Feedback Is Your Friend, Part 1 can be found by clicking here. Otherwise, please enjoy!
Tone Is Everything
This is no secret. Our tone may dictate the reactions we receive, and this includes how feedback is accepted. Feedback is an agent of criticism, but can be accepted differently depending on presentation. It’s important to remember, for customer-facing positions, particularly within Customer Service, there is a very good chance that your CS staff receive negative feedback from the audience all day, and strive to keep up a positive, helpful demeanor.
A poorly conveyed conversation, email, Skype message, or phone call from a supervisor can scare the quality right out of an agent, and that could lead to terrible customer experiences, and unhappy clients.
- Feedback should be firm and factual, never aggressive or personal.
- Foster an environment of open dialogue, trust, and support.
- Convey the seriousness of a message, or the desire for corrections and improvement.
- Be clear with your message.
- Employ empathy.
- Provide structure and tips for improvement.
If your tone and message always hints at an underlying context of “you could be fired,” you’re shifting your staff’s focus from the quality of work, to insecurity and fear. You should only use the “fired” context if it’s a “next step” fact, and if that is the case, you should also provide immediate steps for improvement, and established expectations and check in points.
It can be easy to allow your frustration or disappointment to override your tone, as a manager. You have a right to be disappointed, but take responsibility as well. Your staff is as good as the training, support, knowledge, and tools you have provided.
The Compliment Sandwich
“The Compliment Sandwich” does sound a little silly, but it is a highly effective way to present strong feedback in a positive tone. Proactive criticism should be provided in a positive, non-aggressive manner, informing the mod* of the mistake, while reaffirming it’s a lesson to learn from, and an opportunity to grow and excel. The Compliment Sandwich can be a teaching moment, and an empowerment opportunity.
Occasionally human error (or genuine misunderstanding) can cause a mod to make a single mistake within a process, while still providing an excellent experience for the customer (who may or may not be privy to the expectations). The compliment sandwich would go like this: provide praise for a correctly completed action, add correction feedback for the error, and note another positive accomplishment, effectively “sandwiching” the feedback in the center. One note of caution – do not “hide” the feedback. Ensure that it was heard and understood, and not lost in the positive support.
The Line between Boss and Friend
It’s human nature to create friendships with those you interact with regularly. You may even manage people whose friendship you earned long before the job itself. Be mindful that your feedback and management style do not come off too friendly or forgiving, as you may being setting yourself up for disrespect or casual dismissal. At no point should a team member dismiss an issue because you’re “buds” or brush it off the feedback. These are inappropriate, and dangerous, reactions from a team member, and can affect the culture of the team.
Remember to stay professional and firm when a stricter manner is needed. All feedback should contain facts, supportive notes, and expectations. Do not deviate into personal side notes or allowances. And if you feel a staff member is disregarding your feedback due to some misguided notion of friendship first, a firm reminder that “all mistakes and errors can and will lead to greater consequences, if you would like to discuss such next steps, we can do so immediately,” may be necessary.
Feedback is the helpful nudge to avoid low scores in a QA review, or (more drastically) removal from the team. While on the clock (and sometimes after), your job is manager. Friendships are not a bad thing, but do not let these things conflict with the goals and expectations placed upon you as the manager, the team, or the business.
Empowerment and Motivation
One element I’ve not focused on yet is positive feedback. Feedback is not just about mistakes and slip-ups, but also for the awesome actions your staff accomplished. Positively engage your agents, and let them know when they excel – how, why, and the value of that work. Nothing is so fulfilling for a mod than a pat on the back and recognition that his or her actions were brilliant. Often, too much time is spent reviewing errors or mistakes, and it can really pull a spirit down. When someone shares a well-earned compliment? Everything is shiny and wonderful. And it can spread from your team to the customers in a string of positivity and support.
Empowerment and motivation can be found in the obvious moments, like within positive feedback, but also within a well-stated challenge, that allows a staff member to feel empowered and forward-moving. There is always room to learn, always room to improve. Jobs shouldn’t feel like jobs, but like careers… something each of us builds, and strives to dominate. Help teams feel pride in what they do, see the value of their actions, and jump hurdles or quickly correct hiccups that may occur… not because they have to, but because they want to.
Stay tuned for Feedback Is Your Friend, Part 3!
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