How courtesy can undermine agent performance

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How can courtesy undermine agent performance? How does that happen? The 29 Quality Assurance Mistakes to Avoid e-book and self-assessment includes the question “Do your customers rate your agents’ level of courtesy as part of your current quality process?” The e-book contains questions that are designed to help you uncover issues with Quality Assurance programs within your customer contact center. Our desire is to help prevent you from following an industry trend of reliance on benchmarking (with the average performers) in order to evaluate your operations. We would hate to see you make a costly mistake of striving to reach average results. Nobody wants to dedicate valuable resources that undermine the ability to excel. This e-book was designed to help you sprint past mediocre; straight to the front of the pack.

Yes, courtesy can undermine agent performance

Like any emotion that we experience, it is extremely subjective to the person who is experiencing it. What you think is courteous, another customer may feel is rude or even snarky.  So how in the world are you, as the manager or coach, supposed to determine how any particular customer felt about a particular customer experience? Is it accurate to evaluate whether or not YOU think the agent was courteous to the customer, rather than what the customer actually thought? Are you the type of person who looks at the world through rose-colored glasses and thinks everyone is nice and friendly? Can you see that scores will likely be skewed higher because you “know” that Suzie is a nice person who is friendly to everyone? Customers might not have the same warm, fuzzy feeling towards Suzie so you are doing a total disservice to the customers (and Suzie) by giving over-inflated scores. This will undermine Suzie’s ability to connect better with customers. This is a common situation where courtesy can undermine agent performance and impact the customer experience.

On the other hand, what if you are the type of person that leans toward the feeling that many are rude and challenged by social interactions? If you are difficult to please, it’s easy to lean toward rating agents poorly on being courteous to the customer. Not only are such scores often inaccurate, how in the world will you defend your position when the agents get upset about the low scores? This is another common situation where courtesy can undermine agent performance.

Let’s take a look at an example from personal experience with this issue. A manager evaluated calls for a group of agents that was made up of mostly average performers with a couple who were below average. A question on the iQM (internal Quality Monitoring) form asked if the agent was courteous and it was very clear to the manager that the agent was bored and somewhat irritated by the customer. Of course, the manager scored the agent poorly. Not entirely surprising that the agent disputed the call during a performance review with the call recording. The agent claimed that he was being courteous, while the manager claimed she could hear more snarl than smile in his voice. It’s a difficult case to win for either side because both are guessing about the customer rating on this point. What do you think this does to employee morale and performance? So courtesy can undermine agent performance, if you let it.

The Solution

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This disconnect in the QA process is no small matter. And it’s more than employee morale that is at stake. Performance reviews that are flawed such as this approach are a risk to contact centers. The solution to this issue is simple – if you want to know how a customer perceives something, ask them in the External Quality Monitoring (eQM) component found in the iQA (Impact Quality Assurance) model. If you don’t want to ask customers to rate agent about courtesy, that’s fine. But don’t ask someone to try and guess on their behalf. Save your valuable time, money and energy that you are spending on trying to guess how the customer feels. Courtesy can undermine agent performance or it can be used as a valuable customer experience tool. How you do measure it makes all the difference.

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