What is Call Center Quality Assurance?
We’ve all heard it - “Your call may be monitored or recorded for training and quality purposes.” But what does “quality purposes” mean? Quality Assurance or Quality Management in a Call Center (or Contact Center) has traditionally been the process of utilizing “call monitoring” or “quality monitoring” (listening to calls) to grade agent performance against performance expectations. This process may involve listening to live calls or recorded calls and typically involves identifying what expected behaviors an agent did or did not demonstrate during the customer interaction by using a scorecard. This scorecard result is often referred to as Call Quality or a Quality Score. Like Quality Assurance (QA) in any other industry, the idea behind it is to ensure the quality of service being provided is above or beyond a minimum threshold.
How Does Quality Assurance impact Customer Experience?
While Customer Experience (CX) involves far more than interactions with contact center agents, these interactions can have a “make or break” impact to Customer Experience because the often involve a problem or a need. One of the primary reasons for have a quality assurance program in place is to ensure each customer’s issue is being resolved appropriately and in a timely manner. While there are other metrics like Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and First Call Resolution (FCR) to measure aspects of Customer Experience, they are often limited by the willingness of customers to respond to surveys or assume that if a customer doesn’t call back, their issue was resolved. These gaps in customer feedback can be closed through a rigorous Quality Management (QM) program that identifies issues that surveys miss and the skills gaps each agent demonstrates.
How Does Quality Assurance impact Agent Performance?
Contact center and call center performance is substantially aligned with agent performance. While Workforce Management (WFM), Training, and Recruiting play important roles in the overall performance of the center, it’s the call center agents who are interacting with customers. In order to drive agent performance, call center managers need to understand the gaps in agent interactions with customers. A robust call center Quality Assurance process aids in performance management by identifying specific opportunities in behaviors and skill sets for each agent so that targeted coaching can occur.
How do I Analyze and Manage Quality?
Call Center QA programs can utilize a team of QA specialists or rely on direct supervisors, often called Team Leaders, to listen to customer calls and score each agent on an evaluation form that includes all the desired behaviors and skills that should be demonstrated during a customer interaction. Regular calibrations should be held to ensure consistency in QA scores from evaluator to evaluator. You may also require multiple evaluation forms to account for different call types. Typically, these scores are entered into a Quality Management platform that can deliver reporting to both operations leaders and the agents.
What Problems Exist with Typical Quality Management Programs?
Quality Management programs in many contact centers suffer from the same common problems - sample size, metrics without actionable insights, inadequate and/or outdated quality standards, bias, and consistency. Let’s analyze each of those problems.
1. The Sample Size Problem
Evaluating calls with, say, a 5-minute average handle time, takes significantly longer than 5 minutes for a quality evaluator, whether that’s a Quality Assurance Analyst or the agent’s direct supervisor. This is because they’re comparing what they’re hearing against a form or checklist that includes all the evaluation criteria. Additionally, a significant number of calls will be longer than the average. What’s more, they’re going to responsible for up to 20 agents.
The result is that a very small percentage of calls actually get evaluated - usually somewhere around 1-2%. This is especially problematic when customer interactions are subject to regulatory compliance because up to 99% of calls are a fine waiting to happen.
2. The Metrics Problem
Often, the final result of the QA process is a single score representing the agent performance on a particular customer interaction. While QA scores are among typical call center Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), they alone don’t help call center managers understand on what behaviors to focus their coaching sessions. They often end up “coaching to the metrics,” focusing on an agent changing the numbers rather than addressing the skill gaps that cause those numbers. I see this so often with Average Handle Time (AHT) - agents with high handle times are told simply that they need to complete their calls faster without any guidance or discovery of why their calls take longer than average.
3. The Quality Standards Problem
The Quality Standards are the specifics of the form the agent is graded against. The issue is that those forms are often outdated and/or don’t actually evaluate the behaviors that are impacting agent performance and Customer Experience.
They also lead to the agent behavior known as “check the box” call handling in which agents perform without the intent to deliver positive customer experiences, rather they perform with the intent to get a good score on their quality evaluations.
4. The Bias Problem
There are a number of biases that show up when humans are the QA team. When choosing what call recordings to evaluate, humans often pick shorter calls because they’ll take less time to evaluate. Shorter calls are often less complex and may score well while the agent may be struggling when encountering more complex issues.
As humans, we also often insert our own subjective judgments into a process that should be objective. If I have had either a positive or negative personal experience with an agent, that can bleed over into how I evaluate their phone calls. This can lead to artificially high or low QA scores.
5. The Consistency Problem
One of the biggest issues facing Quality Management programs is how consistently agents receive feedback. Depending on the evaluator, high-performing or low-performing agents may receive evaluations less consistently. This may be because we often think high performers require less feedback. It may also be the case that we don’t want to listen to low performers because we expect the calls to be below par and require more work. Evaluators may also leave executing QEs for late in the week or month depending on their other responsibilities. If agents recognize a pattern, they may focus only on performing well when they are likely to be evaluated.
All of these problems impact agent experience, Customer Experience, and/or agent retention, all of which impact the overall bottom line of a business. Replacing agents on a customer support team is costly and takes time. And no matter how good your training program is, new agents are, well, new. They take longer to resolve issues and make more mistakes - yet another drag on Customer Experience.
How can I Improve My Quality Assurance Management?
That’s a lot of problems and they may seem insurmountable, but they’re not. Advances in speech analytics, sentiment analysis, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML) have led to a quantum leap in Quality Assurance Management. It’s now possible to analyze 100% of calls nearly instantly and without bias. And rather than focusing on a score, you can turn your attention to agent behavior gaps and business process gaps that need to be closed.
If improving Quality Assurance Management is one of your current initiatives, we’d love to show you how Happitu Vision can can provide you business intelligence that drives contact center performance you never dreamed possible! Whether you have 3 agents or 300 agents, Happitu Vision is the easiest way to see every customer interaction - let us prove it!