This is Blog #2 in our Contact Center Quality Assurance Framework Series. You can find Blog #1 here. The series will continue offering insight with upcoming blogs focused on tactical and strategic QA frameworks, which will be published soon. Stay tuned!
In the U.S., the call center industry has a market size of approximately $24 billion spread across 33,471 businesses and 456,347 employees. And globally, the industry is expected to reach $496 billion by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.6%.
As for the impact of COVID-19 on call center outsourcing, markets expect growth to accelerate by 3% with an incremental growth of $13.67bn. This growth is primarily driven by demand and increases in consumer spending and business activity.
Source: BusinessWire: COVID-19: Call Center Outsourcing Market 2020-2024 | Increasing Use of RPA in Call Centers to Boost Market Growth | Technavio
There’s no doubt the call center industry will continue to grow, and as it does, you will need accurate quality assurance metrics to ensure it is scaling and improving along with that growth. That’s why quality assurance frameworks are so critical to success.
Understanding Why Call Center Quality Assurance Frameworks Matter
Call center quality assurance (QA) is, by its very nature, difficult to understand, measure, and improve upon. While quality assurance is centered on positive growth, the challenge is call center success (or failure) is often subjective. When measuring relationships and the customer experience, there is bound to be misinterpretation, misleading trends, or data points that potentially answer the wrong questions.
A quality assurance framework that outlines the exact standards, KPIs, evaluations, and analysis that will be used in your call center is essential. It’s a guide for how you’ll determine if your contact center is headed in the right direction, and how you’re going to get there.
Call center QA frameworks can be categorized as operational, tactical, or strategic, according to the impact they have on the customer experience and on actual business results. Whatever the case, the framework becomes a playbook contact center managers can use to run as efficiently as possible.
A framework can help QA managers think more strategically and objectively. It provides a look at the big picture when examining inherent challenges and growth opportunities. Goals are more easily identifiable, as are key performance indicators (KPIs).
Most importantly, a framework changes call center quality assurance measurement from the subjective to the objective, simplifying complex data analysis to bring clarity to what we know.
Understanding Operational QA Framework in the Call Center
The essential starting points for building a call center QA framework are your processes and workflows. This is the core of every call center and the basis of an Operational QA framework.
When we reference the operational aspects of a call center, we are speaking to the day-to-day nuts and bolts of getting the job done. In the most immediate sense, we’re talking about the decisions and actions that get you from point A to point B in the most efficient and customer-centric way possible.
Call centers with an Operational QA framework typically:
- Measure QA as part of the daily operation,
- Focus primarily on identifying poor performers,
- Complete a monthly quota of staff scores,
- Perform monthly evaluations by team leaders.
5 Steps to Implement an Operational Quality Assurance Framework
There are five steps to implement an operational quality assurance framework that ultimately improves call center processes and workflows. There are challenges within each, but understanding what it looks like eventually helps you to evolve and build more tactical and strategic QA frameworks down the line.
1. Identify KPIs and Align Them Across the Board
The first step to developing an operational QA framework is to decide how you’ll measure productivity and efficiency. You’ll need to measure everything from customer demand to call volume and staff turnover to get a clear idea of how much work you accomplish daily. This is directly tied to your service level and profitability.
So, how do you measure productivity as part of daily operations? There are a few metrics important to track.
- Abandonment Rate: The total percent of calls abandoned based on call volume.
- Average Handle Time: How long your agents spend on the phone handling a customer in real-time.
- Average Time in Queue: This helps you determine how long it takes for your call center agents to answer calls and respond to chats.
- First Call Resolution Rate: The lower your FCR rate, the more productive you are because it means your customers are satisfied with one interaction.
- Average After-Call Time: How long your agents spend after a call to deal with administrative tasks.
- Cost Per Call: How much it costs per call, which reflects how many calls you need to handle to earn a profit.
- Annual Turnover Rate: The number of employees who leave your call center compared to your total number of staff.
Finally, you can use the call center productivity formula to get a final answer about your productivity. The formula is: (Total Output / Total Input) x 100 = Labor Productivity. Total Output refers to the amount of time employees spend on their goals, while Total Input refers to the total time your employees have to spend. The final percent productivity is how much time your call center agents spend doing their jobs.
2. Identify Areas of Success and Consistent Service Delivery
Consistency is key in most industries and functions, but especially important when managing the personalized level of service call centers demand their employees deliver on a regular basis. In fact, consistency across touchpoints is one of the largest call center objectives for 2025.
And yet, CSAT (customer satisfaction) tops the list as an area where most call centers feel they need the most improvement. A call center cannot be customer-centric if it does not know its customers. High customer feedback scores are what matter most to call centers, and they are also one of the most difficult areas in which to achieve consistency.
Consistency can easily become one of the more subjective data points to measure within an operational QA framework. The problem is that, too often, importance is misplaced on fulfilling a quota of monthly scores and on identifying poor performers.
Instead, call center managers must first define what is meant by “consistent service delivery” and then benchmark attainable consistent data points. These data points must not only be measurable, but they should be easily translatable to quality assurance leaders and shareable with their teams.
3. Identify Areas for Improvement
Within an operational call center QA framework, time must be dedicated to effectively manage performance and quality. That’s why identifying poor performers and areas for improvement, as well as focusing on follow-through actions, remains an important goal. Unfortunately, many call center managers agree that “there is not enough time to analyze data,” nor is there “time or resources available to coach and train.”
Contact center QA data must result in resource-driven measurements for appropriate identification of knowledge gaps and subsequent coaching/training. With real-time monitoring via QA self-scorecards, text analytics, and call monitoring, you can uncover gaps in product and service knowledge, skills, communication, empathy, and more. Not only will you be able to understand what drives customer contact issues and volumes, but you’ll be able to see what’s working and what’s not.
Then, once a poor performer is identified, the remaining challenge is to understand the ‘root cause’ of why they are performing poorly and how to coach for greater success. You can create a learning & development strategy focused on solving this customer-centric issue and minimizing its reoccurrence. This could mean adding a new training course, holding one-on-one mentorship sessions, updating your knowledge base, or even developing a new call center script.
4. Measure Adherence to Process and Procedure as Related to Customer Experience
According to Customer Contact Week Digital, 93% of consumers say they consider the support experience before purchasing—at least in some cases. Meanwhile, a mere 11% of consumers believe brands take their feedback seriously, and only 10.5% of consumers believe agents care about helping solve their problems.
Source: Customer Contact Week Digital, Market Study: Trends in Customer Experience Design & Strategy
This means there is a disconnect in most call centers. You might feel you are demonstrating legitimate interest in customers without making real connections. Call centers should be the closest to understanding what customers think and feel—their pain points. But this can be difficult if too much emphasis is placed on rigid policies.
Measuring the overall impact of a call center’s process and procedures is meaningful at all stages of the call center’s development, but only if it can be related to its impact on the customer experience. While process and procedure adherence may be measurable, it is not especially useful if little or no action is taken based on learned results. By paying attention to how adherence to processes trickles down to the customer, improvements can be made in experiences and operations.
5. Track Agent Development and Progress
Monthly quota-based tracking checks the box when it comes to tracking agent development and progress, but it is not a clear and effective way to coach or motivate employees. These data points are often convoluted and there is rarely time to analyze results with an in-depth look into what may really be going on. Plus, only 38% of managers believe their training fits their learner’s needs. That’s why it’s so important to provide agent development opportunities based on your organization’s goals and resources as well as the individual’s needs and the customer experience.
Quality assurance team leaders need to create agent-centered learning and development that is both valuable and desirable. It should use the information provided by scorecards, text analytics, and other call monitoring tools to identify where development is needed and how progress is made. If you can match agent training to overarching goals, you can match your efforts to actual improvement and track its success.
Looking Forward to Tactical and Strategic Frameworks
Call center QA within an operational framework is a great place to start. The processes and workflows in an operational framework are absolutely essential to call center success. It focuses on the core of your contact center—its daily processes and procedures—to help you improve productivity and efficiency at every level.
However, there can be many missed growth opportunities. It is best practice to consider operational QA as the baseline framework for success. This short-term decision-making is what begins to support the grander scheme. It should be where you start and then evolve from there to tactical and strategic frameworks.