Agent Motivation

How To Help Your Best Customer Service Agents Improve

Your best customer service agents are the people you want representing your brand. They resolve most issues on first contact, and they set a great example for new and struggling agents. You appreciate the fact that since they’ve mastered their role, they don’t need as much positive reinforcement and you can decrease the number of QA reviews they receive because you don’t think you need to help your best customer service agents improve.

Only they do need more—a lot more. No matter how many five-star ratings your A-players earn, their performance could improve. It could be more in line with the brand’s service priorities. And it still needs to be managed, like that of other agents.

Why bother trying to improve already excellent performance (“fixing what ain’t broke”)? How can you identify an A-player’s “greatness gaps”?

Both are crucial questions, even for leading brands.

Complacency in the Call Center Can Be Costly

Even if your team is riding high on a wave of positive customer feedback, there are real risks to getting too comfortable with your A-players. Or letting them get too comfortable.

Agents who get consistently high marks for service quality enjoy being recognized by happy customers and team leaders. But without detailed input from managers who challenge them to do better, these agents are likely to feel they’ve reached a plateau.

That’s when the job starts to lose its appeal. There’s nowhere to go, no way to grow, and nothing left to achieve. Top performers coast along on autopilot, with the potential for stagnation, diminishing service quality, and agent burnout looming on the horizon.

To keep the spark lit, you have to keep pushing your top performers. Treat them like the brand assets they are, and make their growth a priority. Identify performance gaps, coach against them, and reward these agents as they reach higher levels of performance—just as you would for any member of your team.

How to Help Your Best Customer Service Agents Up Their Game

Every five-star rating from a customer is a golden opportunity to recognize excellence, encourage more of the same, and boost engagement and morale. But five stars without much explanation (“She did a great job!”) won’t give you what you need to deliver effective coaching, let alone work with agents to develop new performance goals.

To keep your A-players sharp and help them grow, you need a detailed view of their performance. And in pure Zappos fashion, you need to constantly reinforce every aspect of service you value.

Ask Customers to Identify Areas of Excellence

Agent A and Agent B consistently receive five-star ratings. But they might be earning those high marks for very different reasons.

  • Agent A is extremely friendly and generous with discounts and refunds.
  • Agent B is a brand expert—a font of product and policy knowledge and a huge help to customers making buying decisions.

By asking customers to choose specific “areas of excellence” in your front-line survey requests, you’ll understand the “why” behind those five-star ratings. As more and more responses come in, you’ll start to see patterns that can help you manage performance more effectively.


help your agents improve through areas of excellence

Use Coaching to Reinforce Service Priorities

Micro-coaching throughout the day—whether delivered in person or via a communication platform such as Slack—makes high-performing agents feel supported and valued. A 5:1 ratio of positive to negative reinforcement is best for engagement and morale, but the occasional session to address performance issues should have practical value for the agent.

In these practical sessions, you’ll want to discuss areas of excellence that aren’t showing up in customer reviews. For example, if Agent A is frequently recognized for “friendliness” but rarely for “product knowledge,” you can work with the agent to understand why and determine whether refresher training is needed. If Agent B’s customers tend to choose “product knowledge” but not “friendliness” as an area of excellence, you can encourage Agent B to focus on her tone and engagement style.

Of course, some areas of excellence might not come into play for some types of calls. For example, in a given day, an agent might get 50 refund requests but only two product questions. A great way to ensure you’re coaching fairly and help your best customer service agents continue to improve is to refer to the tags assigned (by IVR or agent) to the interactions you’re reviewing.

help your best customer service agents improve performance with tags

Use Rewards to Ramp Up Engagement and Progress

Customer-selected areas of excellence also offer team leaders opportunities to recognize and reward A-players’ progress. For top performers who appear to be lagging in a particular area, you can use bonuses, company perks, points, and/or prizes to motivate them to reach a higher threshold in that category. This will help your best customer service agents feel motivated and challenged rather than complacent.

Be Happy With Great Service, but Never Stop Aiming Higher

Service excellence isn’t self-sustaining. It’s up to your front-line team to keep your brand healthy and your customers satisfied. Even your best agents need inspiration, support, and avenues for growth to keep the momentum going. Your A-players are doing a lot to help you, and these are some of the ways that you can help your best customer service agents continue to improve and represent your brand well.

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