As a call center manager, one of the most important parts of your job is providing feedback. Regular feedback helps agents to improve their performance, stay on track to meet their goals and ensure that basic business outcomes are met.
However, a lot of feedback advice or training programs often center around constructive or negative feedback. We often forget that providing positive feedback is just as important and needs its own focus.
Scott Halford, author of Be a Shortcut: The Secret Fast Track to Business Success sums up the need for positive feedback best: "Positive feedback stimulates the reward centers in the brain, leaving the recipient open to taking a new direction. Meanwhile, negative feedback indicates that an adjustment needs to be made and the threat response turns on and defensiveness sets in."
To be a successful call center manager, it is critical to know how to give positive employee feedback that will strengthen your team and reinforce the right behaviours in the workplace.
However, many of us are unsure how to go about it without coming across insincere or gratuitous. Here are five simple strategies to follow to help you give positive feedback that inspires and motivates your employees.
1. Timing is everything
For feedback to be productive and to make an impact on the employee it needs to be immediate. Don't wait until the person's next performance review to acknowledge an achievement or hard work. The human memory is faulty, and for positive feedback to take root it needs to happen at regular intervals and as soon as the commended action happens.
For example, if you want your call center agents to take the initiative more and rely on their good judgement instead of running to you with every single problem - praise that behaviour.
"Jenny, can I give you some feedback? When you take care of XXX issue, it takes the load off my back. Thanks for taking the initiative and solving the problem on your own. I appreciate it."
2. Be as specific as possible
If your go-to positive feedback line is "good job" it is time to broaden your horizons. Chrissy Scivicque from EatYourCareer.com recommends the following when delivering positive specific feedback:
- Use the person's name.
- Describe the specific actions you observed or learned.
- Avoid ambiguous details.
"Sarah, I appreciate you staying at work last night to help with the backlog. I know you were not asked to go out of your way to do that and you put in a lot of time effort. It shows your commitment not only to your role but the continued success of our team as a whole. Thanks for that."
By ensuring your positive feedback matches the above criteria, your employees will know what they did to warrant praise and will feel as if you are giving genuine feedback.
3. Keep your negative feedback separate
While it can be tempting to use a positive and negative statement back to back - this approach often does more harm than good. It creates confusion with the employee and makes your feedback come across as insincere.
Employees will feel as if you have used the positive reinforcement as a means to soften the blow and won't focus on the behaviours you want them to repeat.
If your call center agent has done an outstanding job dealing with a difficult customer on the phone, praise them for that. You don't need to give them a constructive feedback comment on what they could have done better. If you do need to discuss areas of improvement, schedule that conversation for another time.
4. Don't focus on recognising only results
No matter which industry a manager is in, too often we get trapped into the bad habit of recognising results and not what the person did to obtain them.
When giving positive employee feedback, make sure you are articulating the effort and behaviour and not the results which are often out of the employee's control.
"Alison, I think your presentation impressed the client. We might have a shot at securing this new contract."
By keeping this in mind, you are still acknowledging the work that Alison put and that it is worthy of recognition, even if the call center does not get the new business.
5. Recognize how the behavior made a positive impact
If you are struggling to come up with positive feedback comments ask yourself these questions about the employee:
- How has the employee made your life easier?
- How has the employee helped the team or call center as a whole?
- In what ways has the employee gone above and beyond their job description?
Once you can answer these questions, you will be able to identify the positive ways the employee's work is affecting you, the team and the organization.
"Olivia, I'm glad to know that our team can rely on you in a time of crisis like this. It gives me peace of mind to know you are here and how much you care about the team and the call center as a whole."
By following these five simple strategies on how to give positive employee feedback, you will have a more motivated and focused call center. Your employees will experience greater job satisfaction, and as a result, your team will increase productivity and work together like a well-oiled machine, thus making the time to be more conscientious and regular with your feedback entirely worthwhile.