The Quality Revoluion--Key 4: Foster the Human Connection
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The Quality Revoluion--Key 4: Foster the Human Connection

A Quality Revolution has been emerging in the last two years, transforming underleveraged and underperforming Quality & Call Monitoring Programs into predictors and drivers of performance improvement. The centerpiece of the revolution is Strategic Quality Assurance (sQA), and it works because it blends equal parts art and science.

The preceding articles in this series introduced this art and science through the five ingredients of Strategic Quality Assurance, covered the art of embracing subjectivity as you define your behaviors, the science of correlating your behaviors to determine their predictiveness, and the science of calibration.

With this article, we return to the art of sQA: The importance of Fostering the Human Connection. Quality only works if the Reps crave the feedback, and that only works if you’ve set-up the roles in your contact center to partner in powerful ways.

Two Different Approaches to Sharing Quality’s Feedback with the Front Line

So your Quality staff has been busy monitoring calls, evaluating behaviors, and entering those scores into a database. What happens then? There are at least two distinct approaches I’ve seen in different contact centers:

The first model is Quality as Back-Office Staff: In this model, the Quality staff never gets up from their chairs; they just enter their observations into a call evaluation database. Depending on the environment, one of two things happens next:

  • The feedback disappears into a “black hole”, never to be seen again by Supervisors or Reps (you’d be surprised at how many times I’ve seen this).
  • Or, the Supervisors regularly review Quality’s database entries, and are left to figure out how to incorporate that into their coaching of Reps.

The problem with this model is that there’s no human connection at all from QA to frontline leaders or their teams. If the Supervisors are just reading Quality’s feedback off of a database, they will be hard-pressed to truly understand the importance or nuance of that feedback.

The second common model is Quality as Coach: This model has been gaining favor in recent years. In this model, Quality will listen to and evaluate calls, and then walk over to the Rep and deliver the coaching.

Sounds great, right? This forms a more direct connection between Quality and the Reps, it humanizes the Quality staff, and it brings their feedback to life. And, in some environments, if the Quality Advisors are truly expert coaches, this can work.

There are two problems with the “Quality as Coach” model:

  • Coaching is Hard: Quality staff are usually not well equipped to coach front line Reps. Coaching is an extremely specialized skill, and even most Supervisors struggle with it. In the Competency Assessments I’ve conducted, only 5% of Quality staff demonstrate the coaching competencies necessary to change Rep behavior.
  • Conflicting feedback: An effective Supervisor who is skilled in coaching should be focusing the Rep on improving only one behavior at a time. But if Quality also delivers feedback to the Rep, it dilutes that focus, and perhaps even gives the rep contradictory coaching.

The Third (and Better) Way: Quality as Trusted Advisor & Partner

But there’s a third approach that works more consistently: Establish your Quality staff as a trusted advisor to Supervisors. This means Quality doesn’t directly coach Reps, but they do advise Supervisors on the strengths and opportunities of each Rep, and the trends across the center.

Consider a parallel in medicine: One doctor serves as the diagnostician to evaluate your symptoms and determine what the source of your ailment is. Once the ailment is clear, the diagnostician brings in and advises the surgeon, whose specialty is in fixing that ailment. We would never expect the diagnostician to perform the surgery himself just because he is the one who performed your health exam or ordered follow-up tests.

Similarly, let’s stop asking our Quality staff to coach the Reps. Let’s allow our Quality staff to perfect their art of evaluating the essence of the customer interaction, and allow the Supervisor to perfect their art of coaching the Rep to change behavior.

But, a contact center should put its energy into ensuring that there are clear roles, strong skills, and an effective and powerful partnership between Quality and Supervisors.

I recommend that Quality meet weekly with Supervisors, sharing feedback and insights about Reps. If properly trained, Quality will be seen as the “trusted advisor for best-in-class behaviors,” and their perspective &and counsel should carry enormous weight with Supervisors.

In this model, the insights that Quality provides should inform the Supervisors’ coaching sessions with each Rep. The Supervisors then determines how to incorporate that feedback into a broader Rep development plan, and deliver it to change the Rep’s behaviors.

This allows each role to develop their specialized skill set, while forming positive connections and partnerships across these roles within the contact center.

About Weber Associates

Weber Associates is a Columbus, OH based consulting firm. The company delivers customer-centric strategies and drives execution of those strategies at the frontline with call center, field sales, marketing and quality assurance programs and software. Weber Associates works with companies of all sizes, helping them deliver on their customer promise in every touch point they have with their customers.  For more information on Weber Associates visit www.weberassoc.com.

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Topics: Learning & Development, People Management, Workforce Management

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