Industry experts offer best practices and advice for a customer-centric QM approach.
As contact centers continue to expand customer interaction channels with an eye toward improving the customer experience, many are finding that traditional quality monitoring processes also need to evolve.
For a quick pulse check on QM approaches, we turned to the industry experts. In this Q&A, they offer advice on how to include customer feedback in the QM process, how to do more with limited resources, best practices for agent self-evaluation, tips for incorporating above-and-beyond service in QM scoring, how to build frontline buy-in for QM and more.
How can call centers incorporate customer feedback into the QM process?
Richard Dumas: The voice of the customer ultimately determines whether or not the QM process works. Customer feedback can be collected during the call, as well as after the fact through customer satisfaction surveys, and should be one of the metrics against which overall performance is measured. All of this information can be stored in a single location so that, each time a call recording is accessed, all of the information associated with that call is readily available.
Kristyn Emenecker: There are two factors to consider when incorporating customer feedback into the QM process.
The first is the importance of recognizing how the quality management process provides an inside-out view of the customer interaction—what do we think, and how do we feel the customer interaction went? However, for a quality management program to be a success, it’s very important to also have an outside-in perspective on how the customer feels. One of the first places an organization can start is with that interaction-specific feedback. Customer-centric companies should have a solution in place that allows them to connect what the customer said with the accuracy and policy observations of the internal quality assessor. This provides a 360-degree view of the interaction.
The second piece is to not stop with an interaction view only. Think in terms of collecting and combining such data as Net Promoter Scores and general customer satisfaction surveys, etc. We want to be sure that all this information gets tied back into the process, so the quality management team can evolve and be informed based on what’s happening with its customers. Expectations in the customer engagement process are changing. What was once a very important measure may not have anything to do with customer satisfaction anymore. Challenge your organization to revisit these metrics and make sure that the data is being connected to maximize the time of both service centers and customers.
Michael Gregorio: With social media, this is the age of instant feedback. Waiting for a customer to post a review or call the call center is like rolling the dice on the company’s reputation. More often companies have no other option than to be always in reactive “damage-control” mode.
Customer feedback needs to be part of the overall company culture. I think of my own experiences with a truly “customer-centric” company culture (not one that just claims to be). They typically have a system in place to escalate any complaints to someone who could not only fix my situation, but could also assess whether it warranted further investigation. Customers want a channel through which they can be heard, but they also want to know that their issues will be resolved. And if the company passes this test, the customer will return the favor with their loyalty and even recommend others to your brand.
Creating a feedback loop with proactive survey tools and personalized interactions enables a business to receive positive praise or fix issues before the customer calls—and possibly more important, deter potential negative feedback about the customer experience. Most customers complain when they are having a truly horrible experience. But there are many more dissatisfied who don’t speak up, and these are the ones companies need to encourage to provide feedback. By doing so, the company is also likely to hear from all those customers who think that your brand is great.
Scott Kolman: Customer feedback should be quantified, whenever possible, and linked to the interaction that it is regarding, and then correlated against any QM-related metrics that are available for those same interactions. Customer survey scores should be correlated against QM scores for the same interaction, along with all applicable interaction metadata (such as call handle time) and interaction analytics metrics or insights about the interaction (if available) to uncover the root causes of negative (or positive) customer feedback. Customer feedback gleaned by speech analytics can then be correlated against any QM-related metrics that are available for those same interactions, whether those metrics are measured by speech analytics or by traditional QM processes.
Janice Rapp: Customer feedback or voice of the customer (VoC) is essential to a successful quality program. Contact centers can use this feedback during traditional quality coaching sessions. In addition, this data can be used to enhance products, improve processes and optimize center training.
How can centers make more efficient use of limited QA staff resources?
Richard Dumas: Limited quality assurance resources are not uncommon across the contact center industry, and the range of what defines limited resources also varies greatly. We have seen small to medium contact centers where supervisory staff doubles as QA to monitor performance, as well as extremely large BPOs that have dozens of QA monitors, but also have a 40:1 agent-to-QA ratio.
The quality assurance department is one of the areas that most benefits from automation. Having the right tools in the hands of the agents creates efficiencies by reducing the time that it takes to monitor and score a call, and increase session accuracy and consistency.
Kristyn Emenecker: The best way to make more efficient use of today’s QA staff recourses is to simply leverage customer analytics technology—which can include speech analytics, text analytics, enterprise feedback management and more. The software is incredibly helpful because it captures and analyzes call trends and keywords, and then interprets them in the context of business objectives. This is very tedious work and takes time for staff to manage. By having this information mined with an automated system, a QA team could then look to revisit processes and policies, coach service representatives, drive performance and employee engagement, and have the data at their fingertips to make a difference across the overall center.
Scott Kolman: The amount of time that your QA staff spends identifying which interactions to evaluate should be minimized as much as possible. At a minimum, your staff should select interactions based on rich metadata from the contact center platform. To be effective, that data should be easily accessible to your staff from the QM application.
At Genesys, we have found that the most efficient method is to use interaction analytics to automate the process of identifying which interactions need to be reviewed by QA staff, and to pinpoint the specific segments within those interactions that should be evaluated further.
Janice Rapp: Traditionally, contact centers create a silo for QM, which often creates an “us vs. them” culture. New successes in QM include leveraging all stakeholders in the QM process. Examples of this include peer-to-peer coaching or agent-to-agent coaching, including agents during calibrations, holding agent-only calibrations, having supervisors conduct evaluations on agent’s reporting to someone else and manager participation. The benefits of stakeholder participation is that it creates agent buy-in, which ultimately reduces agent churn by creating value, reducing the monotony of the role and creating an interdepartmental relationship that breaks down silos, among others.
Should agent self-evaluation be included in the QM process? What is the best approach for doing so?
Richard Dumas: Having agents share in the QA process can be extremely valuable to both the agents and the QM team. Each recording can have both an agent and a quality monitor form attached to it so that both parties can listen to and score the same calls individually. They can then share different perspectives with one another about the elements that contributed to the success of an interaction from their respective vantage points.
Kristyn Emenecker: The demographics of today’s workforce show increasing desire for self-determination, high transparency and real-time feedback. Having tools and processes that encourage self-evaluation, self-direction and transparent performance management leads to greater employee engagement with the QM process. Companies should look for a QM system designed to support self-evaluation—meaning employees can easily access, play back and score their own evaluations—and also offer reporting and security controls to prevent disclosure of sensitive data and provide appropriate segmentation of reporting per program guidelines.
Michael Gregorio: Winning employee engagement and self-evaluation involvement from early on in the monitoring process is essential.
When monitoring is introduced, there’s a tendency for some people to think it will be critical and tend to focus on meeting the call center metrics, rather than focusing on the customer experience. On the other hand, a self-evaluation monitoring approach that is flexible and collaborative, rather than authoritarian and rigid, can lead to more acceptance and cooperation. Every customer call is unique and having the flexibility to self-evaluate will empower the call center agent to provide the “ultimate” customer experience.
Scott Kolman: Yes, agents should review any of their own customer interactions identified by the QM process as having not met expectations. It is also helpful to provide your agents with the ability to review example interactions from other agents where the same skill or behavior was handled exceptionally well.
The best approach for making this manageable is to use a software solution that makes it easy to create “lists” of example interactions. This software should make it easy to identify and create a list of interactions within which the agent could have performed better, as well as lists of “best practice” examples within which other agents have performed exceptionally well. It is important to also make it easy to include and access those lists within coaching and self-evaluation sessions.
Janice Rapp: Yes, it should begin with teaching agents the process and including them in the calibration process. Once they display competency with calibrations and the auditing process, each agent would be allowed to evaluate one of their evaluations per week as service levels permit. This approach is great for developing agent skills in regard to succession planning or career mapping.
How can centers incorporate “above-and-beyond” or “wow” service delivery into QM scoring?
Richard Dumas: Measure soft skills and leverage your data. It’s vital that you have the hard numbers for the basic metrics—proper greeting, script adherence, first-call resolution, etc. However, all of this doesn’t tell you how the customer felt at the end of the call. Measuring soft skills, such as if the agent cared, was interested, casually collected insights throughout the course of the call, is critical to ensure that the agent successfully followed the call flow and met the criteria. That’s what helps you build agent proficiencies for better recruitment and career-pathing the agents.
Once you have your data, use it. Find out what the customers were thinking, identify trends, fine-tune your business process flow and offerings to the things that matter to your customers. Many contact centers listen to the recordings then let the calls just sit on a server, never looking back. You’ve invested in the technology to record and save those calls. Leverage them. Save them in a location where they are readily available, with role-based access, to those users who can benefit from listening to the recordings for customer intelligence rather than skill. There is a treasure trove of information in those recordings to help you provide “wow” service to your customers.
Kristyn Emenecker: In a situation where call centers are needing to go above and beyond in their service delivery efforts, it’s very important to make sure that data is being mined on everything and in all active channels that customers utilize. Voice of the customer analytics has the ability to incorporate the wow-factor service delivery into QM scoring, as well. By utilizing this valuable customer feedback, companies can leverage analytics for not just coaching opportunities, but also to understand outliers. Just because an agent is attempting to hit a set metric in the QM process, such as reducing call time, doesn’t mean that the customer satisfaction metric in scoring is being fulfilled. By mining all data, contact center supervisors can track recorded interactions to determine that the customer might have been left unsatisfied based on the analyzed data being presented by the correct tools. The supervisor can then return to the unhappy customer and amend the situation, while using the interaction as an individual coaching moment for the agent and work to diminish other outliers.
Michael Gregorio: Call centers that incorporate an interaction-aware omnichannel strategy deliver higher service delivery QM scores than those that do not.
Such an omnichannel infrastructure is aware of customer interactions the moment they begin, and it immediately kicks into action. Business rules make the right decisions for the specific customer and circumstances. And this can all happen instantly and automatically: no time lags waiting for responses, and no agent has been involved.
The omnichannel approach continually monitors all interactions across all channels, and is executing strategies that drive faster, more efficient customer service, opens new selling and service opportunities, and creates a fully personalized and personal experience for the customer.
In the end, the customer should have a simple, satisfying and highly personalized service experience and the business should be able to attain high QM scores.
Scott Kolman: “Above-and-beyond” or “wow” service delivery needs to be defined objectively, according to specific, objectively measurable behaviors or interaction outcomes. When an interaction analytics solution is utilized to automate QM scoring, such behaviors or outcomes need to be defined according to specific phrases that can be recognized by the solution. Only then can those situations be accurately identified and scored.
Janice Rapp: This is really dependent on the solution they are utilizing for QM. Many solutions allow for you to give “bonus” points in which an agent can score above 100%.
What’s the best way to build frontline trust and buy-in for the QM process?
Richard Dumas: You will hear us always refer to the technology because Five9 has implemented solutions that are unique, in some form or other, to each and every one of our customers. We have seen time and again the impact that this type of automation can have on a contact center’s operational efficiencies.
But you will also always hear us say that it isn’t technology alone. The technology only exists to enable contact centers to deliver the best service possible. Trust and buy-in will come naturally through the common belief that everyone in the organization is there to meet the needs of the customer, and that any QM process or technology implemented only exists to help the team reach that goal.
Kristyn Emenecker: In a trusted and successful QM process, contact center supervisors should be holding all employees to the same standards and scoring metrics. Doing so will help ensure that trust is built and sustained through validation from customers. Employees believe that customers have driven the behaviors that they are being measured on, therefore carefully documenting the adherence to calibration process between evaluations will help employees feel like they are being treated equally and fairly. Where appropriate, engage an employee delegate in the calibration process. This builds trust and visibility and enables employees to take turns representing their peers in a professional setting.
Michael Gregorio: Top-performing call center agents demand that you keep score for accountability. Under a data-based monitoring approach, they will have fewer surprises because their performance level, successes and errors will be measured and reported to them continuously.
Fortunately, call center agents are almost always focused on the numbers, so data can be used to influence them and change their behavior. It’s essential that agents are directly provided with feedback that has been proven to make them more compliant and effective, always with the aim of improving the customer experience.
The QA monitoring process should be objective, using a method of scoring and self-evaluating that is fair and agreed upon by all in advance, and it must be consistent and regular. Most importantly, call center agents should be made to feel that they are contributing to the customer resolution. Not only does this encourage their buy-in to the process, but the agent’s comments and suggestions are often extremely insightful.
Scott Kolman: It is important to start by ensuring that all QM criteria are objective, not subjective. Next, fully educate your frontline staff on the quality management criteria, process and required skills to ensure that the measurement criteria and process are transparent to all employees. This type of education should be part of new-hire training, with reminders included in all periodic training. Whenever there are changes to the QM process or to important QM criteria, all of your frontline employees should be trained immediately on those changes.
Janice Rapp: See Question 2 (“How can centers make more efficient use of limited QA staff resources?”). In short, include them in the “complete” QM process.
What are the best skill sets for the QA role?
Richard Dumas: The ability to understand quality assurance applications and processes, as well as the experience in establishing monitoring criteria and scoring methodology are, of course, critical skills. But in the end, all of the tools in the world do not give a QA representative the inherent soft skills required to excel in that role. QM employees must have a genuine interest in establishing customer loyalty and retention and, with that goal as the focus of every monitoring session, the QA representative will be able to listen for things that are implicitly stated during a call as well as those things that are communicated by tone and emotion. Those things can then be translated into actionable areas of opportunity and growth for the agents.
Kristyn Emenecker: Depending on the focus on the business, a best-in-class contact center that understands and is focused on customer engagement should look for employees who are detail oriented. This is a very important skill, because someone who has the ability to focus and pick up on details will help drive success in hisher interactions. If heshe is not detail-oriented, there will be challenges with actively listening to specifics in calls.
Additionally, look for someone who has an engagement skill set. This is more difficult to hire for, but there are various tests that can be done to help determine the right candidate. Someone who has experience engaging and connecting with customers can articulate well, understand and relate to customers. Keep in mind this engagement skill is what sets contact center QA staff apart from manufacturing or other types of QA.
Self-awareness is another important attribute, because the employee can turn challenges into coaching opportunities and make recommendations for other employees to help engage customers better. Don’t forget that these skills are equally important for supervisors as they are for agents or those responsible for quality assurance.
Scott Kolman: The QA role of today and the future requires analytical skills combined with a high level of business aptitude. This combination of skills should help your staff to leverage today’s innovative QM related software solutions to help uncover the root causes of performance issues and recommend the optimal resolutions to accomplish your business objectives.
Janice Rapp: Those solely in the QA role should have the following skills: attention to detail, doesn’t mind repetitive tasks, analytical, good written and verbal communication, and patience!