Communication is the heart of all healthy relationships, including those created in work environments. One-on-one meetings are an excellent way for customer service teams to facilitate a healthy work environment through direct communication.
Whether you operate a remote support team or work closely together in a small office space, regular individual meetings help to keep communication flowing in your team.
Companies like Facebook - who are defining what employee-centric business culture is all about - believe that regular one-on-one meetings are their secret to success.
Ambitious customer service teams do 1-on-1 meetings to:
- Facilitate coaching and feedback that help agents improve their performance.
- Boost employee engagement (by 3 times, to be exact).
- Build healthy relationships between management and employees.
- Keep managers in the loop of what is happening work-wise and with life outside work.
If you want to keep communication open, don’t force a rigid structure to your 1-on-1s. Quality face-time with your team works best when it comes naturally.
However, if you want to make sure that you reap all the benefits that 1-on-1 meetings have to offer, it’s important to cover the right topics. Here’s a list of five focus areas to bring to your customer service 1-on-1 meetings.
Download this free 1-on-1 meeting template that will help you and your team prepare for your quality face-time.
Intro: setting the tone and timeframe
The success of your 1-on-1 meetings depends on how well you’re able to encourage your team members to open up. If your partner is unwilling to share anything with you, your meetings are destined to fail.
Here’s what you as a manager can do to set the right atmosphere:
1. Kickstart your meetings with the right attitude. Be warm and welcoming, and make sure your agents understand that this time is dedicated entirely to them.
If that sounds like something needless to say - good. You’d probably be surprised to know how many managers start whining about their own workload and lack of time before they even ask how the employee is doing.
2. Go through what your team and company have been doing. This helps to define the timeframe for your reflections and bring up the topics that you and your employee will probably want to talk about.
For example, “We had two major feature releases and an unfortunate downtime last week. How did you feel about everything that happened?” is a great way to look back at the previous period of time.
3. Share your feelings towards what’s been happening. If you open up about how you’ve been doing, your teammate will feel encouraged to do so, too. Again, don’t complain about general things like having too much work (well, who doesn’t?) or about other people on the team. Set a productive tone for sharing feelings, rather than venting.
“I was anxious about how the feature releases would affect our conversation volume, especially with 5 team members being on vacation. But I was really happy to see how well you all handled it,” will reassure your teammate that they can share their feelings of worry, too.
If you start your 1-on-1s by looking back at what’s been going on, you’ll give your meetings a timeframe. This helps to stay focused on the things that deserve your attention right now.
Keep in mind that how you interact during the meetings has a huge impact on how well your partner will open up. Expressing your feelings in a sincere manner is one of the easiest ways to encourage others to share their emotions, too.
2. Performance review
Some companies prefer to keep performance reviews separate from 1-on-1s to create an informal atmosphere in those individual meetings. This helps to focus specifically on building relationships between management and employees.
Other managers believe in the combination of laid-back communication and coaching conversations. If you prefer to mix these topics in your regular meetings, conversation reviews can provide great input for your one-on-ones.
Here’s a good scheme that will help you highlight your agents’ strengths and point to their areas of improvement in those meetings:
Start with the conversations that were handled OK. Usually, these make up the largest proportion of all tickets.
Reassuring that the agent does everything right 95% of the time is great feedback.
Then, look at the conversations that didn’t meet your customers’ expectations or your internal quality standards. Often these two don’t overlap because users can be frustrated with things that are out of agents’ control.
Analyzing the conversations that received negative ratings internally, based on your customer service quality criteria, helps agents understand where they need to improve.
Finally, shift your focus to the conversations that were handled amazingly. Again, look at the tickets that received high ratings from your customers as well as those that scored the highest in internal reviews.
This way you’ll end the performance review on a high note.
This particular setup is known as the feedback sandwich and it helps to give constructive (and negative) feedback in an efficient and tactful manner. Find out more about the best feedback techniques for customer service teams.
3. Setting short-term goals
After you’ve done the performance review, you can easily move on to setting goals for the next period. The areas of improvement discovered in conversation reviews are usually a great source of inspiration for that.
For example, if an agent keeps missing the mark in the Product Knowledge category, aim to improve that by the next one-on-one. Set SMART goals that are:
- Specific - e.g. watch a webinar and learn about the users and permissions product area.
- Measurable - e.g. improve Internal Quality Score in Product Knowledge by 20%.
- Achievable - don’t expect the agent to jump from 62% to 100% in a week.
- Relevant - e.g., focus on the Product Knowledge category; don’t mix it with having to nail the Empathy criteria, too, if that’s not relevant.
- Time-bound - e.g., expect to see improvements by the next one-on-one, or the meeting after that.
So, instead of setting a goal to “improve product knowledge” you can have a specific target like “Master the users and permissions product area to improve IQS by 20% in the Product Knowledge category by next month.”
It's important to take notes or write down goals so you can refer back to them before the next meeting (the template is good for this too). Having specific goals to watch in your 1-on-1s helps keep track of your agents’ progress. See how their performance improves week after week.
4. Check-in on long-term goals
Agents’ short-term objectives are usually stepping stones towards their long-term goals, which should align with your overall customer service strategy and vision. Use one-on-one meetings to check how well agents are moving towards their long-term goals.
- Which goals are they progressing with the most? Pay attention to your agents’ favorite goals to understand where their interests lie.
Use these areas to help them develop their customer service superpowers - e.g., technical knowledge, customer success, or marketing. Use these to assign them tickets and tasks based on their strengths. This will keep them motivated and help them grow professionally.
- What’s keeping agents from moving forward with other goals? Try to find solutions to their problems as soon as possible, so that their long-term goals remain achievable. Removing obstacles from your team’s paths is one of the most important tasks of a manager.
Don’t be afraid to adjust your goals if they are no longer relevant.
Checking in on long-term goals every time you hold one-on-one meetings with your support agents helps to make sure your team is constantly progressing towards their targets. Avoid bad surprises in the long run and make adjustments as necessary.
5. Talk about company culture and team spirit
Successful one-on-one meetings touch upon topics related to the team vibe and culture, too. Usually this happens naturally during the abovementioned discussions.
However, in case your company culture and team spirit hasn’t come up, check on these topics proactively. Try to understand if the atmosphere is both:
- Enjoyable, which can mean anything from crazy fun to polite and formal, depending on the agent’s personal preferences, and
- Productive to make sure work gets done as intended.
Understanding your team’s true feelings towards the general atmosphere in your company is often the most difficult part of one-on-ones. That’s why setting the right mood from the start is so important to have effective meetings with your employees. Dedicated face time with your support team is a great way to know what’s happening in your customer service on many levels. Not only will you be able to gain insight into how your agents are performing and progressing towards their goals, but you will also understand how they are coping with everything that is going on. That’s essential for building strong and successful support teams.
Download this free template that helps you and your team prepare for 1-on-1s and focus on the right topics during the meetings.
Do you prefer to keep one-on-ones informal and fun, strictly professional, or both? Share your experiences with the community in the comments!