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Improving agent performance in the call center with five steps

Improving the performance of a call center agent who fails the established quality criteria is one of the biggest challenges for managers. Read five steps from Donna Fluss to help improve agent performance.

As a quality assurance (QA) analyst, how can I help improve the agent performance of a call center agent who is...

consistently failing his/her daily evaluations?

Improving the performance of a call center agent who consistently fails to meet the established quality criteria is one of the biggest challenges for quality assurance (QA) analysts and call center managers. The following five steps will help you assist agents in meeting call center performance goals.

One: Diagnose underlying performance issues

Analyze the agent's evaluation in quality assurance forms to determine where performance opportunities exist and to identify any trends. Determine if the agent consistently has low or failing scores low in a particular category or for a particular call type. Are there multiple performance issues, i.e., deficiencies in communications skills or problems adhering to procedures, accessing information or processing transactions? You can also gain valuable insights by conducting a side-by-side session with the agent to view first-hand where and when challenges arise or if work habits are contributing to their performance issues. Based on the results of the trend analysis and/or observations from the side-by-side sessions, identify the underlying causes of performance problems.

Two: Create an action plan

Once you know where the agent needs help, create an action plan to address the underlying issues. Begin by discussing your findings with the agent's supervisor. Work with the supervisor to identify all available resources that can be used to support the agent's development. This may include enrolling the agent in additional training or up-training sessions, providing reference materials or job aids, offering additional system or communication skills training, or regularly assigning time for the agent to sit with an outstanding colleague to learn the proper way to handle interactions.

Three: Communicate with the agent

Depending on the structure of your organization, either the QA manager and/or the call center manager should discuss the performance issues with the agent. Begin by making sure that the agent understands the quality evaluation criteria and how calls are scored. Be sure that your assessment is constructive and includes recognition of the agent's strengths, as well as performance opportunities. Review the action plan that has been developed and emphasize that it is intended to provide help and support.

Four: Provide consistent feedback and reinforcement

The most effective improvement programs provide continuous and encouraging feedback to motivate call center agents. When an agent is struggling to perform, it's a good idea to offer him/her some extra attention. Conduct routine evaluations of the agent's calls and provide timely feedback. When needed, provide additional targeted coaching that addresses the agent's specific needs and reinforce what he/she is doing right.

Five: Monitor and track improvements

Monitor the agent's performance. Trackand reward call center agent progress and improvement. Motivate the agent by recognizing and praising incremental improvements and continue to provide coaching and support for performance opportunities.

This was last published in July 2007

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