9 Ways to Deal With Underperformers – Without Neglecting Rising Stars


Here are some ideas to help you to manage underperformance, while not ignoring your contact centre’s future leaders.

1. Make it clear what the performance expectations are from Day 1

It’s important from the start of any agent’s employment or commencement of a new campaign that they know exactly what is expected of them.

Every advisor should be aware of all KPIs, whether they are sales or service based, and be able to recall them at any time in team meetings or one-to-one review sessions.

2. Explain how your agents’ roles impact the wider business

Making the agent view their performance as a part of the wider business can help to educate and engage underperformers.

As an outsourcer, we walk all employees through our revenue model so they understand exactly how their performance impacts not only their team, but also their department and the whole business. This also builds trust and helps to bring a sense of ownership to employees.

Be sure to take rising stars through this process too, and ensure they understand how their achievements also benefit the wider business.

Take a long-term view and ensure they understand what career development opportunities are available to them in the wider organisation.

3. Schedule regular feedback sessions

When an agent is underperforming, schedule regular review and feedback sessions.

Take the opportunity not only to review individual calls and quality performance but also to get to know the agent, what motivates them, what’s important to them, and what drives them.

Remember what motivates one employee won’t motivate another.

This is just as important for high performers. Getting to really understand your rising stars can also lead to a further increase in performance.

A failure to gather feedback from top performers can also quickly demotivate an individual and may ultimately lead to a reduced level of performance.

4. Review each agent’s place in the team and the department


Quite often, changes in personnel can have an impact on agent performance.

Has the wider team’s performance dipped? Has the agent switched teams and underperformed since the move? Or has a new individual joined the team and had a negative impact on performance?

We’ve all seen how some people simply don’t see eye to eye, so take the opportunity to review each agent’s place in the team and the department.

5. Set performance goals together

Sit down with the agent and produce a performance plan with their input. Rather than simply expect the agent to meet their required KPIs instantly, work on a gradual improvement plan, and allow the agent to contribute to the timescales and outcomes. This should promote more ownership and engagement.

For rising stars, set career goals together. After ensuring agents understand what career development opportunities are available, work with them to create a performance plan which will see them progress into areas they see as attractive.

Again, giving an advisor the chance to shape their future leads to increased engagement levels.

6. Recognise and reward improvement


Have a process in place for rewarding an increase in, or high levels of, performance. This could be in the form of a company-wide reward and recognition scheme, or other bonus or reward-based programmes.

This is crucial to rewarding both underperformers and rising stars.

Many contact centres may also operate “away days” or team events for leading agents.

Save a space at those events for an underperformer who is meeting or exceeding their KPIs in their performance plan. This can help motivate other underperformers to improve their output.

7. Give agents the opportunity to give feedback outside of their teams

This applies to every agent or employee at every level. Employee forums are a great way to further engage and inform agents of issues affecting their teams, departments, or the business as a whole.

There are also a number of employee-engagement tools that allow employees to provide feedback on issues they care about. Sometimes, giving agents the chance to have a say away from their immediate team or manager can lead to more honest feedback.

8. Know when the time is right to move that person on

In order to keep rising starts motivated and challenged, you may find that you need to move them to a new team, give them added responsibility, or even promote them into a new role.

Failure to do so can often demotivate a successful agent and lead to a reduced level of performance.

Equally, for underachievers, ensure that there is a formal process in place for the dismissal of an employee for failing to meet agreed KPIs.

Ensure that this process is fully communicated to an agent ahead of the process commencing. Also maintain strong communication throughout the process, and ensure the agent knows exactly what the next steps are, up to and including dismissal.

Always look to “retain rather than replace” where possible.

9. There is nothing simpler than saying “well done”


Dawn Ferris-Lawson

Often in life, it’s the simple things that make the most difference.

While we’re all busy, it takes very little time or effort to give an agent a pat on the back and thank them for their efforts.

This applies equally to an underperformer who has shown signs of improvement, through to a rising star who has continually over-achieved versus their KPIs.

We’re yet to meet an individual who doesn’t appreciate a simple “thank you”.

With thanks to Dawn Ferris-Lawson, Head of Consumer Sales at Spark Response

Author: Megan Jones

Published On: 6th Apr 2016 - Last modified: 25th Oct 2017
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