share your story.
Explain your goals: After you coach your Communicator about the issue, explain how the conversation fits into his or her long-term future with the company. At the end of the conversation, lay out some small steps the employee can take to move closer to his or her ultimate goal.
Have the right mindset: Before you pull an employee aside to provide coaching or support, make sure you have the right attitude. The conversation will be smoother and more productive if you are feeling positive and non-confrontational.
Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.