Are quality scores important in the contact center? Do agents need to see a score in order to be successful?
I recently explored this in an article, and when the topic came up in a recent #ICMIChat on Twitter, it blossomed into a full-fledged debate. These sorts of things are bound to happen from time to time when you bring together people who are passionate about contact centers (see our Soft Skills debate).
Quality is a topic that’s near and dear to nearly every contact center professional. It’s the process by which we gauge the success and consistency of the service our agents are providing to customers. The typical process is to grade an interaction based on a set of criteria or rubric and then review it with the agents.
Many quality forms have an elaborate points structure that results in a score out of 100%. But is this score really important and do our agents benefit from seeing it? I posed this question to 14 contact center experts and asked them to sum up their views on the topic.
Are quality scores important? Yes
Should agents see scores? No
We keep QA scores in order to have a baseline quantitative measurement of trends over time, but these numbers are not typically shared with agents. They see coaching information and specific suggestions on how to improve instead.
Are scores important? Yes
Should agents see scores? Sometimes
Quality scores are important to get a high level grade of individual agents and the call center overall. I wouldn't show it each time to agents but during annual reviews present average grade by customers.
Some quantifiable measures of quality are essential in providing formal feedback. If an overall score IS produced, both sharing it right away or waiting can be a detriment. I believe we must score, but it’s a question of how, not if. We need to define the desired behaviors and evaluate the level of proficiency of those behaviors within a limited range of ratings that reduces the variance of interpretation between evaluators. I like to use three tiers that relate to how behavior is performed – we either don’t do something, or we don’t do it very well, or we do it beautifully. So the ratings to me are Awesome, Average, or Absent! Still though, if we do not somehow aggregate the total of each tier into a composite score, then how do we differentiate between people?
Should agents see scores? Yes
Importantisimo! They are not a panacea but if structured correctly, should be a reasonable benchmark of quality of service. Agents, contact center managers, and owners of the brand voice need these to have a view into the success (or not) of the contact center.
Quality scores are one of several metrics we use to determine the overall health of the contact center. The scorecard allows agents to have a clearly defined road-map of the expectations and serves as a great reminder and training tool to ensure consistent, thorough, and top-notch service is provided to all of our clients. I believe if quality assurances aren’t present in a call center, that organization would be wise to have active team leaders or coaches buzzing around the floor providing live, real-time coaching to continually move the needle on customer service excellence.
Are scores important? No
The short answer is no. Agents should focus on BEHAVIORS, not scores. When you grade someone on a numeric scale, it inevitably degrades to the mindset of "how can I manipulate 'the system' to improve this number." The superior mindset is "how can I improve this behavior and ultimately the customer experience!"
Quality is important. Scores, not so much. Agents definitely need feedback to know they are on the right track. But I believe it can be delivered by leadership in different, more effective ways than just a "score" on paper.
We moved away from a % score because we found it was a distraction – we were discussing 96% vs. 97% rather than the feedback. We want the focus to be dialogue, feedback, and opportunities that will take us from good to great! Now, we simply let them know if they “exceeded expectations,” “met expectations,” or “did not meet expectations” and provide feedback. On the back end, we have some tracking and % scores if that is for some reason needed.
I don't think the score is more important than the performance. If there is a way to train and coach the behaviors needed without the traditional score, I think I'd be willing to implement that. However, I do believe there must be a way to quantify and qualify agent performance.
We often forget that a QA session is a learning experience. The goals are to inspire, educate, and gain commitment to change behavior. Richard Boyatzis' research has discovered we must light the brain up during coaching conversations and/or learning experiences if the goal is a change in behavior. When conversations begin with a deficit focus (QA score) the agent moves into the fight, flight, or freeze mode and learning becomes impossible. Begin by asking, "how did you positively impact one customer this week?" Scores don't assist high performers either. As soon as they hear "100%," they shut down and often stop listening and learning. Scores aren't necessary and will not help you reach your goal of improved service.
The ultimate goal for a quality program is to provide feedback so agents modify their behaviors to match the service culture expected in your organization. Quality scores get in the way of changing agent behaviors. When an agent is focused on their score, they are focused on themselves and the impact the SCORE has on their performance appraisals, raises, promotions, etc. This leads to disagreements in every contact center. When changing to behavioral-based coaching, agents are focused on their behaviors and the impact on the customer’s experience. When describing the agent behaviors, sharing the impact and setting the expectation for how to do it better, there is no argument. Agents respond well to professional feedback that helps them up their game.
Quality scores are important for several reasons. The biggest is the data quality using numerical scores provide for ranking and coaching. Even if the scores aren't initially given as numbers, using smiles or frowns as an example, there is still a value assigned. Agents should be given these scores along with their coaching to see where they are doing well and need to improve, however, scores in a vacuum without effective coaching are useless.
There are great arguments on both sides of this debate. The biggest problem is that the answer lies in the personality of the individual agent. Like "love languages," people learn and accept criticism as well as praise in different ways. In a perfect world, you will know what is best for each agent and act accordingly. If you must establish one policy and not customize or tailor it to their personalities, then make a decision and stick to it! Whichever route you take, consistency will be the key to success with it. The other thing to remember is that it's all about the delivery and the presentation. Whether you give them scores or not, concentrate on the coaching and the way you deliver. That way you can't go wrong with either choice!
No, quality scores are not important, quality service is. Quantifiable metrics are often very helpful in driving improved results but can backfire when they become the output of a traditional quality program. The goal of our quality program is to identify behaviors that are effective in improving the customer experience, and those that are not (along with procedural compliance). Using scores at the team member level creates an improper focus on a smaller set of keywords or phrases rather than looking at the contact holistically, just as the customer would.
64% of our experts said that quality scores are indeed important. The overwhelming sentiment is that you can’t measure what you don’t track. Regardless of what number or scoring system you use, tracking a number over time to measure the success of your quality and coaching efforts is incredibly beneficial.
Our experts were much more divided on this one with 50% believing that agents do not need to see their quality scores. Again though, there’s a strong focus on the importance of the coaching conversation with those agents to help them improve their performance. If you’re showing agents a score, whether it be via email or in person, but not coaching effectively, chances are you’re not going to see tangible improvement in overall customer service quality.
With that being said, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave us a comment below or keep the discussion going on Facebook and Twitter.
Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premier provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service, customer experience, and contact center professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Customer Service Life. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.
Please sign in to leave a comment. If you don't have an account you can register for free here.
Forgot username or password?