The other day I received an email from a subscriber asking about my thoughts on how to transition new employees into the Quality program. For every Customer Service Representative (CSR) there is a period of training prior to getting on the phones to work with customers. Well, let me say that for most CSRs there is some kind of “nesting period” in the contact center. Every client I’ve ever worked with has struggled to figure out how to handle this nesting period. In my experience, there are three typical scenarios, and I believe one of the methods is better than the others.
- Don’t Assess the CSR. This is a very common way to handle the new CSR question. The CSR will be on the phones for 30-90 days taking calls from customers without ever being recorded or assessed. On the surface this may seem like an act of kindness to the CSR, but there are two major drawbacks. First, you have very real customers who are having a very real customer service experience which will impact their satisfaction, loyalty and future purchase intent. If nothing else, you owe it to your customers to be monitoring the newbie’s service delivery. Second, you aren’t doing the CSR any favors by letting him or her develop unmonitored bad habits that will have to be corrected when the nesting period ends.
- Listen and Coach, but Don’t Analyze. In many cases, the call center supervisor, QA team, a coach or trainer will listen to the new CSR and provide feedback and coaching, but they won’t actually analyze calls utilizing the quality form or scorecard. Often, the coach may jack in to the call and provide immediately side-by-side coacing. Again, this seems like a gracious way to transition the new CSR onto the floor. The CSR gets feedback and coaching but does not fear having some of the common rookie mistakes count against them in their probationary period. The problem with this approach is that the coaching and feedback is usually not documented and the feedback often centers around individual call-specific situations rather than preparing the CSR for the larger behavioral habits that will be expected of them. The new CSRs are also not getting prepared for what the scorecard or QA Form is going to look like or expect from them. They don’t get a chance to benchmark where they are against the standards to which they will be accountable when they get placed in the program.
- Assess the calls but don’t count it. A compromise that many call centre quality teams will employ is providing a probation period or nesting period in which customer calls taken by new agents are sampled and scored just like everyone else. The scores, however, may not count against the CSR’s permanent record or be considered a simple benchmark prior to being held fully accountable when they transition out of the nesting period. My experience is that this is the best solution to the new CSR dilemma. The customer’s experience is being measured and not ignored. The CSR is able to quickly understand what is on the QA form, what behaviors matter and built habits during their nesting period that will give them the greatest opportunity to succeed once they are fully transitioned to the call floor. Coaches can use the form to provide data-driven feedback about what will “count” for the CSR in the long run instead of providing haphazard or situational coaching that may have little measurable value for the CSR in the long run. In addition, CSRs usually enjoy seeing the progress they make in the first few months as their quality improves over the “benchmark” score they received during the probation period.
The key, I believe, is for managers to consider who you are serving with your QA strategy. Companies often rely on their QA program to simply be a CSR management tool and so consideration is only given to how the process and program will affect and be perceived by the employee. When effectively utilized Quality Assessment should also provide you with an accurate, objective, and honest assessment of the experience your customers receive when they are engaged with your employees on the phone (not just the experience with trained veteran employees but with new CSRs, as well). Because customer interactions with new, untrained CSRs generally represent the greatest risk to your customer’s experience you need to be honestly assessing what is happening in those moments of truth. Doing so serves the customer, your company, and the new CSR well.