I’m one of the “experts” over at the Customer Service Advantage newsletter. That means I get questions to answer from time to time. Here’s one I got yesterday.
“I’m learning the ropes as a new customer service manager. One thing I struggle with is giving feedback to my service pros. How do I give critical feedback without leaving my people feeling negative about themselves and parts of their work?”
What a great question and how smart of you to ask. Negative feedback makes us all feel a little diminished – after all you are talking about our weaknesses. Positive feedback makes us feel encouraged, proud and confident so the answer to your question lies not so much in the “how” but in the “how often.”
We teach people to be “Positive Leaders”. That entails using some of the new insights and tools that come from the field of positive psychology. So here’s lesson number one – learn to look for and build on people’s strengths. Give affirmative feedback – often – on what’s right about their performance, their talents, their attitudes and their abilities.
Skip the “attaboys” and start getting specific with your feedback so people know exactly what you want repeated. “Robert, I especially liked the way you handled that angry customer. You showed so much skill in the way you clarified and confirmed his situation. It was masterful the way you dealt with his emotion first and then got the problem solved on the spot.” When you spend your time looking for what people are doing right and sincerely praising them for it you are building an emotional bank account (just like we do with customers).
When people come to trust that you can see the best in them, and appreciate it, it makes it easier to take constructive feedback that will improve their performance. Please note – I didn’t use the word “critical.” There is no need for you to be critical, that’s not part of your job.
Just remember the positivity ratio we teach and it’s easy – 5:1 if you want your relationships to flourish. Give sincere positive feedback five times more often than you give negative feedback. When you use this formula –you’ll feel good, they’ll feel good and you’ll watch their productivity soar.
JoAnna Brandi, a founding member of the Positive Workplace International is the author of two books on customer loyalty and one on positive thinking. You can find more advice on creating a more positive customer caring culture at www.CustomerCareCoach.com and www.ReturnOnHappiness.com