Consider this: If you need a product, you can usually order it online and get it the same day. If you need a ride, an Uber can be at your location in five minutes. If you want to watch a certain movie, you can start streaming in seconds. Americans love immediate gratification, especially since they can get it in most parts of their lives. Why shouldn’t businesses, including car dealerships, function in the same way?
If you’re in business, you probably have employees. And if you have employees, you have people whose skills need to be developed and refined.
When people learn, they need feedback that tells them whether or not they are doing the right thing. Mastery requires feedback; so, the more you can provide feedback, the better your coaching and development efforts will be.
However, if you ask the average person when feedback happens in business, situations such as an annual performance review or a disciplinary conversation are usually what come to mind. That needs to change.
More Feedback Means Better Performance
In order to explain how important feedback is to an employee’s development, let’s consider a few examples.
One of your expectations for employees who use the phone is that they must provide a friendly greeting and create a positive atmosphere by asking the customer questions. When Full-Time Fred gets on the phone, he is taking “friendly” to a whole new level — he is greeting the customer in a friendly way, developing connections with callers and engaging them with conversational questions. In this case, you would provide Fred with positive and specific feedback so that he keeps grinning and winning over new customers.
Now, let’s take the same scenario, but paint a different picture. You hear Fred on the phone, but you say nothing to him because of course Fred is friendly on the phones; he is supposed to be. It’s our standard! In this case, we can’t predict what Fred will do moving forward because you’re leaving his excellent performance up to his interpretation. If he thinks he’s doing well, he likely won’t change his routine. If he worries he needs improvement, he might change the way he handles his calls (being less conversational, for example, or rushing to get an appointment) and begin rubbing clients the wrong way.
In another example, Part-Time Paula’s calls are missing the friendly, welcoming tone that is essential in memorable first impressions. As the manager, what do you do? Your feedback in this case should be to redirect. Consider the following options:
- Review Paula’s performance data with her and identify key areas for improvement.
- Have a conversation with her to understand what might be driving her unsatisfactory performance.
- Ensure that Paula understands what your standards and expectations are. She may require additional training.
- Provide specific and corrective feedback on her performance — in a positive way, of course!
- Have her listen to her calls and reflect on her performance.
- Suggest she shadow Fred to learn how to successfully communicate with customers.
Alternatively, if you did nothing — let’s say you don’t have time to worry about how friendly Paula is on the phone because at least she’s a body on the floor — we can’t predict what she will do. Odds are, though, by not getting to the root of her poor performance, you’re silently saying that it’s OK to disregard behavioral standards and provide subpar service. Not only are you saying it to her along with all of your other Paula’s, but you’re also telling all of your Fred’s that poor performance will go unchecked.
Feedback Moves Employees to Action
For Fred, your reinforcement will result in higher engagement. For Paula, your redirection will lead to performance improvement — or she may consider that the role isn’t right for her. Regardless, something positive will happen. Feedback begets development and moves people towards actions that improve or change behavior.
A constant stream of performance feedback is immediate gratification for what’s working and what needs improvement — it’s essential for personalized development. Coaching and feedback efforts can be easy if you have the right tools in place. Training is all about improving skills and measurement is all about KPIs and data for decision-making. Consider blending the two to improve processes and skills at the same time.
Holly Markel, VP of Customer Satisfaction