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  • Writer's pictureSharon Oatway

Performance Review Example for Customer Service

Customer Service Manager

I remember all too well the drudgery of completing Annual Performance Reviews for my team.  Although they valued my open, ongoing communication, I know most of my team appreciated receiving feedback in writing.  Formal feedback is particularly important for frontline customer service agents.


In addition to quantitative measures like productivity, first contact resolution, and compliance adherence, providing feedback on other behaviors can be challenging and time-consuming. Over the years, I’ve worked with several different formats and approaches. Here, I will share some of the tips and approaches I've used.


Timing of Performance Reviews

The feedback you provide in a Performance Review should never be a ‘surprise’ to the agent.  As a leader, performance feedback should be very regular and very specific.  A more formal performance review is typically provided annually or bi-annually.  You want to leave enough time between review sessions to allow for improvement.


Preparing the Agent for the Review

Although they know you and should be comfortable communicating with you, a formal face-to-face performance discussion can be stressful for everyone.  There are two essential requirements to prepare the agent before delivering the review:


  1. It goes without saying that you must communicate expectations and performance metrics well in advance.  Agents need to understand the guidelines you are using to measure their performance.

  2. Schedule the Performance Review at least a week or two in advance.

  3. Encourage the agent to complete a self-assessment to identify strengths and improvement areas before the formal meeting.


NOTE: Some organizations have a practice of sending the completed Performance Review to the individual before the session. This gives the individual the opportunity to prepare for a more detailed discussion. However, as a caution, the Performance Review must be carefully crafted to ensure there is no chance for misinterpretation.


The Performance Review Criteria

As I mentioned earlier, there should be no ‘gotcha’ moments in the Performance Review, which means clearly documenting expectations.  This is perhaps the most challenging to set up, but once you have the template in place, completing the evaluation is much easier, specific, and accurate.


Start by considering your business's key drivers. What is vital to delivering a great customer experience? This should not replicate a Quality Assurance scorecard but rather speak to the overall role the agent plays in making your business successful. If possible, align the Performance Review sections with your company goals and vision. For example:


  • Customer-Centric Culture: It is essential to have a culture that prioritizes customer satisfaction and places the customer at the center of decision-making processes. Employees should be empowered and motivated to go above and beyond to meet customer needs.

  • Effective Communication: Clear, timely, and empathetic communication with customers builds trust and fosters positive relationships. Active listening and understanding customer concerns are crucial aspects of effective communication.

  • Product and Service Knowledge: In-depth knowledge about the products or services offered enables customer service representatives to provide accurate information, address inquiries, and resolve issues effectively, enhancing the overall customer experience.

  • Problem-Solving Skills: Strong problem-solving abilities allow customer service representatives to identify root causes of customer issues and provide appropriate solutions promptly and efficiently, leading to customer satisfaction and loyalty.

  • Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: Demonstrating empathy and emotional intelligence in interactions with customers helps to build rapport, diffuse tense situations, and ensure that customers feel valued and understood.

  • Continuous Training and Development: Ongoing training and development programs equip customer service representatives with the skills, knowledge, and tools needed to excel in their roles and adapt to evolving customer needs and expectations.

  • Technology and Tools: Leveraging technology and tools such as CRM systems, knowledge bases, chatbots, and analytics enables customer service organizations to streamline processes, improve efficiency, and deliver personalized and efficient support to customers.

  • Metrics and Feedback: Monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) such as customer satisfaction scores, response times, and resolution rates provides valuable insights into the effectiveness of customer service operations. Gathering feedback from customers and employees allows organizations to identify areas for improvement and implement targeted strategies to enhance service quality.

  • Collaboration and Teamwork: Foster a collaborative environment where teams work together seamlessly to address customer needs and share knowledge and best practices. Encourage cross-functional collaboration to resolve complex issues and deliver holistic solutions to customers.

  • Continuous Improvement: Embrace a culture of continuous improvement, where feedback is valued, lessons are learned from both successes and failures, and processes are refined to deliver increasingly better customer experiences over time.


If the above are the goals of the organization, think about how the customer service agent's role impacts each of these overarching goals. Your assessment of the individual agent should be logically tied to the corporate goals. Use these as the different categories of your Performance Review.

Each of the key drivers will possess different levels of performance.  For this example, I will use three: Below, Meets, and Exceeds Expectations. Feel free to have multiple levels but be sure you can clearly differentiate between them.


NOTE: In the following example, to exceed expectations, all the criteria in meets expectations must also be met.


Example of Performance Review for Customer Service


1 – Customer Centric:  Uncovers the needs/wants of customers and takes ownership to satisfy them.

BELOW EXPECTATIONS

MEETS EXPECTATIONS

EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS

Treats customers with indifference and/or disrespect.

Identifies and clarifies individual customer needs. Makes an effect to see things from the customer's perspective.

Consistently makes decisions with the customer's best interest in mind.

Makes promises to customers that cannot be met.

Takes ownership for solving customer problems. Goes the 'extra mile' for customers.

Finds different ways to satisfy the customer's need when required.

Makes assumptions about customer needs. Does not take the time to fully understand the customer's situation.

Resolves customer inquiries promptly at the first point of contact when possible. Refers the customer to others only when it is warranted

Takes time to look for opportunities to educate the customer and/or fulfill other needs.

Pushes ownership onto others or the customer.

Deals with each individual customer fairly and without bias

Takes pride in their work and seeks to improve their skills

2 – Communication Skills:  Communicates with a diverse range of stakeholders professionally and effectively. 

BELOW EXPECTATIONS

MEET EXPECTATIONS

EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS

Presents information in a way that makes it difficult for others to understand.

Maintains a respectful and polite tone, regardless of the situation. Fosters positive interactions and professional relationships.

Communicates complex information to others effectively, orally and in writing.

Does not listen to others' views. Tends to be negative or disruptive.

Presents information in an accurate, clear, concise, and positive manner.

Contributes to an environment of open and professional communication.

Does not easily compromise.

Asks appropriate questions to clarify understanding.

Is skilled at adjusting their communication style to suit the audience and context.

Delivers information that is not accurate or is biased.

Explains and justifies point of view using facts vs. opinions.

Projects confidence in verbal and non-verbal communication, instilling trust and credibility in the message being conveyed.

3 – Knowledge and Creative Problem Solving:  Possesses the knowledge to address customer needs.  Approaches problem-solving with critical thinking and creativity.

BELOW EXPECTATIONS

MEETS EXPECTATIONS

EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS

Often delivers incomplete or inaccurate information.

Understands the features, benefits, and specifications of the product/services offered. Consistently delivers accurate and complete information.

Anticipates what is needed and thinks ahead about what comes next to more fully support the customer.

Sticks rigidly to policy or procedures, even when they are not appropriate. Is not skilled at problem-solving.

Has the ability to analyze customer issues, identify root causes, and propose appropriate solutions.

Has a solid understanding of the company's commercial goals and consistently makes decisions to support this.

Unable or unwilling to identify other opportunities that are in the customer's best interest.

Is able to empathize with customers' situations to foster trust and rapport, even in difficult situations.

Is proactive in bringing opportunities to improve the customers' experience to the attention of management.

Does not proactively seek out opportunities for support or education to improve knowledge and skills.

Accepts responsibility for mistakes and learns from them.


4 – Teamwork:  Works well with and supports other team members positively, ethically, and with integrity.

BELOW EXPECTATIONS

MEETS EXPECTATIONS

EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS

Reacts to requests or new priorities in a negative manner without consideration for the team at large.

Treats colleagues with respect and consideration.

Leads by example. Contributes actively to a team spirit.

Does not accept feedback related to performance well.

Adjusts to peaks and valleys associated with workload without complaint.

Always willing to share knowledge and expertise with others.

Does not celebrate the achievements of other team members. Is indifferent or questions achievement.

Covers for team members when needed. Demonstrates flexibility.

Takes a leadership role when it comes to supporting and educating other team members.

Tells others what they want to hear. Expects certain behaviors from others but does not demonstrate them themself.

Enthusiastically supports the achievement of other team members and the team overall.


5 – Self-Directed:  Works well with little direction.  Is self-motivated and meets targets/goals.

BELOW EXPECTATIONS

MEETS EXPECTATIONS

EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS

Is unreliable. Consistently fails to meet commitments. Tends to leave problems until they become urgent.

Takes responsibility to ensure own targets are met.

Has planned career goals and personal ambitions and works towards them.

Is indifferent to personal performance. Does not take advantage of the support available.

Proactively asks for support and/or resources to ensure targets are met.

Is demanding of self and others in pursuit of outstanding customer service.

Tends to place the blame elsewhere for poor performance.

Has a 'can do' attitude. Is positive in most situations.


Shows no interest in learning about the work of others.

Prioritizes workload effectively.


6 – Change Management: Adapts well to change and proactively seeks ways to make things better for everyone.

BELOW EXPECTATIONS

MEETS EXPECTATIONS

EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS

Creates barriers and does not accept change.

Responds effectively to changing circumstances, technology, etc.

Recognizes the impact of change on team members and is supportive.

Openly discusses issues in a negative way.

Is open to new ideas and listens to others' points of view with an open mind.

Sees change of any kind as an opportunity to improve and grow.

Undermines new ways of doing things.

Supports organizational change even when it may be challenging or disruptive.

Inspires others by championing changes to achieve common goals.

Shows no interest in learning about the overall organizational objectives or goals.


Shows commitment to the long-term goals of the organization.

Completing the Performance Review

There is no special technique for completing the review. You can simply check off the boxes based on your assessment on the Performance Review form. Then, highlight the section where you have the majority of checkmarks. For example, If all the boxes are checked off under MEETS EXPECTATION with a few under EXCEEDS EXPECTATION, you would choose MEETS EXPECTATION. It will always be important to provide some backup notes that highlight the agent's strengths and areas for improvement (see below) -- particularly as it relates to how to move from one level to another.


Or, if you want to come up with a Performance Review score, at the bottom of each section, provide a score that can be the total of the following:

  • Exceeds Expectations = 1

  • Meets Expectations = 0

  • Below Expectations = -1

If you are calculating a score, be sure to include other metrics, such as their QA score and Customer Survey Score, to provide a more balanced picture.


The goal here is to leverage the Performance Review template to ensure that all the key performance drivers are captured.


Performance Review Commentary

It is best to provide some commentary for each section; however, if you are crunched for time, a thoughtful review at the end is better. As a guideline, the commentary should include (1) An overall performance rating, (2) Key strengths, (3) Key areas for improvement, and (4) Next steps/action items.


Importantly, the commentary should focus on the future and not dwell on the past. And, whenever possible, bring the feedback back to how it impacts the customers' experience. For example:


OVERALL RATING - Meets Expectations [or a numerical score]


KEY STRENGTHS

  • "John's ability to maintain composure during challenging customer conversations puts him in the best possible position to resolve the customer's issue."

  • "Jessica's attention to detail over the last 6 months has resulted in fewer order entry errors and an improvement in her customer satisfaction score."


KEY OPPORTUNITIES

  • "When dealing with routine inquiries, John has a tendency to rush through the initial stages of the conversation without fully understanding the customer's issue. This can result in him jumping to solutions prematurely. John would benefit from a refresher course in questioning, specifically using open-ended questions to uncover the root cause of a customer's issue. "

  • "Jessica escalates 20% more of her calls than her colleagues. She needs to take more ownership of customer issues and do the research required to resolve issues independently."


NEXT STEPS

  • eLearning: Curious Questions (Part II) and one-on-one coaching related to uncovering root causes.


How much or how little you write is solely dependent on how frequently you conduct performance reviews.


Conclusion

Conducting a formal customer service Performance Review can be both challenging and stressful for both parties. As with most things, how you deliver the feedback will mean the difference between a positive session that drives results and a negative one that may cause the agent to shut down. Now is the time to draw upon everything you have learned about coaching!


 
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