The people behind Klaus know that feedback is the most efficient way to grow professionally (they even built a tool for that!). Klaus is sponsoring the #quality channel in the Support Driven Slack and is here to tell you which kind of feedback your support agents really need.
Customer service quality programs can feel intimidating to those involved. Nobody really enjoys hearing they’ve done something wrong; and the fear of hurting others’ feelings can put reviewers in an uncomfortable position, too.
There are a number of great feedback techniques that make it easier to point out somebody’s weaknesses in a constructive manner, and there are plenty of useful guidelines on how to handle negative feedback. However, these coping mechanisms and tools only work if you really understand why negative feedback is necessary.
Professional development can only happen where there’s room for growth. Without any negative feedback, you cannot improve your customer service quality.
As the makers of the conversation review tool Klaus, we’ve done a lot of soul-searching on this topic and identified the reasons why we believe that no quality-oriented customer service team can go without negative feedback. So, here are the five most important reasons why agents need negative feedback.
(We’ve saved our favorite – and the most controversial one, – for the last. So, make sure you read until the end.)
Find where you need to improve and do it
Most companies already track the feedback they receive from their customers. To get a more well-rounded picture of their performance, many support teams have started to balance customer feedback with internal feedback.
You’ll get the most out of your negative feedback if you combine external and internal evaluations. Here’s how combining these two approaches will help you improve the quality of your support:
- Pinpoint your areas of needed improvement. It is difficult (if not impossible) to become better at anything without knowing the places you need to grow in. Both customer and internal feedback can point to the weaknesses your team needs to address in order to increase your service quality.
- Help agents progress towards their goals. Once you’ve mapped your team’s areas of improvement, you can set goals that will help them tackle the issues that you or your customers have found. Consistent internal feedback helps agents move towards their targets and provides insight into their progress.
Learning where you have an opportunity to improve is definitely one of the main reasons why teams should cherish negative feedback. With a smart external-internal feedback combo, you’ve got the tools to tackle anything that comes your way.
“The one thing that helps me relax when giving or receiving the “Thumbs down” is the realization of the fact that without these thumbs down we might continue to make the same mistakes over and over again,” explains Grigorij Urasov, Happiness Engineer at Automattic.
Develop agents’ analytical skills
Once you’ve got internal quality processes going and the team has become used to receiving negative feedback, you’ll soon notice that your agents’ analytical skills and ability to overcome unforeseen circumstances get a nice boost, too.
Consistent (negative) feedback helps your team to:
- Manage unexpected situations: feedback helps agents analyze their own performance and gain control over the way they interact. Knowing what works and what doesn’t work in customer conversations will make agents feel a lot more comfortable when facing unexpected situations.
- Take customer reviews with a grain of salt: not all user feedback does justice to support teams, and a surprisingly large proportion of the negativity is caused by issues with the product, disappointments caused by unrealistic expectations and other things that are out of agents’ control. Analytical skills will help agents not to become distracted by things that are irrelevant to their performance.
Constant feedback helps to build confidence in customer service agents. What they’ve learned through negative feedback will turn into strengths and skills that they can apply in any unforeseen circumstances.
Create a neat track record
Negative feedback is not just something that managers and execs should be interested in providing. It’s actually something that the more knowledgeable and experienced support reps already know to push for themselves.
Here’s how support agents benefit from negative feedback:
- Professional development is closely tied to receiving constant feedback. Moreover, knowing the career paths agents have planned out for themselves will help managers put more emphasis on their areas of interest in the feedback. For example, knowing that a support agent aspires to become an engineer, the team lead can pay special attention to the agent’s performance related to technical knowledge.
- Career advancement becomes more attainable when agents have proven track records that show their skills. With internal reviews, progress becomes trackable and presentable to the decision-makers.
Again, it all boils down to receiving negative feedback based on which one can start to improve their performance. Without knowing about their shortcomings, agents can go years without becoming any better at what they do. So, their chances for professional and career advancements will remain modest.
Provide a consistent level of support quality
Negative feedback is not just important for each support agent as an individual. It plays a crucial role in maintaining a consistently high level of support quality on a team level, too.
56% of customers are frustrated with getting inconsistent experiences or treatment when talking to support teams.
Only by working on the areas where agents fail to meet your quality standards can you be sure that your customer service is consistent in:
- Product knowledge, so that your customers always receive the same information and instructions regardless of the agent they approach or support channel they use. Constant feedback helps to find and fix the gaps in agents’ knowledge.
- Style and tone, which guarantees that your customer service acts as the voice of your company. It can take time and some negative feedback to get everyone interacting in the same style of communication, so embrace the criticism.
Negative feedback given to each individual agent helps to raise the quality bar for your entire customer service. It’s by far the most efficient means of getting all support reps on the same page in terms of product knowledge and style of communication.
Boost team morale
We’ve made it to the last, and the most controversial reason for cherishing negative feedback that we promised to share with you: negative feedback boosts team morale.
How is that even possible?
- Agents who work in isolation have no idea how well the rest of the team is handling their jobs. You’d be surprised to know how many agents in your support think that they are the only person who knows how to help your customers. Being held against the same quality standards and receiving negative feedback is a good reminder of the effort that everybody is putting in.
- If properly presented and understood, negative feedback can make everyone strive to do better. Having a systematic conversation review process reassures that the same quality is expected from everyone.
So, we can say that though it might feel like criticism will ruin your company culture, it will actually bring your team closer together. By continuously providing (negative) feedback to all agents, you can be sure that everyone is aligned to doing their best.
Of course, all negative feedback has to be well-balanced with positive highlights. Most people tend to struggle with giving negative feedback, so internal reviews often end up focusing on the positives only.
“It has also transpired that the team tends to be very positive. Pointing out areas of improvement doesn’t come as naturally to them,” says Luis Hernandez, VP of Customer Success at Geckoboard when describing how they implemented peer reviews in their support team with Klaus.
If you start seeing negative feedback as a tool for improving the quality of your customer service, you’ll understand that your team really needs more of it. It’s the only way your agents can become better at what they do. That’s actually very positive.
Does your support team receive enough negative feedback? Join the discussion in the #quality channel and invite your team over, too. Read more about customer service quality on Klaus blog and sign up for weekly Support Driven newsletter. Purrr.
Valentina Thörner is the Head of Product at Klaus. Additionally, she is an opinionated writer, pragmatic solution-finder, German expat in Spain, twin mom, barefoot runner, expert in leading teams across geographies and time-zones, author of the remote leadership bible “From a Distance”. Valentina has over a decade of experience leading and working location independent and has learned a thing or two about wrangling a team, 397 conflicting priorities, and two kids.