April 19, 2019
When customers contact a company with whom they’re doing business, they expect a certain level of service. The most common types of customer interactions are those where someone is requesting information, in need of support, or initiating a transaction. Their expectations for service center around three areas:
- Does the agent understand my request or issue?
- Will my problem or question be satisfactorily resolved?
- Have I been treated fairly and with the proper appreciation for my continued business?
It sounds simple. Right? However, many companies struggle to deliver on these expectations consistently.
Call center agents are the first line of defense and point of contact for customers. Their interactions are critical to defining the customer experience. Service agents are trained to adhere to numerous policies, procedures, and metrics while keeping abreast of an ever-evolving list of new products to communicate.
To better align customer service agent efforts, quality standards are defined and audited by internal quality teams. Nearly every customer service center has a quality assurance team or “phone police squad” – that listens in on interactions and assesses whether or not the front-line agent’s conversation meets the specific standards adopted by the organization. Before the invention of speech analytics technology this manual review and scoring of calls was the gold standard of quality assurance practices. Since the broader adoption of the technology across the contact center industry many organizations are left wondering whether a Quality team is necessary to build and deliver superior customer service in today’s landscape?
To answer that question, it helps to examine the difference between their responsibilities and their capabilities and how they have evolved in recent years.
First, the role and goal of a Quality team are to listen to interactions and assess whether the agent communicated correct information to the customer in a relatable and understandable fashion. They use their checklist or scorecard to measures the agent’s skill level and overall effectiveness. Some checklists are short, consisting of five to seven questions, while others are lengthier, consisting of more than thirty items. Some Quality Managers believe that the more questions included on a checklist, the higher the quality of the assessment. However, in recent years the industry has begun to favor shorter forms that are focused only on what is genuinely critical to meeting a regulatory or compliance requirement, or delivering high-quality customer experiences.
The most common reason quality processes fail is due to the lack of emphasis placed on listening to the customer and determining whether the company is delivering on expectations. This goal is not achieved by filling in a checklist, but by collecting the relevant information that illustrates the reasons why the customer is reaching out for help so processes, tools and agent skills can be fine-tuned to respond effectively in the future. Quality teams are uniquely suited for this purpose for one fundamental reason: They observe more customer interactions than any other support group in a customer service operation. Often more than operations, training, and the senior leadership team combined. If used correctly your Quality team can be the Central Intelligence Agency for your company, ascertaining what customers want and how to deliver what they expect.
Secondly, Quality teams aim to provide objective feedback and be a single voice of truth. They learn what works well and are responsible for documenting what happened versus what should have taken place. This feedback is packaged with an evaluation form and provided to a supervisor or directly to the agent depending on the model in place. This process is sometimes ineffective, resulting in unnecessary work such as multiple rounds of fact checking, or efforts to determine if the assessment is accurate before accepting the feedback. Just one error and the Quality process loses credibility and buy-in, tying up resources for no benefit. The most successful feedback processes provide agents with a clear path to success. The Quality team is uniquely positioned to provide this support.
Why? Because your Quality team listens to both good and bad interactions, they can pinpoint the agents who provide positive customer experiences and help build a library of calls for other agents to emulate. Their insight will help you replicate positive outcomes and prevent repeating negative ones by using past calls as teachable moments in individual coaching sessions and allowing others to provide positive examples for their peers. This type of recognition is a force multiplier for customer experience growth.
Quality programs continue to evolve, enabled by technology and the application of best practices but one fact remains true: Your Quality Team is necessary for customer experience success even though the role they play in the process may change as the industry continues to mature.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kevin Zehnder, Vice President of Customer Experience Solutions
Kevin Zehnder is the Vice President of Customer Experience Solutions, for eClerx Customer Operations. With over 24 years’ experience in Customer Service and Sales, he is an industry leader in aligning Quality processes to optimize Customer Experience, including quality process design, customer survey methodology, closed-loop, feedback, and associate coaching. Kevin has also designed and implemented Customer Analytics that have provided corporate leaders with the data to enhance decision making in keeping with their brand promise. Before joining eClerx, Kevin spent nine years managing quality delivery for major outsource partners and has worked with industry leaders in NPS that include USAA, Amazon, and T-Mobile.
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