Hiring and Managing Customer Service Staff

Disciplining a Customer Service Rep

Disciplining a customer service rep is never easy. But it's part of management's job description and has to be addressed, especially when a call center employee is jeopardizing your relationship with your customers.

Wouldn't it be great if your customer service department performed at an exceptionally high level with minimal input from management?

Unfortunately, it never works that way. In most call centers, some employees meet or even exceed management expectations while other workers limp along with substandard performance or personality issues.

It may sound harsh, but ineffective or under-motivated employees are dead weight. They drag down the rest of their team and de-energize your customer service department. Conflict is never pretty, but disciplining customer service reps is something that can't be avoided.

Although employee discipline often results in termination, there are practical and legal reasons why your business should attempt to improve under-achieving agents' performance before you let them go. If you aren't satisfied with your current disciplinary processes, here are a few tips to start you on the path to improvement.

  • Communicate clear expectations. Before you initiate disciplinary procedures, it's important to make sure you have communicated clear expectations to your customer service team. If you haven't painted an accurate picture of what success looks like, you can't fairly discipline an employee for under-achievement.
  • Develop a discipline policy. For both legal and ethical reasons, you should document and distribute a company-wide discipline policy. Discipline policies create an equitable framework for discipline and tell workers what to expect from the process.
  • Address problems early. Experienced customer service managers know that call center problems don't go away - they just get bigger. It's much easier to work with an employee at the earliest sign of a problem than it is to institute heavy-handed discipline after the problem has become intolerable.
  • Implement probation procedures. Probation is a common and effective strategy for disciplining customer service employees. Although your probation procedures can't be arbitrary, a carefully designed probation policy can quickly turn around under-performing personnel.
  • Reserve termination as a last resort. The decision to fire an ineffective call center worker should be seen as a last resort. Whenever possible, work with the individual to address problem areas and equip them to succeed in the workplace.

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