During my corporate customer service career, I learned very early the importance of a having a fair performance appraisal system in place. Believe it or not, providing objective performance evaluations does impact the level of service received by your customers. When employees feel the performance appraisal process is objective and fair, morale is positively impacted. This can surely lead to customers receiving a great customer experience. Let’s talk about a few ways to ensure employees receive a fair appraisal.
Job Description – This is where the performance appraisal process begins. Every position within your company should have a job description as it’s the framework of the performance evaluation. When provided with a job description, employees are made aware of the primary tasks for which they are held responsible. While most job descriptions carry disclaimers which state that the tasks listed are not all-encompassing as employees may be asked from time to time to perform tasks not listed, one is still aware of one’s primary duties. Providing a job description sets the tone for the employee experience.
Performance Standards – Once a job description is in place, it’s time to add performance standards to the appraisal equation. In other words, once an employee is made aware of their position tasks, you want to provide them with information regarding how their tasks will be measured for evaluation. The key in establishing performance standards is to properly establish the standard. If the standard is number based, determine what the right number should be. Okay, so how do I do that Errol? I suggest spending time observing employees performing their specific tasks or even performing them yourself. Doing so gives one a good idea of what’s the right number should be. Also remember to think about the level of quality that is necessary to meet the customer’s (both internal and external) expectation when performing the task. This is also important when establishing a numbers based standard. What should that product look like when the customer receives it? How many quality installations can be done by an employee in the time allotted for his/her shift? How many minutes is the right number of minutes in order for an agent to provide a quality experience on the phone or when web chatting with customers? Remember to include quality when establishing numbers based standards as this will surely help to prevent rework – additional phone calls from unsatisfied customers or perhaps a return trip to a customer’s home or place of business. When the number is set unrealistically high, quality usually goes out of the window as employees are more focused on “getting that number.”
The Appraisal Period – It always a good idea to meet with employees periodically during the appraisal period to talk about where the employee is in regards to the performance standards. Most employees want to know where they are in regards to meeting performance expectations. Periodic communication provides the opportunity to let the employee know where they are currently meeting or exceeding performance standards and perhaps identify areas of opportunity for improvement. These conversations are crucial as employees feel that they have been provided ample time to correct certain behaviors prior to the actual performance appraisal. Make it a practice to spend time with employees and offer coaching and guidance to insure employees know that you care about their success.
The Appraisal – Now if one has taken the time to develop job descriptions, performance standards and provide periodic updates during the appraisal period this should be the easiest part of the appraisal review system. There should be no surprises as this stage of the appraisal process. Employees should be fully aware of where they stand in regards to their performance. The appraisal meeting should be conducted in the most positive manner possible. Highlight the good performance and then provide feedback on the areas requiring improvement. Get agreement on a plan to address these areas as this requires the employee to buy-in to the process. Allow the employee to express his/her opinion in regards to their performance rating. Always refer back to the periodic reviews when addressing an employee’s disagreement with a performance rating. Doing so will assist in keep the appraisal review on track.
When employees feel that they are held accountable to reasonable performance standards and provided with objective evaluations, they are more inclined to provide a higher level of service to customers. Remember, it’s critical to develop Job Descriptions and Performance Standards, provide periodic updates during the Appraisal Period and conduct objective Appraisals. Happy employees create happy customers!