ICMI is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


A New View For Customer Service Quality

For many centers, the quality program is primarily a measuring stick, another report. But what we do with that data—how we use what it tells us about agent performance and overall operations -- is the next logical (and critical) step to success.

Most quality programs are missing the balance between individual performance and process improvement, says Ilene Lustigman, Director of Customer Service for NCCI Holdings, Inc. a Boca Raton, Florida-based comprehensive insurance provider of workers compensation information, tools, and services for nearly 40 states. "So often quality feedback is provided to the individual and it stops there. If you can aggregate the data that is being collected, there is an opportunity to improve the process and prevent the error from occurring again."

NCCI uses quality data to improve processes with a modified Six Sigma approach -- tweaked especially for the call center. "The framework is a great way to ensure that we consistently work through improvements. Plus, the various tools provide the ability to depict issues and improvements. We found it's a great way to share our story with senior management," says Lustigman. "Seeing what our customers are saying in graphical form is incredibly powerful."

NCCI also uses its customer data to drive focus areas for the upcoming year.

An important part of gathering and using this data is call type tracking. "We manage five different subject matters through our call center. It’s important to know if the issue is departmental or subject matter focused," says Lustigman. " And focusing on a large issue like 'providing a correct answer' is a bit daunting. If we can break it down further, it becomes easier to tackle and we have an opportunity to expedite improvements."

Quality Scorecards and Agents

Whether it's a Six Sigma approach or one of the many other process improvement strategies, every quality program has to have buy-in from frontline staff to succeed. "If quality is a partnership, the staff will drive suggestions and improvements from a front line perspective," Lustigman says.

At NCCI, there are no scorecards for individual agents--that was a conscious decision, according to Lustigman. "We wanted everyone focused on the customer experience. Even if we achieve solid results, there are always improvements to be made."

Too Internal a Focus Leads to Wasted Investment
Research shows that service level objectives, handling time goals, and call control processes must evolve within the context of sound quality improvement practices. Otherwise, they will backfire, leading to customer dissatisfaction and higher long-term costs. This is not to say that service level should be sacrificed, but it should be put into perspective as it relates to quality. Service level requirements should be set intelligently to ensure that they do not become root cause contributors to quality problems. Agents motivated by handle time objectives might rush to conclude a call and leave customers without the information they need (or at least perceiving that they were underserved or under-informed). They then may increase costs by calling back or contacting the center through another channel—or worse, at a higher level.

Internally focused metrics associated with meeting service levels or regulations are certainly important, but they cannot alone give an accurate picture of whether customers have been satisfied with their interactions, much less with their experience in using the organization’s products, services and business processes. Many organizations capture the voice of the customer only in ad hoc fashion from messages or other communication coming through one of the channels. Without a systematic approach, organizations could be blind to events occurring in their markets, such as problems with products and services or competitive developments that demand a time-sensitive response. Agents may be performing according to expected standards but the contact center is not delivering the desired result of customer satisfaction and better insight into changing customer preferences.

No organization wants to be perceived as unresponsive to the need for quality management: And so, they often find themselves in a vicious cycle of spending on quality monitoring applications and tools, experiencing disappointment in terms of little or no benefit in customer satisfaction, and then reluctantly choosing to spend more on tools. Oftentimes, quality monitoring is focused on compliance-related activities at the expense of strategic value activities. Rather than limit quality monitoring to a checklist of discrete measures analyzed without context, it is better to identify and manage a process that aligns metrics with strategic objectives. The process should include steps that inform the process about the customer experience. Applications and metrics can then help processes become cycles of improvement.

Source: ICMI white paper Discover Why Contact Center Quality Doesn't Measure Up -- And What You Can Do About It