Regular one-on-one meetings between your agents and team managers are a great way to establish rapport, share feedback and proactively identify potential issues.
These conversations help your support team stay motivated, engaged, and productive, which ultimately puts them in a better position to deliver the best customer service possible.
But having effective 1-to-1s with your support team is easier said than done. While all effective 1-to-1s have certain elements in common, you’ll need to find a system that works for you and your team. Without the right system in place, this shared time can quickly devolve into a simple status check-in or reading through a list of to-dos rather than gathering deep, meaningful feedback.
Here are 9 actionable tips that’ll help you define your own approach, and have great 1-to-1s with your support team.
Let’s dive in!
Make it a recurring part of your schedule
The most important element of having effective 1-to-1s with your support team is to do it regularly.
You and your team probably have a packed schedule, and you may think that this time is better spent working on your individual projects.
But setting aside dedicated time to have 1-to-1s with your team can help you address issues like lack of motivation, burnout, and job dissatisfaction before it’s too late. It also shows your team that they matter to you and that their personal growth is worth setting aside time for.
Now the question arises, how often do you need to have 1-to-1s with your support team?
Most engaged companies have weekly or bi-weekly 1-to-1s lasting between 30 to 60 minutes.
But you’ll need to figure out a cadence that works best for your team based on the:
- number of agents reporting to you,
- experience and maturity level of each agent, and
- the pace at which your organization moves.
We recommend starting with 60-minute meetings every two weeks and then adjusting the duration or frequency depending on how much comes up during the meetings. Agents who have many ongoing projects or require more timely feedback may need more time than this.
Add 1-to-1s to your calendar on a regular schedule so that they are routine and predictable. If something comes up, reschedule meetings rather than cancel, so your team feels prioritized.
Prepare for your meetings while staying flexible
To get the most out of your 1-to-1s you’ll need to prepare for them, which means having a structure you can follow.
But at the same time, you don’t want this structure to be too rigid, as you want to leave space for other important topics or conversations to arise.
Instead of a to-do list, your 1-to-1 structure should just be an outline used to guide the conversation and give it direction.
Noting down a few points you want to discuss can help both you and your agents better prepare for these meetings, and help you use this time to get to the topics that matter the most.
Plus it ensures the conversation stays focused and has a clear outcome.
Make a note of topics and questions that arise during the course of your week. Using Klaus you can pin conversations, add notes and share them with your agents before your 1-to-1s.
Open up the agenda to the agent
1-to-1s are a space for you to better understand and build deeper relationships with each of your agents.
And for that, you’ll need to open up the agenda to them so they can talk about the things that are most important to them.
This can help your team feel heard and valued and give them a sense of ownership and autonomy, all while helping you save time yourself.
Depending on how autonomous your agents are, you can either let each agent create the agenda themselves or create one and share it ahead of time so that they can add the specific points they want to discuss. When agents are asked to take ownership of their 1-to-1s, you’ll find that they show up more prepared and you both get more out of them.
How to start your 1-to-1s with your support team
1. Be on time and make sure there are no distractions
2. Break the ice by talking about something of mutual interest
3. Go through what your team has been doing to set a clear timeframe
4. Share your own thoughts first to encourage your team to open up
The success and failure of your one-on-ones depend on whether you get your agents to open up to you or not. Creating a comfortable environment for your 1-to-1s is essential.
For starters, make sure you’re on time and there are no distractions, such as phone notifications. This will let agents know that this is time chalked out specifically for them.
You’ll also want to make a conscious effort to start each meeting on a positive note. And this could be as simple as asking them how they’re doing or talking about something of mutual interest.
Next, review what your team and company have been doing recently. This sets a clear timeframe for your reflections.
And follow this up by asking open-ended questions that encourage your agents to open up.
Some questions you could as concerning a recent project are:
- What did you enjoy most about it?
- What were the biggest challenges you faced?
- What are some things that we could have done better as a team?
- How did the project contribute to helping you achieve long-term career goals?
You may also want to consider sharing your own thoughts or feelings to further encourage your team to do so as well.
This might be a no-brainer but make sure your calendar is clear and things like emails, Slack, and your phone are on silent to be free from all distractions.
Take lots of notes
You’re going to have 1-to-1s with multiple team members. Combine that with your other day-to-day activities, and it’s easy to forget the things you discuss during these meetings.
This is why it’s absolutely essential to take detailed notes and refer back to them.
This helps you maintain a record of everything you discuss with each team member, which can be helpful in performance reviews. Secondly, you can quickly refer back to points in your next meeting with the team member, so they know you’re listening to everything they’re saying.
This also helps you quickly identify similar topics or themes that come up over time or with different agents.
It may initially seem a bit awkward to take notes in the middle of a conversation. But if you explain why you’re doing it, your team will actually appreciate you for it.
Spend some time looking at your notes and reflecting on your last conversation with an agent before each one-on-one.
Use conversations reviews as your input for coaching
Your 1-to-1s are coaching conversations to help your agents perform better, and conversation reviews give you the input you need to effectively do that.
To gather this insight for better one-on-ones, look at:
- Conversations that were handled OK: This will probably make up the bulk of support tickets. Reassuring the agent that they’re doing everything right the majority of the time is great feedback.
- Conversations that didn’t meet your internal quality standards: Analyzing the conversations that received a low internal quality score helps agents understand where they need to improve.
- 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 also lets you conclude your review on a high note.
Several different feedback techniques that work well with support teams. You’ll need to find the one that resonates most with your team.
Set actionable follow-up tasks
You should use your 1-to-1s to identify problems or blockers that your support team is facing.
Once you’ve identified these blockers, you’ll need to follow up with actionable measures to combat them. These action items will fall to both the manager and the agent.
So for example, let’s say an agent keeps missing the mark in the ‘Product Knowledge’ category, and you’d like to improve that score by the next one-on-one.
You’ll want to set goals that are SMART.
- 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 15%.
- Achievable – don’t expect the agent to jump from 64% 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 the SMART goal your agent would set looks like “Master the users and permissions product area to improve IQS by 15% in the Product Knowledge category by next month.”
Include these goals in the meeting notes and review them afterward to make sure you complete any action items you set for yourself (such as sending through training resources).
Rather than set goals yourself, ask your team to walk you through the process themselves. This will help them build better problem-solving skills which will also result in them relying on you less.
Give plenty of space to talk
1-to-1 meetings aren’t just meant to be a one-sided meeting to give feedback. They should also include space to receive feedback.
Use this time to give your team as much space and encouragement as they need to share their thoughts with you candidly.
Here are some things you can do to encourage more feedback from your team:
- Ask open-ended questions
- Don’t formulate a response in your head as they’re speaking
- Stay silent and don’t interrupt them until they’re finished talking
- Bring attention to discrepancies in what they’re saying and their body language
- Paraphrase back what they’ve said to make sure you understand their point of view
Actively seeking feedback and getting is great. But if you want to continue receiving it, you’ll need to back it up with real action.
This is the only way to show your agents that their feedback is valued. And the time spent giving it is going into good use.
If you become a “different person” when you receive negative feedback, your team will be reluctant to share it with you in the future. So you need to show you’re comfortable with criticism and not averse to being proven wrong.
Check-in on career development
Your agents are the engine that keeps your customer service machine ticking.
And if you want them to stick around, you’ll want to make sure their long-term goals align with the customer service goals of your organization.
This is why it’s essential to periodically check in on their levels of motivation and job satisfaction.
More importantly, spend time during one-on-ones setting customized growth and developmental plans, including ones that’ll help your agents achieve their full potential.
For example, let’s say you see a member of your team excelling in a certain area, like customer success. You’ll want to make sure they’re working on tasks best suited to these strengths while also charting a plan that’ll help them grow professionally.
Helping your agents follow their career goals is a great way to make them more engaged and prepared for new challenges, ultimately resulting in them becoming more loyal to you and your organization.
Regular check-ins on career development and job satisfaction act as a barometer to judge levels of happiness and motivation across your support team. Helping you avoid unpleasant surprises in the long run.
So there you have it
Chalking out dedicated face time with your support team is a great way to know what’s happening in your customer service on many different levels.
You get insight into how your agents are performing and progressing towards their goals. And you’ll also understand how they’re coping with everything that’s going on with your customers and in your internal teams.
Both of which are essential building blocks for building strong and successful support teams.
Do you have other techniques that have worked well for you in your 1-to-1s? Share your insights with the CX world right here.