Throughout my career in the contact center, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with quality assurance (QA).
I was already two years into a role as a customer support manager when I hired someone with actual contact center experience (I had none) who informed me that I should be “doing quality.” He helped me create a basic form with a somewhat elaborate scoring system and I began scoring my team’s interactions with customers. I would then review the interactions with each agent, hoping they wouldn’t bite my head off if they scored low.
OK, perhaps my relationship with quality was more hate than love. It felt like such a chore for a couple of reasons. First of all, it was so time-consuming to listen to a call recording — and re-listen when my mind wandered. Second, it’s difficult to carve out time to do this work in a busy contact center where agents and customers are constantly hitting us with problems and questions.
A perfect role for someone who “hates” quality
Years later, I was hired by a contact center outsourcing company to be Head of Quality, and I sort of chuckled to myself given the fact that it was probably one of my least favorite activities as a contact center manager.
My job was to help the various managers and teams establish a solid and consistent QA practice. I can’t tell you how many times I would check in with a manager only to find out that QA efforts had been suspended or abandoned altogether because the team was just too busy.
While I completely empathize with the position of the busy, overworked contact center manager, I think some of this indifference or lack of priority for QA has a lot to do with the fact that we lose sight of its purpose.
QA is an essential practice in any contact center — one I’d argue that you cannot live without. In this article, I’ll share the true reasons QA is so important.
Quality Assurance sets a clear, concise standard for customer interactions
Yes, I’m specifically talking about QA in a contact center environment. But every employee in any line of work has a right to know what’s expected of them and to know if their performance is meeting or exceeding expectations.
A well-designed contact center QA process looks at your company’s mission and sets a standard for how agents can achieve the mission during every customer interaction. It’s tempting to create a checklist with dozens of required behaviors but this often leads to anxious agents trying to complete the items on a list rather than meaningfully connecting with customers. And elaborate checklists make the evaluation process incredibly time-consuming for supervisors.
Instead, we boiled our quality process down to the essential behaviors required on every customer interaction and we aim to free our agents up to make human connections with every customer they work with. This clear and concise standard is critical to achieving our mission.
Pro tip: Sit down and think about the top behaviors that are essential on every customer interaction. See if you can keep that list to 10 or less and you have the makings of a good set of criteria.
Quality Assurance creates a feedback loop between supervisor and agent
A critical job responsibility for contact center supervisors is to meet regularly with their agents. At our company, we call these one-on-ones. It can be tempting to turn these meetings into a conversation about the issues of the day — which is totally fine. But the quality of the agent’s work must also be discussed.
Your QA process allows you to review and evaluate customer interactions. Be sure to celebrate any areas where agents are excelling at their job while also discussing the behaviors that need improvement. This is a great time to identify skills and behaviors that require additional training. Perhaps more job knowledge is required. Or maybe you identify some opportunities where they can use available tools more inefficiently.
This process for evaluating quality gives supervisors a perfect mechanism to help agents improve the way they interact with customers — and ultimately help the contact center and company achieve its mission. Furthermore, it’s essential as you’re helping newly hired agents achieve full proficiency.
Pro tip: When you sit down with an agent to discuss the quality of their work, aim to have a conversation about the interactions you reviewed. Challenge yourself to do this without showing them a form or a score.
Quality Assurance fosters a culture of continuous improvement
I love the Japanese word, kaizen which means continuous improvement — a concept fundamental to quality. Quality is about constantly making small improvements that add up to big improvements over time.
As we evaluate the quality of customer interactions we help our contact center agents improve the quality of their work. I don’t know about you but I take great pride in watching folks start in the contact center only to blossom into other roles inside and outside of the organization. That’s the sort of large improvement that comes as a result of continuous small improvements.
Another important aspect of this is that the constant observation of customer interactions reveals things about your product or service that need to improve. As a contact center manager, it was quite common to observe a customer interaction and learn of an annoying bug or issue that needed to be fixed. And perhaps an agent mentioned it to me previously but something about hearing a mixture of customer and agent frustration can be powerful in compelling us to action.
Pro tip: During every quality evaluation ask the question “What could have been done to ensure or improve the satisfaction of this customer with our company?” Sure, sometimes the agent can do better. But more times than not, I bet customer satisfaction has more to do with making it so this issue they called about is no longer an issue. Figure out how to prevent the call in the first place.
Yes, QA is important
Have I convinced you to think twice about putting QA off until next month? Actually, I take that back. If you’re just going through the motions, evaluating interactions based on an archaic form and delivering a score to an agent, you can put that QA process off forever.
On the contrary, if your QA process helps your contact center achieve the company mission, fuels agent training and development, and is a catalyst for continuous improvement at your company, you can ill afford to miss another round.
If you’re stuck in the dark ages of quality assurance and need help building out a process that matters to your organization, leave me a comment. I’d love to talk.
This article was created as part of the Vistio Knowledge Collective.