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Principles of Contact Center Quality

How do you define quality in your contact center? How is quality impacting your accessibility? And what are the costs of poor quality to your organization?

The need for organizations to improve quality and productivity has prompted numerous management movements over the years. Examples include Six Sigma, management by objectives (MBO), total quality management (TQM), reengineering and Kaizen, to name a few.

This is a rich history on which to build, and some defining principles have emerged in contact centers.

 Quality Defined

Perhaps the most important is that quality must be based on customer needs and expectations. Consider the old adage about building the best horse buggy in town: If the arrival of the automobile means that nobody wants a horse buggy, that can’t be considered quality.

The parallel is, your contact center’s measures of quality may suggest that everything is fine. But if you’re not engaging with customers where and how they prefer, your organization’s reputation and future are at risk.

Another defining principle is that high-quality service means proportionally lower costs. Poor quality is expensive.

Consider a simple example, ensuring the interaction is easy for customers. That means, don't make them repeat the same information, don't transfer them around, and don't make them go over their account history again. Improvements in meeting these expectations translates into services that are more cost effective. After all, transferring contacts, going over information again, and similar efforts cost your organization time and money.

A third key principle at work is that quality and service level (accessibility) complement each other. Quality means fewer repeat contacts, less waste and rework, and customers who are more confident in your processes. These things minimize unnecessary work that would otherwise tie up resources.

I’ve seen time and again that quality improvements are often the most effective path to higher service levels.

I recently traveled through Asia on a multi stop itinerary, and, somehow, the travel agency that helped me with ticketing had my passport expiration date wrong by one digit. It resulted in hours of explanations to airlines and immigration officials. And it took several agents and oodles of time to fix in multiple systems. All from one simple mistake.

So, what is a quality contact? The answer should be specific and incorporate the components of quality.

Examples include:

  • The agent provides the correct information
  • All data entry is correct
  • The customer doesn’t get transferred around
  • The customer has confidence that the contact was effective
  • The agent captures all needed/useful information
  • And others

Components of a quality interaction
• Customer can access the contact channels desired

• Contact is necessary in the first place

• Customer does not wait too long for a response–regardless of the channel

• Customer is not transferred around

• Customer doesn't get rushed

• Agent provides correct response

• All data entry is correct

• Customer receives correct information

• Customer has confidence contact was effective

• Customer doesn't feel it necessary to check-up, verify or repeat

• Customer is satisfied

• Agent has pride in workmanship

• Unsolicited marketplace feedback is detected and documented

• Others across the organization can correctly interpret and effectively use the information captured

• The organization's mission is furthered

Costs of poor quality--examples:
• Unnecessary service contacts

• Repeat contacts from customers • Callbacks to customers for missing or unclear information

• Escalation of contacts and complaints to higher management • Contacts to customer relations

• Handling product returns

• Expenses to re-ship

• Wrong problems get fixed

• Loss of revenue from cancellations

• Cancellations causing inaccurate inventory status

• Cost of closing accounts

• Negative publicity from angry customers

• Loss of referrals

• Diversion of agents to activities that should be unnecessary

• Agents "taking the heat" for mistakes made by others























In short, ensure your team understands these principles. Address any misconceptions that quality is more “expensive” or that it is at odds with service level. Then tackle the important and ongoing work of defining quality specifically for your contact center.