Call center quality assurance is a process which ensures that your results in terms of customer service match your desired outcome.
Any call center aspiring to provide exemplary customer service must closely monitor performance to gain meaningful insights. Satisfied customers and great customer service result from a cycle of data collection, analysis, training, and improvement. In other words: quality assurance.
Whether you are setting up your call center quality assurance process for the first time or want to optimize performance, this article aims to help.
Setting clear goals for call center quality assurance
Before implementing or upgrading your system for call center quality assurance, you need to define what you hope to achieve. This will help you lay down solid groundwork.
Pinpoint your issues, and decide what “good” means
First, you need to evaluate which areas of your call center need improvement. What standard do you hope to reach? Without a clear idea of what you want, you cannot hope for an effective quality-monitoring strategy. Think in terms of what you should START, STOP, and CONTINUE doing.
Get customer feedback
A sure-fire way to provide excellent service is to simply ask your customers what they want. However, contacting clients to ask their opinions (without offering added value) is a nuisance. You could instead provide a short, efficient feedback questionnaire after every interaction, pinpointing the areas in which you could improve. Another possibility is to open an online forum for customers to discuss service quality.
Look into benchmarking
Make sure to regularly check how you measure up against other call centers. Compare your business to call centers of similar size and comparable activity. Home in on key performance indicators. Don’t shy away from looking at how your business holds up compared to top performers in your industry. The benchmarking process is a continuous loop. As you improve your performance in one area, you will need to start evaluating another.
For some businesses, benchmarking and maintaining quality can be a challenge. Likewise, it can be tricky to remain impartial when comparing yourself to competitors. For these reasons, an external quality assurance consultant can be hired to help maintain objectivity.
How to monitor your call center’s quality of service
Once you’ve laid the foundations of what you hope to gain from your call center quality assurance process, it’s time to set your plan in motion.
The technical side of call center quality assurance relies on monitoring. Monitoring your calls means recording or live listening, and then using the recordings to inspect their quality and gain insight on how to improve. Let’s look at how to use technology to your advantage for call center quality assurance.
Choose the right software
The wrong software can make your day-to-day of call center quality assurance a headache. The call center software you use daily could already provide quality assurance features. You need to consider several factors when picking out monitoring software:
- Features: Depending on the size of your call center and the flux of calls you handle, you may need to automate part of the quality assurance process. Some programs can sort through metadata and speech analytics to determine which calls are most deserving of human analysis.
- Ease of use: Make sure that the software is intuitive. If you need to heavily train your employees before they can use it, it will knock your productivity for a loop.
- Scalability: Call centers shift often. Your talent pool will fluctuate, as will your workload (especially if your activity is seasonal). Pick software which will grow with your company.
- Security: Your call center might handle sensitive customer information. Even if that’s not the case, the safety your data should be a concern. The details of your call center’s client base and performance should be secure with the software you use to track it.
- Costs: The cost of the software itself is something to consider. But keep in mind the cost and ease of integrating monitoring software with the tools your agents use daily. Your monitoring software should mesh seamlessly with your existing installation like customer relationship management systems.
Decide which metrics to analyze
Quality of service is determined at the intersection of many, many key performance indicators. However, analyzing them all would be impossibly time-consuming, and would not yield telling results. You would miss the forest for the trees.
You must choose when KPIs to analyze for every study period. Pick indicators which are relevant to your activity and will interact with one another to create a coherent picture. Use this to create a scorecard, which will be the structure of your analysis.
Record your calls judiciously
Modern phone software lets managers record and privately listen to active calls. However, the average call center agent takes 1,000-2,000 calls monthly; there’s no way supervisors can listen to all of these. You need to decide which calls to examine closer.
However, a random selection is not a productive use of analysts’ time, since the sample probably won’t be representative of any larger trend or issue in quality. Instead, use the metrics you identified earlier and find calls which are contrary (or conducive) your goals. This could include calls:
- Which went very well.
- Or which went very poorly.
- Which ran long.
- Which involved multiple transfers.
- With customers who had to call multiple times.
- With high-value customers.
Special circumstances will force agents to deviate from their scripts. These challenging situations will yield more interesting and impactful analyses.
Monitor calls from start to finish
The calls you choose to analyze should be examined in their entirety. Exemplary calls should show how a problem was solved over the course of a single conversation. You should pay attention to:
- Start of the call: A call should start with a polite greeting. Agents should let the client talk first, and listen actively, to avoid the need for repetition later on. A climate of attentiveness and trust must be fostered immediately.
- For the entire call duration: The agent must be respectful, friendly, attentive, and professional.
- Solving the problem: Was the customer’s problem fixed on their first call?
- A strong finish: Wrap up the call once the customer is satisfied, part with a polite word, and thank them for their patience.
Each call is like a self-contained case study. If you only pick bits and pieces of them, the agent’s choices won’t be put in context and the training-value of the recordings will be diminished. The best examples of high-quality calls should be saved as training materials.
Monitor across several channels
You may not just be operating over the phone, but also over live chat, email, or texts. Your call center quality assurance must extend to every channel you use to reach customers and vice-versa. While the medium differs, you must have the same concern for quality assurance.
Bringing your staff onboard
Now that we’ve looked at the technical side, let’s explore the human aspect of call center quality assurance.
Bring on a quality assurance manager
Call center managers already have a great deal on their plate. Moreover, what makes a great call center manager won’t necessarily translate to an effective quality assurance analyst. You should hire a call center quality assurance specialist to design training material, monitor calls and trends, and uphold the standard you set for your business. This person could be an external consultant, or part of your staff.
Hire the right employees
Call centers contend with a great deal of employee turnover. Besides that, every agent needs a period of training before they can start working. This represents quite a bit of time spent training new employees. Therefore, it makes sense to hire people you think will ace their training and go on to be high-quality agents.
Present prospective hires with tests during the vetting process. Personality tests, aptitude tests, and self-assessment tests are all great ways to check if a hire will be an asset to your call center’s quality assurance program.
Write solid scripts
Scripts are a staple of call center productivity, and they go a long way to make sure agents respect the standards you’ve set for your quality of service. Whether your call center deals in outbound or inbound calls, a script should be useful to your employees. A solid, well-crafted script reflects the results of your technical monitoring. The insight gained from monitoring analysis will let you know how to refine your scripts.
Nevertheless, you should empower your agents to feel confident enough to go off-script when the situation calls for it. While a good script is a great safety net, being able to improvise with confidence can be the secret to exemplary service. This is where training comes in.
Provide early and regular training
The quality assurance specialist will be responsible for organizing the initial training. They will coach new hires on what your customer service expectations are, and how to exceed them. This training period is crucial to empowering new agents, and sparing them confidence issues or knowledge gaps further down the line.
However, it’s also vitally important to keep up with training “booster shots.” Companies benefit from regular coaching sessions in multiple ways. Imposed sessions are sometimes necessary, but agents should feel free to ask for the extra coaching they require. The results gleaned from call monitoring will invite changes in the direction of your business. That’s where the quality assurance manager will step in, to keep your agents confident and trained in accordance with those changes.
No matter what, coaching should be tailored to the agent as much as possible. If not, then the training won’t be applicable, relevant, or engaging. When coaching is a direct result of monitoring and assessment, everyone’s time is better utilized, and your call center quality assurance system is stronger for it.
Involve the whole staff in a non-judgmental process
Making sure that quality assurance doesn’t hinder productivity is essential because the concept can have a negative connotation for agents. It’s important to strive to remove the perception of call center quality assurance as punitive.
If you include everyone in the process, it will feel less stressful for agents to be evaluated. During training sessions, give agents the opportunity to evaluate each other, to group with others of complementary strengths, and to self-assess. As a quality assurance manager, be flexible, and make yourself available for agents who seek out extra training on issues they have flagged themselves.
During one-on-one evaluations of live-calls or recordings, consider starting from a score of zero and adding points for every success during the call, rather than starting at a full score and subtracting points.
Provide clear goals and corresponding incentives
Managers who display key performance indicators publicly notice improved agent engagement and productivity. Rewarding quality performance can also yield good results. This doesn’t have to just mean financial incentives for your employee of the month. You could also display impressive achievements in a newsletter or success story on your website. This will motivate your agents, and be good publicity for your business.
Now you know the ins and outs of a solid call center quality process. Questions? Want to share what worked for your call center? Let us hear about it in the comments!