This is Blog #1 in our Contact Center Quality Assurance Framework Series.
Contact centers are essential to everything from building brand loyalty to improving efficiency and productivity and facilitating growth. After all, 96 percent of consumers worldwide believe that customer service is a defining factor when it comes to brand choice and loyalty, according to the 2017 Microsoft State of Customer Service report.
Optimized customer experiences must be a priority. It’s what will set your company apart from the competition. And that’s why your contact center needs to be monitored, evaluated, and improved regularly.
You can’t sit on your laurels and just assume that you’re meeting your customer satisfaction standards. You have to have a way to measure the quality of your service, and that’s where quality assurance comes into play.
The Importance of Quality Assurance in the Contact Center
But you can’t determine how well your call center is performing—how happy your customers are—without a quality assurance process.
Quality assurance is essential for:
- Evaluating agent performance and training your call center agents.
- Increasing operational efficiency.
- Collaborating internally and externally
- Elevating the customer experience.
- And ensuring that your customer interactions are aligned with your business goals.
With quality assurance in place, you can drastically improve almost every aspect of your contact center and make better decisions. The problem is knowing what to monitor, measure, and improve.
The Challenges of Contact Center QA
There is a massive amount of data that can be collected and associated with contact center QA; and there are many methods for collecting that data. The main problem is that there are very few ways to collect that data without the need for significant resources.
Few contact centers have the data collection technology, skills, and time required to dedicate to managing contact center performance and quality. In fact, for 37% of companies, lack of time to collect and analyze data is the biggest struggle when it comes to QA. Following close behind are: not enough time and resources to coach and train people on how and what to collect (31%) and a lack of technology (25%).
The large amount of QA metadata available, combined with its complexity, means that it can be difficult for teams to interpret and create actionable improvements. It’s too easy to get lost in the data instead of taking a step back and looking at the big picture.
That’s why a call center quality assurance framework is so essential.
What is a Call Center Framework for Quality Assurance
A call center QA framework is a set of success criteria and metrics that you use to measure and manage your quality of service. Think of it as a guide to monitoring your contact center and analyzing the results.
The right framework can help you define your key performance indicators, identify goals, and pinpoint how you can obtain the most strategic long-term value from your contact center. The appropriate QA framework can, essentially, determine where your contact center is headed and how you’re going to get there.
The key is to develop the most effective QA framework for your contact center, which means taking an in-depth look at your customer service goals as well as the processes and tools you have in place.
Your call center QA framework should answer the following quality assurance questions:
- What data will you measure?
- How will you score customer interactions (calls, emails, live chat, social media, etc.)?
- How will you monitor and evaluate communication?
- What will your analyses look like?
- How will you implement improvements based on your QA findings?
By establishing a QA workflow and framework, you’ll set your contact center up for success by making it scalable and repeatable. It will also provide your agents, supervisors, and managers with guidelines for handling customer interactions.
But that requires you to understand the three types of QA frameworks and where your contact center fits in the evolutionary process of creating a framework that is best for your organization, now and into the future.
Three Types of QA Frameworks
Most call center QA frameworks can be categorized into operational, tactical, or strategic, depending on your organization’s readiness through these evolutionary levels of maturity. The more evolved the framework, the more it looks at the overall view of your call center, and the more it will help you overcome challenges and uncover growth opportunities.
Almost every contact center is in one of the following QA phases or in some blend of operational, tactical, and strategic. The key is to be able to identify where your call center currently is on this continuum, and then to determine the necessary next steps to evolve to the next level.
To help you do that, let’s first take a look at the different QA frameworks.
1. The Operational QA Framework
Almost every call center begins with an operational QA framework. This is the essential starting point because it supports the processes and workflows that are at the core of every call center. We’re talking about the nuts and bolts of getting the job done on a day-to-day basis.
An operational QA framework and its associated metrics, can support moving your call center from point A to point B in an efficient and customer-centric way. It does this by relying on consistency, which means that you’re most likely:
- Measuring QA as part of your daily processes
- Using QA primarily to identify poor performers
- Trying to meet a quota of scores by staff each month
- Performing evaluations monthly
Unfortunately, where this framework fails is that it can be difficult for call centers to take their metrics and transform them into actionable insights. Call centers with an operational framework often don’t have time or resources to analyze their QA data to gain the customer insights that they need. This can result in QA that is far less meaningful than it should be.
While an operational framework is a good place to begin, there are countless missed growth opportunities. The next step is to evolve into a tactical QA framework.
2. The Tactical QA Framework
A tactical call center framework goes beyond daily customer service goals to address more medium-term goals tailored by channel. It allows you to pivot and adapt your quality assurance processes based on your data. The goal is to move the quality needle in a positive direction.
In a tactical QA framework, your contact center would focus on:
- Improving client retention
- Identifying the root causes of poor customer service
- Determining broken processes and workflows
- Highlighting knowledge gaps
- Reducing staff churn by investing time and money in staff training
- Reporting on trends—month-over-month or year-over-year data
These are all tactical goals and actions that are focused on growth and scalability in your call center. It’s not just about delivering consistent service, but a better quality of service, which requires tactical self-awareness. This could involve creating a unified QA dashboard for pertinent analyses, analyzing data in real-time, and implementing self-scoring for call center agents.
A tactical framework requires more foresight on behalf of your contact center team for bigger picture thinking. However, it’s still not entirely transformative and strategic. It doesn’t take into account all critical influences on your call center—the business, the customer, the client, and the agent.
It delivers pockets of value, but could go one step further, and that’s where a strategic framework is invaluable for continued growth and opportunities.
3. The Strategic QA Framework
A strategic QA framework is focused on the long-term impact of your call center. It takes a top-down approach, where senior leadership influences your contact center goals and culture. It aims to seamlessly set QA standards, measurements, and collaboration amongst all elements of your business.
A visual demonstration of bigger picture strategic thinking at work. Discover how higher level strategic partnerships emerge and how quality is driven with this Strategic Quality Framework chart by Martin-Hill Wilson, the founder of customer service and customer experience consultancy, Brainfood.
A strategic QA framework requires a different structure for your contact center. You must be set up to analyze, interpret, and share data that departs from operational practices. Instead, data and measurements must be about your overall business’s strategic goals and objectives, which is why it’s a key differentiator and selling point for shareholders.
In a strategic QA workflow, your focus would be to:
- Improve your Net Promoter Score (NPS) by understanding the connection between customer service, customer sentiment, and QA
- Increase customer loyalty beyond first-time interactions
- Enhance your customer’s propensity to purchase by examining the impact of customer service on sales
- Use quality assurance as a differentiator
When you implement a strategic QA framework, you move away from basic quality assurance scores, and instead focus on actionable behaviors. However, your contact center should only evolve to a strategic framework after you have mastered both the operational and tactical levels. You have to have the basics down—measuring the right data and delivering business results—before you can shift to this new strategic culture.
In a strategic workflow, it’s less about micromanaging and more about mutual understanding and respect where your management team listens to your agents and evolves with them. This ultimately results in happier call center representatives and thus happier customers.
How to Evolve Your QA Framework to the Next Level
It’s a journey to go from an operational to a tactical to a strategic QA workflow.
Most contact centers begin with an operational QA automation framework, where most of the focus is on offering consistent service, improving workflows, and meeting operational goals. And it’s not a bad place to start; it gets the job done.
However, at some point or another, every call center will have a need to evolve to the next level, going beyond siloes to a more creative approach with greater impact and significance.
To do this, you have to first start thinking more strategically about QA.
- Instead of focusing on agent or contact center scores, focus on behaviors.
- Instead of telling your agents what to do, teach them how to do it.
- Instead of micro-managing your agents by monitoring every interaction, get to a place of mutual respect.
- Instead of assuming your agents are failing or lacking, listen to what they have to say.
- Instead of remaining satisfied with how your QA is functioning, always look for ways to evolve.
In the end, your goal should be to reach a strategic QA framework, which will help you simplify complex data analysis and bring clarity to your call center QA.