As customer expectations and channels for outreach continue to evolve, the contact center is becoming more and more complex and critical.
Contact center associates need to be able to quickly assess where customers are in their journeys and navigate between multiple systems and screens to solve issues, all while remaining empathetic and professional in the face of potentially frustrated customers.
The key to delivering an exceptional customer experience (CX) isn’t just an ability to juggle all these aspects, however. It’s a combination of the proper training to help associates feel confident instead of overwhelmed, and ongoing efforts to make sure the right infrastructure and processes are in place.
...associates need to be able to quickly assess where customers are in their journeys...
This is where quality monitoring (QM) comes in. A robust QM program uses listening, screen monitoring, and advanced data analytics to identify both issues faced by individual associates, as well as larger, systemic issues contributing to an undesirable CX.
When used properly, QM becomes an essential tool that can enable businesses to implement transformational change that impacts the satisfaction of their contact center associates and their customers alike.
The Role of QM in the Contact Center
All too often QM is seen as a “check the box” exercise, with some companies or managers just looking to complete a task so they can receive their score.
The most common mistakes companies make when reducing QM to this are:
- Focusing on too narrow of a scope, such as only the compliance score or percentage of issues resolved while ignoring insights.
- Using QM assessments of individuals to determine incentives.
These approaches fail to take the larger CX into account and result in missed opportunities to delight customers while improving the working experience for associates.
A comprehensive QM program will look at all aspects of the contact center, from behaviors such as compliance, empathy, and use of hold time to the workflow and technology supporting associates.
From QM, companies can get a sense of areas where associates need additional training to be able to answer questions more quickly or de-escalate issues and learn which system access or technology roadblocks are causing associates to fumble.
The technology and processes can also help identify consistent patterns across associates and where the implementation of a business-level solution might drive a marked improvement.
During one QM engagement we identified that a large number of repeat calls were due to customers looking for a status update on submitted work orders.
Rather than just narrowly checking off that repeat calls were addressed and resolved, we created a business process to set up a communications channel to keep customers updated that would result in a reduction of repeat calls and a more streamlined experience for customers. This is a very real example of how clients can use QM insights to actively improve their CX.
Training With Real-Life Examples
Another common misuse of QM programs is using them as the primary factor in determining incentives. This often results in a culture focused on disputing scores rather than actual improvements based on recommendations.
A better approach is to use QM assessments as training opportunities focusing on positive examples of excellent customer service.
During the review of conversations, QM assessors can provide contact centers with examples of exceptional calls that highlight specific attributes to encourage. Showcasing these examples in front of a wider associate team not only helps reinforce desired behaviors, but also recognizes the hard work of the associate on the call in question.
Trends Across CX and QM
When issues with the CX are identified as part of a QM program, these issues are often the result of either problems with systems that hamstring associates, or a failure in training programs.
Here are some common contact center trends impacting the CX today, and how to address them:
Tracking the Customer Journey
Companies are offering more and more channels for customer service, including phone, email, chat, and self-service options.
As a result, a customer’s history with the company may be spread out across platforms. If the associate isn’t able to quickly identify where that person is on their customer journey, and what steps have already been taken, the customer may feel frustrated.
QM can help identify when this is happening and on what scale. If only a few associates are having difficulty, this may be something to address individually with ongoing training.
However, if data shows this to be a systemic issue, there could be a problem with how the different platforms are integrated and how the company is collecting and analyzing the information. Understanding the root of the issue is essential to determine the next steps for improved CX.
Increased Issue Complexity
Self-service digital options are becoming more popular, but as companies make it easier for customers to answer simple questions online, associates are having to deal primarily with the more complex issues.
These issues are not always possible to address with just one or two systems, and associates may find themselves jumping between 10 or even 15 applications. Not only can this make work feel overwhelming, but on-hold frequency and duration might be affected while customers wait for associates to wade through the multiple, disjointed systems.
A simplified interface can go a long way towards making it easier for associates to answer complex questions...
When screen monitoring identifies that these problems are occurring, a technology assessment can be the next step to reduce strain on associates and improve the CX.
At the same time many companies are now turning to contact center as a service (CCaaS) solutions to integrate the core functionality of loading and queueing calls, with knowledge management, timing, scheduling, and more.
If a company decides to go this route, CCaaS platforms that have been built from the ground up tend to offer a more integrated and easy-to-learn experience than those that have been cobbled together from different existing systems.
A simplified interface can go a long way towards making it easier for associates to answer complex questions and reduce associate and customer stress.
Security and Access
Even when contact center systems are all integrated through an easy-to-use interface, having the wrong security settings and role-based permissions configured can hinder the CX by preventing visibility into customer data in a timely manner.
When repeated instances of associates being blocked from systems or having to transfer a call to someone else occur, it may be time to consider reassessing back-end settings and updating training to include how to use newly accessible systems.
AI-Powered Speech Analytics
Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered speech analytics are growing in popularity, but companies need to be careful not to rely on them as the sole source of truth.
While fully automating the QM process can sound appealing, it results in missing out on opportunities for improved CX that come from combining AI with the human element.
AI-powered speech analytics also won’t provide insights into what’s happening on associates’ screens.
Trained QM assessors look beyond the words directly spoken and will also check for tone, focusing on agent attributes such as empathy and engagement.
The assessors may provide recommendations (based on real call examples) to help modulate words and tone when dealing with frustrated customers, or ways to keep customers engaged with questions. When used in training, this can help better prepare associates to interact with customers and create a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
AI-powered speech analytics also won’t provide insights into what’s happening on associates’ screens. This may mean that companies aren’t able to identify potential distractions or have a full understanding of whether on-hold is being used efficiently and legitimately.
For example, an assessor may discover that customers are being put on hold while associates look up information they should already know, or that on-hold times are longer than needed because the associate is struggling to navigate the system. Only by having a complete view of what is happening can companies take needed steps to address the problem.
Work from Home
Even as we adjust to the world with COVID-19, many associates are still working from home (WFH). Our QM assessors are finding that the WFH-related issues customers complain about the most have to do with poor audio quality, such as echoey or choppy sound, or low volume.
Often such problems could be caused by associates using their built-in computer microphones and speakers instead of headsets. When one is working alone one can be tempted to avoid wearing them. A simple update to the training programs to include information about the importance of using a headset can be an easy way to reduce friction on calls.
Tenure-Related Performance Decline
The associates who have been around the longest deliver the best CX, correct? Actually, this is not always the case. Companies with a poor feedback management system or which stress performance metrics are seeing a trend toward service decline in associates with a long tenure.
Newer associates bring energy and focus to customer interactions, but over time this begins to peter out if they don’t feel valued and engaged at work.
When feedback is based on pointing out poor performance or performance metric scores that don’t take the customer situation into account, such as having to finish a call in a set number of seconds regardless of complexity, associates become unnecessarily stressed. They then begin to focus on meeting the performance requirements rather than providing a good CX.
QM assessors who see increased disengagement can take it as an indication that the contact center environment and feedback approach may need to be reassessed. Implementing a training program to help supervisors develop their coaching skills can be one way to address this head-on.
For example, when we partnered with a Fortune 100 Telecom contact center to provide a coaching development program for supervisors, the program achieved the following results in just six weeks:
- Voice of the Customer Representative Satisfaction improved 4.2% points overall; one supervisor team increased by 10.6% points.
- First Call Resolution increased 40 basis points, which equated to $500,000 in cost savings.
- Level of dissatisfaction at the end of the call was reduced; customers threatened to cancel service on nearly 25% fewer calls.
Focusing on improved coaching skills and feedback strategies can help drastically alter the contact center atmosphere and keep long-time associates delivering better results.
Contact Center Transformation Through QM
QM programs can empower companies by providing in-depth, actionable insights into their contact centers.
From informing training strategies to systems and processes, companies that implement an effective QM program are able to improve both the working experience for their associates and the overall CX. Ongoing QM can also be an effective tool to stay ahead of new issues that arise in the ever-changing customer service environment, positioning associates to continue to excel as brand ambassadors into the future.