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How Quality and Service Level Work Together

quality management

The following is an excerpt from the fourth edition of Contact Center Management on Fast Forward: Succeeding in a New Era of Customer Experience (ICMI, 2019).

 Quality and service level are inextricably associated with, and complementary to, each other. Service level is an enabler. As service level deteriorates, more customers will verbalize their criticisms when they finally do reach an agent. Agents spend valuable time apologizing. Handling times go up. Burnout increases. Morale and turnover take a hit, leading to an increase in recruitment and training costs.

When you consider the components of a quality contact, the complementary relationship between quality and service level becomes evident. Think through how each applies in your environment.

WHAT IS A QUALITY CONTACT?

  • Customer can access the contact channels desired.
  • Contact is necessary in the first place.
  • Customer is not placed in queue for too long.
  • Customer is not transferred around.
  • Customer doesn’t get rushed.
  • Agent provides correct response.
  • All data entry is correct.
  • Customer receives correct information.
  • Agent captures all needed/useful 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.
  • What if data is not entered correctly? What if the customer doesn’t have confidence the contact was handled correctly? What if you didn’t capture useful information from the interaction? These problems contribute to repeat contacts, escalations, and multiple channel-contacts, which further reduces service levels. Costs, of course, go up.

    EXAMPLES OF COSTS WHEN QUALITY IS LACKING

  • Unnecessary service contacts
  • Repeat contacts from customers
  • Contacts to customers for missing or unclear information
  • Escalation of contacts and complaints to higher management
  • Handling product returns
  • Expenses to re-ship
  • Wrong problems get fixed
  • Loss of revenue
  • Cost of closing accounts
  • Negative publicity
  • Loss of referrals
  • Diversion of agents to activities that should be unnecessary
  • Agents “taking the heat” for mistakes made by others
  • When service level is low, agents are working one interaction after another due to congestion in the queue. Customers begin telling them in no uncertain terms about the tough time they had getting to a human.

    Under this kind of pressure, any of us are bound to make more mistakes. These errors further contribute to repeat contacts and time spent on things that would otherwise be unnecessary. Poor service level becomes a vicious cycle.

    Just as service level and quality are linked, so too are quality and response time. If customers don’t receive a reply to a message (email, social media post, etc.) as quickly as expected, or if they don’t receive the correct or expected response, they may send another. Messages can take on increased urgency: “I sent a message and haven’t received a reply yet ...”

    IMPACT OF REDUCING DEFECTIVE CONTACTS

  • Quality up
  • Production of good contacts up
  • Capacity up
  • Costs down
  • Profit improved
  • Better customer experience
  • Better agent experience
  • To visualize the relationship between accessibility and quality, take a look at the implications through the lens of a staffing table. What percentage of contacts are repeat, or due to waste and rework? And how does this impact call handling time (talk plus after-call work)? How about agents? How many are involved in creating or fixing waste and rework?

    By looking at these relationships in this way, you can quickly dispel the notion that accessibility and quality must be “balanced.” No, they work together to create a synergy of positive outcomes.