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Contact Center Quality Management in 10 Relatively Easy Steps

quality managementI’m currently preparing for a summer backpacking trip and am keenly aware of how quickly gear, and the weight associated with it, can add up. So I’m going to see how much information about establishing a quality management program I can fit in a backpack (blog post) versus a moving truck (book)

Before I jump into the ten most important steps for any quality program, let me first define quality management: Quality management in the contact center is the continuous process of evaluating agent behaviors and coaching them to consistently achieve desired outcomes.

Now, daylight’s wasting, let’s jump in:

1. Begin with a goal

The status quo for many contact centers is to do quality management “how we’ve always done it.” I encourage you, however, to step back and think about what you want to achieve. Here are some ideas:

  • We want our customers to be satisfied.
  • We want customer issues to be resolved on the first interaction with support.
  • We want agents to be knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful.
  • We want to capitalize on more cross-selling and upselling opportunities.
  • We want to retain more customers.

The good news is that quality management can absolutely help drive all of these outcomes. Keep these goals in mind as you move through the next steps.

2. Build and define a form

A quality form, or rubric, is your tool for evaluating customer interactions. These forms can range from a few items to a few dozen. Remember, the longer the form, the longer it takes to complete an evaluation — and time isn’t typically a luxury for contact centers.

As you build your form, make a list of the agent behaviors essential to achieving the goals listed above. I tend to group them in three subheadings.

Communication Skills - conveying the message effectively

Job Knowledge - conveying an accurate message

Security - keeping the customer and the company safe

It’s important to note that behaviors will vary depending on the channel. For example, under communication skills, agents must speak clearly on the phone, but grammar and spelling are critical for written channels. Regardless of the channel, it’s all about communicating the information clearly to customers.

Once the form is established, create a definitions guide that documents the entire quality process from start to finish. Agents should be able to read it and understand what’s expected of them, and leaders should be able to use it as a reference when evaluating customer interactions.

3. Establish the number of interactions to evaluate

The number of interactions to evaluate in a given time period will vary by industry, personal preference, channel, and the amount of time required and available. A sample size calculator will help you determine a representative sample size based on interaction volume. Simply enter total interactions, and your desired confidence and interval levels, and the calculator will tell you how many evaluations to complete for that time period.

Putting the calculator aside, I typically see teams evaluate somewhere between two to three interactions per week, which ensures that agents receive constant feedback about their performance.

4. Evaluate interactions

Now it’s time for the actual work of evaluating interactions. I have two pieces of advice:

First, give supervisors a designated time and place to do this work, preferably out of sight from ongoing agent questions, whenever possible.

Second, rarely does a customer interaction involve just one channel these days. Evaluating interactions means wearing a detective hat. For example, when evaluating a call, you should also read the follow-up email sent to the customer, review account notes for clues on the actions the agent took during the call, and, if possible, review the screen recording for opportunities to help agents more efficiently navigate their tools. Screen monitoring and recording also helps in remote scenarios where leaders don’t have the luxury of shadowing agents in a contact center.

For the evaluation form, I recommend a yes/no scoring model versus a numerical scale with anywhere from three to ten options.

5. Coach agents

If agents don’t receive feedback and coaching to improve their performance, it’s a waste of time. Schedule time with agents to discuss evaluations in batches — anywhere from two to four times per month. And don’t wait too long to share the feedback. The fresher the customer interaction, the easier it is for everyone to recall the events.

6. Track the right metrics

There are a couple of metrics that help monitor agent and team performance over time. In this previous post on the ICMI Blog, I talked about quality compliance and quality percentage. Quality compliance is ensuring that the appropriate number of evaluations (and coaching sessions) are completed for each agent.

Quality percentage is the average of all required behaviors on the quality form. Keeping it very simple, if an agent correctly completed nine out of ten required actions on a customer interaction, that’s 90%. To improve this average, it’s important to break down this percentage by team and by individual agents to determine where agents excel and where they struggle. Use this insight to focus coaching and training efforts.

Notice that I didn’t mention an elaborate system of quality scoring. If you’ve defined each required behavior and set a clear standard, the agent either performed the behavior at or above standard or they didn’t.

7. Calibrate

Calibration ensures that everyone responsible for evaluating customer interactions is aligned. There will almost always be some variance, but it should be minimal, so agents receive consistent feedback and customers ultimately receive a consistent experience.

As for a format, try these steps:

1. Preselect a handful of customer interactions.

2. Have all participants evaluate them separately and come up with a percentage for each.

3. Come together as a group and discuss the interactions, agreeing on a percentage.

4. Calculate the variance based on the difference between the agreed-upon and actual percentages for each evaluator.

Aim to reduce this variance over time. Most teams are fairly well aligned after just a few of these sessions.

8. Use Technology

Can you accomplish these quality management tasks with pen and paper or spreadsheets? Sure you can. But let’s talk about what a quality management platform can offer.

If you’re looking to save time and aggravation, forms, evaluation, coaching, reporting, and calibration all become effortless with a quality management system that’s integrated with your contact center platform. For an added bonus, speech analytics makes it much easier to strategically identify the best interactions to evaluate based on customer sentiment, predefined topics, and a variety of other factors.

9. Assign roles

There are a few different roles to consider. The major responsibility and time commitment is the act of evaluating and delivering feedback to agents. This is typically carried out by a supervisor. For larger teams, quality leads might be added, and in this case, consider empowering them to coach the agents as well. It can be difficult for supervisors to deliver coaching when they didn’t complete the evaluation.

In addition to evaluating and coaching, someone should own the quality process, ensuring that the form and definitions guide is current. They should additionally drive ongoing evaluation, reporting, and calibration for the team.

It’s also important to have executive buy-in when defining what a quality customer interaction looks and sounds like in the first place.

10. Repeat

Quality is meant to be an ongoing, ever-improving process, so don’t go through these steps for one month and expect instant results. Instead, create a consistent routine coupled with these best practices and enjoy the benefits of continuously improved agent and customer experiences.