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.


4 Reasons Why Your Quality Management Program Stinks

When implemented well, a Quality Management program has the potential to revolutionize both the agent and the customer experience.  The sad reality is that most QM programs do more harm than good.  According to the “Best Practices in Quality Monitoring and Coaching” whitepaper by Dr. Jon Anton and Anita Rockwell, agents expressed these feelings in regards to a poorly implemented QM process:

  • I am being policed
  • I feel like “big brother” is watching me
  • They are only trying to catch me doing something wrong

Could this type of high-pressure work environment be a reason why turnover rates are so high in customer service?

Diaper Genie Culture

Alternatively, in the same whitepaper, agents said this about well executed Quality Management Programs:

  • I respect my coach and appreciate it when she shows me examples of ways to do things better
  • I look forward to my weekly coaching sessions because it shows that my supervisor cares about my success
  • I enjoy monitoring my own calls; it's incredible to see what I can improve

How much better is that!?  Obviously, not all Quality Management programs are created equal.  Avoiding these four common pitfalls will steer you away from the “big brother” perception and create a process that agents, leaders, and customers will all appreciate.

Quality Management Pitfall #1 – Leadership Built the Program in a Vacuum

An effective quality program is designed to serve the agents and help them improve.  With this in mind, agents should be involved from the very beginning as active participants in the objectives and design of the program.  It’s so easy for leaders to create a program to fit their needs, and then proceed to unveil the new requirements to a captive audience.  Instead, create a “QM Committee” comprised of both leaders and front line representatives.  Engagement will be much higher when agents have skin in the game.

Quality Management Pitfall #2 – Focusing on Scores and not Behaviors

I knew we had a problem with our quality program when an agent was setting up his goals and said: “I want to achieve ‘x’ score.”  How does an agent achieving ‘x’ score help the customer?  QM is all about coaching and enhancing behaviors.  If you find that discussions about quality revolve around scores received and not about actions to improve, there is a significant problem.  Your scorecard is a big part of this.  If you have a 10+ question scorecard with either pass/fail or a complicated grading scale, it’s going to be about the score no matter what you tell the agents.  Alternatively, design your form to reflect what is important-- continual improvement.  Check out the 3 question scorecard recommended by Jeremy Hyde in step 2 of this article.  Whatever you do, be sure your forms and process honestly reflect the type of culture you are working to build.  Mixed messages will only serve to confuse and frustrate.  You will lose your credibility if you say QM is about positive coaching, but then it becomes all about the score in performance appraisals and leadership reports.

Quality Management Pitfall #3 – Forgetting About the Customer

I recently witnessed a presentation in which a quality team touted their massive improvement in QA metrics.  What they failed to do, however, was associate the accomplishment to any customer impact.  That’s fantastic to report a “200% increase in quality” based on your made-up internal scorecard, but have your customers even noticed a difference?  If there was no meaningful change to NPS, CSAT, or CES then why does the internal quality score even matter?  We tend to make assumptions about what the best customer experience looks like and measure to this ideal.  The problem is we are often wrong.  Put the customer in the driver’s seat of your quality program and measure accordingly.  Check out how Jeremy Watkin does a “quality alignment check” which includes the voice of the customer.

Quality Management Pitfall #4 – Coaches Who Don't Coach

Many of us work hard on the concept of “calibration,” which in the QM world is training people to score consistently for recurring behaviors.  While this is important, how much more critical is it that we train our leaders to have meaningful coaching conversations?  One of the primary duties of the QM Committee I mentioned earlier, is to develop a “coach’s library.”  This library is a collection of trusted resources that coaches can use to have a robust dialog with the agents and extend real steps for improvement.  Do you have an agent that’s struggling with writing effective emails to customers?  “Writing Customer Service Emails" with Leslie O’Flahavan is for them.  Have an agent who’s struggling to read their audience and provide the right amount of information?  DiSC Training is likely to help.  The bottom line is you should spend less time focused on score consistency, and more time coaching your coaches.

Hopefully, these tips will help you avoid some of our past mistakes and build a fantastic quality program!  Big thanks to Jeremy Watkin, Jeremy Hyde, and Vickie Friece for mentoring me in this area as we continue to evolve.  Be sure to comment with your tips on how to make QM the very best it can be!

Also, I'd love to meet you in person and chat about this! I'll be attending and speaking at ICMI Contact Center Demo next month in Las Vegas. See you there?