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Employee surveys make two things crystal clear: 1)Employees want feedback and 2)They aren’t getting enough of it.

One international employee survey, for example, found that 72 percent of respondents rated “managers providing critical feedback” as important for them in career development. However, another survey found only 5 percent believe managers actually provide that feedback.

Virtual care is no exception. Limited resources and incomplete data make it difficult for even top-tier organizations to provide their teams with consistently effective feedback. But given the impact quality feedback can have on the virtual care experience for both patients and staff, it’s too big an issue to ignore.

Here I take a look at some of the key issues virtual care organizations face in giving staff the feedback they need, along with how AI can help teams overcome these challenges.

Key takeaways:

  • Employees want feedback, but often don’t receive enough.
  • A lack of data and limited resources can make it difficult for managers to give quality feedback in a timely manner; instead, feedback can be slow, vague or shallow.
  • Even if feedback is offered, teams often lack the resources needed to follow up with additional training and coaching, leading to limited growth.
  • Managers should consider regular, small-scale audits and tech solutions to provide more timely and comprehensive feedback.

See related: How AI can level up virtual care performance evaluations

What gets in the way of effective feedback?

If everyone seems to agree that feedback is key to team growth and could fuel a better experience for both patients and staff, why is it sometimes so hard to come by in the virtual care space?

For me, it comes down to three key challenges: Discomfort with providing feedback on the part of peers and managers, a lack of data upon which to base feedback, and limited resources for ongoing training and coaching, making it hard for organizations to take action based on feedback.

Giving feedback is uncomfortable

At the most basic level, giving feedback can be uncomfortable. Especially when feedback isn’t entirely positive, many managers would rather avoid confrontation or worry about hurting their teammates’ feelings.

This is true not only in virtual care, but in almost every workplace and education setting. As Nicole Abi-Esber notes in discussing a recent paper on the value of constructive feedback: “People tend to focus on the discomfort of delivering feedback, and underestimate the value of the feedback to the other person, including how much they would appreciate the feedback, and how impactful it would be.”

While this makes sense (no one likes to be uncomfortable or hurt other peoples’ feelings, after all), it creates a situation in which:

  1. Struggling employees don’t get the feedback they need to improve and also aren’t aware of the ways in which their performance is falling short (leading, understandably, to surprise and frustration if poor performance is eventually brought up).
  2. An organization’s most talented employees never get the kudos they deserve for their quality work, leading to disillusionment, a slow drop in performance or their eventual departure.

Along with educating managers on the value of feedback and training them to better manage any discomfort, virtual care organizations can take advantage of the digital context of care delivery to provide in-the-moment feedback that folds smoothly into staff’s everyday workflow. This could potentially diminish the air of judgment and “me versus you” that often hangs over formal performance reviews and feedback sessions.

Feedback is slow and lacks context

Another potential roadblock to offering staff more regular, comprehensive feedback is that managers may feel they lack the information they need to provide that feedback.

Although the nature of virtual care makes it possible to archive every interaction, most organizations are still in a position where they’d need to manually audit all of those calls in order to spot trends in performance and provide specific, contextually-relevant and actionable feedback.

Few organizations have the resources needed to do these sorts of audits. They either can’t do regular QA at all or can only base feedback on a sampling of calls. It doesn’t help that audits also tend to happen weeks after a call took place, making it difficult for staff to remember the specifics.

Instead of getting in-the-moment feedback, staff get feedback on a handful of calls that happened weeks or months earlier.

With such limited data to draw upon and such a long lookback window, managers may feel ill-equipped to offer helpful feedback and staff may feel such feedback is vague, shallow or unfair.

Indeed, the Eagle Hill Performance Management and Feedback Survey 2022 found that 48% of respondents only get feedback once every six months or annually, and 8 percent said they never get feedback at all. Despite this, 63 percent of employees wanted more “in the moment” feedback on their performance.

While there’s no silver bullet solution to these resourcing challenges, managers should consider whether they have space to incorporate smaller-scale audits into their weekly routine. This would allow for more focused and timely feedback, from which staff are more likely to benefit.

Managers should also consider third-party technologies that could make audits easier and call analysis more comprehensive.

New AI and conversation intelligence tools have emerged in the virtual care space that allow managers to automatically QA 100% of interactions and see whether teams and individual staff are consistently meeting an organization’s quality standards. This could give managers the data they need to offer comprehensive feedback in a timely manner.

It’s tough to make feedback actionable

Even when virtual care managers have some call auditing processes in place, they often lack the resources needed to follow up feedback with individualized training or coaching based on their findings.

Staff often get feedback in short, infrequent one-on-one meetings or via generalized training designed for the team at large. In either case, managers don’t offer staff the deep, focused coaching they need to improve their performance.

This diminishes the value of feedback, as without ongoing, personalized coaching and training that helps staff grow over time, feedback slowly fades and bad habits can creep back in.

See related: Optimizing training in contact centers

How technology can help

With so many resourcing challenges, providing consistent virtual care feedback may seem impossible. And even if virtual care leaders commit to making feedback a priority, what can they do to ensure it’s effective?

Luckily, technology — specifically AI and conversation intelligence — can offer a lifeline on both fronts. To start, let’s look at what makes for effective feedback; then we’ll cover the role AI and conversation intelligence can play in making virtual care feedback both practical and effective.

Based on education research, feedback should be:

  • Timely and ongoing — In the virtual care context, this means feedback should be offered on a regular basis and as soon as possible after a call. If managers wait until the end of the quarter or even the end of the month to give kudos or tips for improvement, it’s harder for staff to contextualize that feedback and use it to grow.
  • Specific — Instead of trying to extrapolate generalized feedback from a handful of interactions, managers should aspire to offer feedback that takes into account many calls and contexts. Being able to point to specific examples can go a long way toward making feedback “click.”
  • Goal-oriented — Effective feedback is also tied to a specific goal. In other words, Here’s the outcome we want to see, here’s how your performance can impact it and here’s how well you’re tracking toward that goal. Many organizations lean on measures like customer satisfaction surveys to assess the quality of virtual care, but managers can also audit and score calls against industry or organizational best practices to give staff a clear target to aim for (for example, scoring an intake agent’s performance based on key questions required for compliance).

By leveraging AI and conversation intelligence to QA and analyze 100% of calls, virtual care teams can offer this level of feedback even with limited resources. With the help of AI virtual care teams can:

  • Set clearer benchmarks — Virtual care leaders can train AI on an organization’s best practices, allowing call quality to be automatically and instantly scored based on how well staff are following those guidelines. This sort of scoring gives staff a clear, measurable target to work toward (such as getting an A+ on every call) and provides a terrific foundation for goal-oriented feedback.
  • Offer feedback in real time — Since AI can analyze and QA calls in real time, staff can get in-the-moment feedback on their performance via alerts when they miss protocols, suggestions for topics to cover or other resources. Instead of waiting weeks for feedback on calls they barely remember, staff now get feedback immediately and in context.
  • Get a complete view of performance – AI can automatically QA and note performance trends across 100% of calls, so feedback need no longer be based on only a small sampling of calls. This not only ensures feedback is fair and backed by data, but also makes feedback feel more fair for staff.
  • Make information more accessible — Outside of formal training, many organizations rely on bloated knowledge bases or shared drives full of training videos to help staff stay up-to-date with best practices. AI can surface relevant information from these sources exactly when needed during a call. This not only gives staff immediate access to the information (fueling a better patient experience), but also helps to reinforce previous training.
  • Curb discomfort — Since staff can get feedback in real time via automation, the feedback may feel a bit less “personal” and doesn’t need to be associated with any one peer or manager. This could provide a digital buffer that makes frequent feedback easier to both give and receive.

See related: Virtual care QA is no longer just a “nice-to-have”

Bottom line: It’s time to make quality feedback a priority

Feedback is critical for virtual care teams to do their best work and improve the patient experience. And while discomfort, lack of concrete data, and limited resources for training and coaching can all contribute to the reluctance to provide feedback, it’s too important to ignore.

By providing employees with timely, specific, and goal-oriented feedback, organizations can create a culture of continuous improvement and support employees in doing their best work. And luckily for virtual care leaders, technology now makes instant, data-backed feedback possible.

Waleed Mohsen

Author Waleed Mohsen

Waleed Mohsen is the CEO and founder of Verbal. He has been named a UCSF Rosenman Innovator and has over 10 years of experience working with leaders of hospitals and medical institutions in his business development roles at Siemens and Cisco

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