Teamwork makes the dream work. I recently spoke to a friend of mine; how well are students taught to work as a team these days? His opinion: academics are taught to focus on individual performance rather than real-life examples of how to work together. I can see his point: students must rely only on their ability to solve an exam independently rather than be able to source answers from a group. And when they do work in a group, often it’s the individual contribution that gets scored. This kind of undereducation leads to workers who struggle to see the bigger picture and are more likely to underperform.
I don’t have the data to say with certainty whether this is true, but it did make me think. In Quality Assessment work, we tend to focus on individual scoring:
- Is this person doing the amount of work they are expected to do?
- Is this agent receiving positive marks on their tone?
- After further training or feedback session, do we see progress in this person’s work?
It comes down to asking how well any agent does when their work is held against the overall rubric. If all of our individual contributors are doing what we expect them to do, it logically follows that our team is doing well overall… Right?
I believe that is where we miss crucial opportunities to bring our Support teams forward. I will even go so far as to say that you do your team a disservice if you score them only on their individual ability to score well on your rubric.
Teams work best when there is diversity
Try this: make a list of the last five people you came across on your favourite social media platform, and imagine they are put together in an escape room game. They all have the same objective: solve the puzzle before the timer runs out. There are multiple ways this game can end.
Scenario one: you will notice that roles get divided naturally and swiftly. One will gather the ideas the others are pitching in order to make a plan to move forward. Another will scour the room for clues and call them out. The third will walk up to the most appealing hint and feed that information back to the rest of the group. The group works together, building on their teammates’ strengths. This works best if the group is familiar with each other and comfortable with dropping their ego for the sake of winning the game.
Scenario two: the group is told that the first to touch the final key gets a prize (in addition to winning the overall game). The main objective remains the same: get out of the room before the buzzer goes off. The extra layer of individual investment changes the entire game, however; rather than working together, each person in the game now has a new priority that holds them back from making the team as a whole succeed. They will try to work out the clues by themselves, attempting to be the first to get to the finish line.
Customer Service is an escape room
You can draw parallels to working in a Customer Support team. The main objective is to resolve the customers’ issues, but focusing on individual performance may prevent your team from achieving that goal. Your agents aren’t robots; you want them to bring their own strengths to solving the overall problem. A group of people with diverse abilities and backgrounds will strengthen your overall quality.
Are you scoring your team’s quality based solely on their ability to hit personal KPIs, or are you taking their ability to work as a team into account?
Humans are pack animals. We are meant to work together to solve problems, and focusing solely on individual performance makes it harder for everyone to reach their full potential. Now, I’m not arguing to forego on people’s performance reviews. What I am saying is that we add another layer to our analysis. We can use team based reviews to identify where the team may need some training. We can position the team members in such a way that they enhance each other.
Exercises to help your team work together
Excercise one: draw!
Knowing how your team defines teamwork will help you determine where you need to steer them to get better. An excellent way to better understand their definitions is to make it abstract.
Have each team member draw a visual representation of what a team looks like. They can use a piece of paper or any digital medium of your choice. The catch: they can only use lines, circles, and text, and they should not share or discuss their definitions with the rest of the team until everyone is done.
Ask each team member to explain why they came up with their representation – bonus points if you do this in a group setting! Leave judgment at the door; this exercise aims to learn, not judge. We want to better understand how each person thinks a team should function and what role they want to take on. You, as their manager, will walk away from this knowing exactly how to play to their strengths.
Exercise two: crowdsource
Handling interactions is usually an individual experience unless you train a new hire. Switching it up can be helpful: select several tickets to work on as a team and set up a call where everyone is responsible for solving the problem: no individual scoring, no marks for a job well (or not well) done.
Make sure you set up very clearly defined roles: who writes the reply, who looks up documentation, and who makes sure that the internal process is handled correctly? Switch up the roles for each interaction you discuss. Having your team try on different hats will help them discover where they are successful and what makes them feel uncomfortable.
Individuality is not the only marker
In the end, what matters is that we reach our communal goal: to support customers as best we can. I challenge you to start thinking outside of the box we managers and QA specialists usually find themselves in. Can teamwork be the basis for improved individual quality?
I believe that if we can create an environment where everyone gets to play their strengths, quality skyrockets. As such, teamwork should find its way to become one of your scoring metrics.