We caught up with industry expert Carolyn Blunt recently to get her opinion on today's call centre quality assessment.
Carolyn is founder of Real Results Training Consultancy and has worked in the call centre industry since 2001. Carolyn was voted Most Respected Person in the UK Contact Centre Industry by readers of Call Centre Helper in their most recent poll and is co-author of ‘Delivering Effective Social Customer Service’.
Q. How critical is quality assessment in today’s multi-channel environment?
A. I think the importance of quality in a multi-channel environment cannot be emphasised enough. The different demands each channel places on an agent’s soft skill and emotional intelligence is often overlooked. Simply giving feedback and coaching in a voice channel but not exploring the differences across other channels is a mistake. What works well in one channel doesn’t always translate to others. Giving agents clarity on what you require in each channel is so important, they are not mind-readers and everyone has different approaches. QA provides consistency and sets the standard and the requirements of each channel (and their differences) should be clearly communicated so agents can have a hope of delivering to meet expectations.
Q. How does call centre quality assessment help you as a coach?
A. Quality Assessment and coaching go hand-in-hand. It is really important that agents have an opportunity to question, discuss and explore the scores and feedback given. Whilst this can be time consuming it should be viewed as an investment in maintaining employee engagement, motivation and assisting retention. The financial payback is huge. In my opinion, coaching should be an on-going process, an opportunity to discuss the scorecard, adjust and affirm behaviour, to celebrate success or affect change. Only when an agent is an absolute perfect performer in 100% of all situations and has no desire to move on might coaching seem like ‘going through the motions’. At this stage I see coaches fall into a trap of trying to find some critique, anything, to talk about. I am really against this. Instead if they are a shining example I would find other ways to use their coaching time as reward. 30 minutes with their feet up in the break-room is my favourite. Otherwise where is the incentive to continue to do well if I’m just ignored and left on the phones?
Q. What is the most common call centre quality assessment?
A. Thankfully the industry has moved away from rigid quality assessment process to a more holistic view of quality. Net Promoter Score has been really useful in shaping that. Previously you could have an interaction ‘fail’ on quality but the customer was really buoyed by how the agent handled it. Or vice versa –a call passed QA but the customer was furious! A big mistake is still often complicated excel spreadsheets, nit picking and subjective scores. I agree that it is important to use quality assessment to fine tune sections; but overall there should be a common sense assessment of how the final impression was left upon the customer.
Q. Do you think call centre quality assessment is under-utilized?
A. I think most organisations are aware of the need to do their quality assessments now. However; how frequently and how well they are done is still debatable. They can feel like an arduous task upon a coach or manager, especially when targets are set to evaluate x number of calls per agent per month. I am often asked what the magic ‘x’ number should be! For me that’s the wrong question, it should be about quality (pardon the pun!) not quantity of assessments. Furthermore, if you are still listening manually and selecting interactions (as opposed to using analytics) then the task really can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack and its success will always be limited.
Q. What are your top three tips for call centre quality assessment?
1. Make sure your coaches are properly trained. I know I own a contact centre training company so I would say that, but honestly, I have observed some very senior and clever people doing coaching and been horrified at the style and approach taken! It doesn’t matter how robust your data or how snazzy your scorecards are, if you can’t eyeball your agents effectively to get lasting behavioural change then you will fall at the final hurdle. I like to see the 80/20 rule used in feedback and coaching sessions. The coach should ask questions and listen and the agent should be doing the majority of the talking. Quality Assessments are a motivational tool that if used correctly can make a huge improvement to agent performance.
2. Use technology to your advantage –analytics and cloud scorecards take the manual time and complexity from modern quality assessment activity.
3. Have consequences –celebrate successes and manage failures. If there are no consequences (positive or negative) to the QA activity it can all feel rather pointless to the agent. I do like to link agent pay to QA but only when the QA is in the right place and is therefore a true and fair system that cannot be ‘lucked out’.