Nudge employees gently.

Different employees respond to motivation in different ways. It’s unrealistic to expect that every customer service representative you hire will be a highly motivated, self-starting A player. Most customer service representatives just aren’t those types of people and as a result of that, they often require some motivation and nudging.

There have been plenty of books written about pushing employees to their potential and encouraging them to work their hardest so they can reach their full potential. There are branches of psychology and management that focus on the subject. Like a lot of things, over analyzing it isn’t always prudent or feasible for smaller customer service organizations, so these smaller customer organizations just need to follow simple advice with pragmatic solutions.

An effective way to handle many employees that aren’t reaching their full potential is to simply set a deadline / performance requirement. Note that the performance requirement is just that – a requirement. Not a goal or an ideal point to reach in an ideal amount of time – a requirement.

Make it a requirement that they work on X number of tickets and maintain a customer satisfaction rating of Y or make it a requirement that they go through X number of calls with a first call resolution rate of Y. The metrics have to be simple, trackable, and sensical. Anything less than that and the nudge can easily backfire.

It is helpful to initially set the goal low. Set it only a little bit above what they are currently doing. As they meet that goal, increase it further and continue doing so until the employee is at the ideal level. Make it clear at each point that the goal is something that is going to be increased and that X performance level is the ideal level of performance. Praise the particular employee each time they reach a performance requirement (see this post). It is a simple thing to do and it can be very effective for employees that are talented, but seem to just lack the motivation to really do their best.