Quality is more than what happens within a phone call in today’s Contact Center, although certainly the call continues to be a major communication channel and a significant player in designing the Customer Experience. That said, we must continually ask ourselves, “What is a Quality call and how do we know when we have one?” Well explore this significant question and talk about several ways to assess whether your Quality criteria is on target.
According to the dictionary, Quality refers to the “inherent or distinctive characteristics or properties of a person, object, process, or other thing.” Bruce Vinson, former Quality and Process Director at the Corporate Express Customer Experience Center in Denver, CO, defines a Quality call as one that “conforms to internal and external customer requirements.” There are, I suppose, as many definitions of a Quality call as there are Contact Centers. But there are some core themes that repeat across the industry.
An increasingly emerging theme relates to the visibility of today’s Quality programs – all executives want to be kept abreast of the Quality scores. Enormous amounts of time, energy, labor, and money are spent on Quality in today’s Contact Centers, forcing us to continually evaluate and refine the program. (Sadly, however, there are some Centers that simply continue to make paper copies of a form developed decades ago. These programs are administered by frontline management that have little or very limited training in coaching and developing staff, never mind delivering a great return on the Quality investment.)
There are significant benefits associated with a Quality Experience being delivered to customers of any Contact Center and as many versions of Quality programs. Much has been written on this topic, but it remains fresh and interesting because the dynamics of Quality, like the dynamics of any Contact Center, always seem to be in motion.
The guidelines for how we know when we have a Quality call are expanding. Expectations for Quality are moving beyond just the “roots” of the call, as Tena Perrelli of the Gardener’s Supply Company in Burlington, VT puts it. According to Tena, “Roots refers to the nuts and bolts of the call … the greeting, system navigation, accurate entry, use of tools, etc. She goes on to say, “The bloom components of our evaluation program focus on the soft skills that really define our customer’s “emotional impression of us.” (It is interesting how Gardener’s Supply has managed to use a metaphor that reflects its business!)
Emotional impressions … whew … this is getting deep. However, this is not a radically new concept. A similar sentiment was expressed by a trainer in one of our client organizations. She knows that a call has been successful if the customer “feels” valued, confident, successful, and part of the family. There has always been an interest in the emotional aspect of the Quality Experience, but only recently have we seen it articulated as a desired outcome.
If this type of connection to your customer is one of your desired outcomes (and who among us does not want the customer to actually feel good about the experience we provide?), it might be time to assess your Quality observation evaluation criteria. Four key activities come to mind.
- Develop very clear written guidelines for the program. Define purpose, outcomes, frequency of observations, roles, how information is shared, etc.). Write incredibly clear definitions of expectations for each element of the assessment tool and specify how performance within the assessment will be measured.
- Confirm that your agents understand the desired outcome of your Quality program. Conduct an anonymous survey of your agents. You may yield some very interesting information about what they think management is looking for!
- Establish strictly behavior-driven assessment criteria. Assess specific behaviors associated with your desired outcomes to remove subjectivity.Instead of asking coaches to evaluate whether the agent used “active listening skills,” break down the skill to specific criteria (e.g., offered feedback, repeated and confirmed information, restated reason for call, etc.).
- Train, train, train. Train agents the art of combining interaction skills with the necessary transaction skills to generate a “connection” with the customer. If you wanted a robot, you could automate transactions. Keep in mind that the essence of human contact is emotional in nature.
The best Quality programs I see know what they want in a Quality call. They also know that you must understand expectations and objectives and translate them into measurable criteria that align with the purpose of the Quality program.
Is This Really A Quality Call?
If we assume that we know what a Quality call is, how can we assure that we have it? Do high scores on our Quality assessments provide enough evidence that our program is effective? The answer is … not really. There are simply too many variables. If you have very high Quality scores, but long delays and high abandons, something just does not add up. Quality cannot exist in isolation. Contact Centers have enormous cross-functional dependencies that must be evaluated to provide a truly Quality Experience for the customer. Contact Centers can have the nicest people in the world, but if they are only “authorized to apologize” because they are surrounded by process failures, customers cannot walk away saying that their experience was truly a Quality one. Quality programs need to “fuel” efficiency and effectiveness across the enterprise.
First Call Resolution has gained momentum as a Quality measure. It is a major driver for Quality programs that are moving beyond assessing only the emotional connection and data entry accuracy. The enterprise expects more. In a report published by Ascent, 55% of respondents said that they use some form of First Call Resolution as part of their Quality assessment. Measurements like these enrich the knowledge that we are indeed providing a Quality call as part of a total Quality Experience.
However, we may still be missing important criteria if we look only at individual agent performance for evidence of true Quality. The proof that we have Quality calls and contacts emerge from a number of other measures. In fact, Quality programs need to hold up their results with other performance criteria such as service level, error rates, average handle time, abandon rates, sales per call, cost per call, customer feedback (e.g., surveys, complaints, returns), and cross-functional process improvements … to name just a few!
Recording software that captures both voice and data offers a means of expanding the Quality program across the enterprise by providing information vital to business, process, systems, and training improvement initiatives. This is the ultimate form of knowing you have a Quality contact! With a significant number of Contact Centers evaluating and purchasing voice and data recording capability, the opportunity to evaluate all elements of the contact, across all channels, is revolutionizing Contact Center Quality programs. In addition, advanced recording systems now have the capability for Speech Analytics. This positions recording tools even further for greater business analysis, promotion performance, and process analysis.
Contact Centers equipped with powerful recording tools make compelling cases for process/system improvements and efficiency gains that no amount of work on the agent side alone can deliver. In-depth analytical capability allows the organizing of disparate data streams to provide a richer view of the entire Customer Experience … in near real-time dashboard presentations that enhance cross-functional activities not limited to the Contact Center.
As a colleague once wrote to me, “A Quality call results in the customer having a positive and memorable experience with our company.” As we have seen here, a Quality Experience takes a much broader view and a bit more effort, but the results are well worth it!
– Reprinted with permission from PowerHouse Consulting, Inc., www.powerhouse1.com