Industry Insights

Four Steps to Creating High-Performing Customer Support Teams

By Kam Rawal / February 15, 2018

High Performing Customer Support Team

I know this will sound old fashioned, especially in light of the incredibly helpful technology and automation we use today in the contact centers, but here’s a secret: it takes a human to help humans perform their best.

What I mean by that is that you won’t be able to achieve (and sustain) high-performing customer support teams if you’re only looking at the data that your systems track. It’s tempting to look at dashboards with lots of data every day and call it performance management, but that’s not management at all. The performance data is simply the confirmation of what you’re seeing with your own eyes and hearing with your own ears.

We shouldn’t look at data in isolation; instead, we should rely on a four-step performance management process. Each step requires effort, so it’s tempting to skip the harder, more time-consuming parts. But creating a high-performing team takes as much sweat equity from managers, coaches, and executives as it does for the team members. It’s an investment you need to make if you want your team to reach its maximum potential.

Step 1: Define your objectives

Contact centers can (and often do) track hundreds of key performance indicators (KPIs)—from average handle time to first-call resolution and beyond. Which should you choose to focus on for your objectives?

For the answer, you need to ask yourself which ones are levers that can help you drive your business goals? For instance, which ones will help improve sales targets and maintain high customer satisfaction? Just keep in mind that your objective should follow the SMART rule of performance management.

SMART = Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time bound

Bad example: Double sales conversions by the end of month

Good example: Identify 2 out of 3 opportunities to “ask for the sale” on a weekly basis

Once you’ve chosen KPIs that will help you achieve your organization’s business goals, then you need to determine the target level for each objective. That target must be achievable, yet still continue to challenge the individuals on your team.

Step 2: Set expectations clearly

Simply posting goals on the wall is not enough to effectively communicate what you are asking the team to do and why. Why not? Because a piece of paper or a dashboard can’t build trust between you and the team, only you can do that. Without trust in you and the attainability of the objectives you’re setting, your team won’t perform at its best.

Take the time to speak with each individual and personalize the objectives. Convey your expectations for how the individual can help the team achieve the objectives based on that individual’s pace and skills. This is also the time to discuss motivators such as individual and team-based rewards and the timing of those rewards.

Simply posting goals on the wall is not enough to communicate what you are asking your team to do and why.

Step 3: Coach to behaviors

Now you have to help your team reach the objectives. You do this not by rattling their chains to get them to work harder or by posting frequent printouts of KPI dashboards, but by coaching to the specific behaviors required to drive better performance for the chosen objectives. As long as you’re seeing that behavior, the performance will follow.

For instance, if an objective is to improve customer satisfaction by x percentage points, then the type of behaviors you’re coaching to might include: listening skills, courtesy, and tone of voice, in addition to resolving the customer’s issue.

Step 4: Inspect performance and adjust

This step often gets short shrift. That’s because it’s more than checking how your team is doing on KPIs. You also need to spend time observing your team—each individual team member—directly. It’s the only way to correlate what you’re seeing on your dashboard with the behaviors that you’ve been coaching to.

You need to spend time observing your team—each individual team member—directly.

Based on what you observe, you can now apply what you've learned back to your coaching and provide feedback that is specific to the behaviors you want to nurture. Remember to deliver this feedback in a timely and helpful way.

Once you’ve observed your team and established where team members are in achieving the objectives, then you can reward and recognize performance improvements to further motivate your team.

Lather, rinse, repeat

With performance management, you’re never done. Meeting your objectives just means that it’s time to set new ones. It becomes a continuous process of setting goals, communicating expectations, coaching, and observing.

By not chasing the data, you can instead build trust with your team and give them the building blocks they need to be a high-performance customer support group.

Kam Rawal is Head of Global Services at AppDirect.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn. Click here to read it.