Making WFM Bad News Bearable

3 simple ways to make it easier to break bad news to your CX agents.

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An illustration of a workforce manager delivering WFM Bad News to a CX agent.

As a Workforce Manager, you have to deal with a lot. Making WFM bad news bearable is part of the job – and not one of the good parts. We’ve all had to have these conversations before:

“You have to work on your birthday.”

“I can’t approve that time off because of your performance.”

“It’s out of my control, the marketing campaign launches at midnight and we need people.”

“We’re doing black Friday sales for an entire month so it’s all hands on deck.”

“I noticed your answers to customers have been a little cold.”

You probably didn’t jump into WFM because you like giving bad news. So when you feel like you have to say things your CX agents don’t like, it can feel pretty awful. Don’t get discouraged, you can practice this and it’s an important skill for any professional to learn.

QA Concerns

First and foremost, lead with empathy and remember that everyone has off days. If someone has a call that doesn’t go the way it should, start by asking how the agent is doing. See if they feel like they have enough support.

Maybe they were sick that day, maybe they felt too much pressure, or maybe there’s something that you will never know about that happened. It’s important that you keep perspective and don’t judge isolated incidents too harshly.

Focus on the good too, and then make suggestions on places for improvement. Don’t lecture them, this is an adult after all. If someone recorded all of your work, they would likely have suggestions for you as well! 

The QA concerns you present should never come from a place of proving yourself right or shaming someone else. It should come from a genuine place of wanting to help them so that they can help the customers. That’s it. 

If this is a continual issue, then an improvement plan should be put in place with clear goals, timelines, and structured guidance. That way there’s little room for subjectivity and you can measure progress against a solid plan. WFM bad news is more bearable if it doesn’t feel like a sudden attack and instead comes from a clear source.

Scheduling Concerns

We can’t give everyone their dream schedule every time. But it feels pretty awful when you have to turn down a vacation request or make someone work on their birthday.

One way to handle it is to create a hard rule that applies to everyone. If the person doesn’t meet those requirements, then the request can’t be considered. That’s the end of the discussion. Removing the human element can help to avoid hard feelings.

However, if that hard-rule doesn’t work (or they do meet the requirements) then you’ll need to get more creative. 

Make these rules hard-and-fast without wiggle room so it’s not a “you like some agents better and they get better treatment.

Performance Concerns

Sometimes it takes noobie agents a while to ramp up. And sometimes your top performing CX agents hit a slump, and their performance starts dropping.

In that case, look at their stats closely. Open with three things they’re doing right, and then talk about where they need to improve. We call that Sam’s Workforce Managers Rule of 3.

You’ll find that they’re much less likely to hold the criticism as a personal attack and then you can work with them to find a way to improve.

About Tymeshift:

We’re Tymeshift, an effortless WFM solution made exclusively for Zendesk to make workforce managers’ lives easier. Our workforce management tools include shift scheduling, forecasting and analytics. A perfectly intuitive Zendesk integration makes your CX agents’ lives easier. Learn all there is about us and our product on tymeshift.com

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