Call center quality assurance – 15 best practices to boost customer service
Call center quality assurance is a process which ensures that your results in terms of customer service match your desired outcome.
A call center aspiring to provide exemplary customer service must closely monitor its performance, and use the insight to improve. The means to satisfied customers and great service is this cycle of data collection, analysis, training, and improvement: quality assurance.
Whether you are setting up your call center quality assurance process for the first time or seeking to improve in that regard, this article aims to help.
Setting clear goals for call center quality assurance
Before implementing or upgrading your system for call center quality assurance, you need to define what you hope to get out of the operation. Clearly outline what you hope to achieve, and lay down solid groundwork.
Pinpoint your issues, and decide what “good” means
First, you need to evaluate which areas of your call center need improvement, and what standard you hope to reach. Without a clear idea of what you want, you cannot hope for an effective quality monitoring strategy. Think in terms of what you need to START, STOP, and CONTINUE doing.
Get customer feedback
A sure-fire way to give your customers the quality of service they expect is to simply ask them what they want. However, calling up your clients to ask their opinion without giving an added value to the call is a nuisance. You could instead provide a short, efficient feedback questionnaire after every interaction, pinpointing the areas in which you could use some customer input. Another possibility could be to open a forum to your customers who might wish to let you know how you’re doing.
Look into benchmarking
Make sure to regularly check how you measure up against other call centers. Compare your business to call centers of a similar size or with a comparable activity. Put relevant performance indicators under scrutiny. Don’t shy away from looking at how your business holds up compared to top performers in your industry. The benchmarking process is a continuous loop. As you improve your performance in one area, you will need to start evaluating another.
For some businesses, benchmarking on top of monitoring interior quality can be a challenge. Likewise, it can be tricky to remain impartial when comparing yourself to competitors. For these reasons, an external quality assurance consultant can be hired to help with this activity.
How to monitor your call center’s quality of service
Once you’ve laid the foundations of what you hope to gain from your call center quality assurance process, it’s time to set your plan in motion.
The technical side of call center quality assurance relies on monitoring. Monitoring your calls means recording or live listening, and then using the recordings to inspect their quality and gain insight on how to improve. Let’s look at how to use technology to your advantage for call center quality assurance.
Choose the right software
The wrong software can make your day-to-day of call center quality assurance a headache. The call center software you use daily could already provide quality assurance features. You need to consider several factors when picking out monitoring software:
- Features: Depending on the size of your call center and the flux of calls you handle, you may need to automate part of the quality assurance process. Some programs can sort through metadata and speech analytics to determine which calls are most deserving of human analysis.
- Ease of use: Make sure that the software is intuitive. If you need to heavily train your employees before they can use it, it will knock your productivity for a loop.
- Scalability: Call centers shift often. Your talent pool will fluctuate, as will your workload (especially if your activity is seasonal). Pick software which will grow with your company.
- Security: Your call center might handle sensitive customer information. Even if that’s not the case, the safety your data should be a concern. The details of your call center’s client base and performance should be secure with the software you use to track it.
- Costs: The cost of the software itself is something to consider. But keep in mind the cost and ease of integrating monitoring software with the tools your agents use daily. Your monitoring software should mesh seamlessly with your existing installation like customer relationship management systems.
Decide which metrics to analyze
Quality of service is determined at the intersection of many, many key performance indicators. However, analyzing them all would be impossibly time-consuming, and would not yield telling results. You would miss the forest for the trees.
You must choose when KPIs to analyze for every study period. Pick indicators which are relevant to your activity and will interact with one another to create a coherent picture. Use this to create a scorecard, which will be the structure of your analysis.
Record your calls judiciously
Monitoring software can be used to listen in on live calls, and record every single call. However, since call center agents average 1,000 to 2,000 monthly calls, there is no way a quality assurance manager could listen to all of them. Likewise, AI hasn’t progressed to the point where it could fully take over yet. So you need to decide which calls should be scrutinized.
A random selection is not a judicious use of your analyst’s time, since the sample won’t be representative of any trend or issue or quality. Instead, keep in mind the metrics you picked out earlier, and look at the outlier calls. This could include calls:
- Which went very well.
- Or which went very poorly.
- Which ran long.
- Which involved multiple transfers.
- With customers who had to call multiple times.
- With high-value customers.
The special circumstances of these outlier calls will have agents deviating from the script and facing challenging and instructive situations. Therefore, the analysis of outlier calls will yield more interesting insight than that of regular ones.
Monitor calls from start to finish
The calls you choose to analyze closely should be examined in their entirety. Use them to be valuable examples of how one problem was hopefully solved over the course of one conversation, with impeccable quality of service. As an example we’ll take an outgoing call:
- Start of the call: A call should start with a polite greeting. Agents should let the client talk first, and listen actively, to avoid the need for repetition later on. A climate of attentiveness and trust must be fostered immediately.
- During the whole call: The agent must be respectful, friendly, attentive, and professional.
- Solving the problem: Hopefully, your customer’s problem will be fixed on their first call.
- A strong finish: Wrap up the call once the customer is satisfied, part with a polite word, and thank them for their patience.
Look at calls as self-contained case studies. If you only pick bits and pieces of them, the agent’s choices won’t be put in context and the didactic value of the recordings won’t serve as well during training sessions. The best examples of high quality calls should be saved as training materials.
Monitor across several channels
You may not just be operating over the phone, but also over live chat, email, or texts. Your call center quality assurance must extend to every channel you use to reach customers, or they to reach you. While the medium differs, you must have the same concern for quality assurance.
Bringing your staff onboard
Now that we’ve looked at the technical side, let’s explore the human aspect of call center quality assurance.
Bring on a quality assurance manager
Call center managers already have a great deal on their plate. Moreover, what makes a great call center manager won’t necessarily translate to an effective quality assurance analyst. You should hire a call center quality assurance specialist to design training material, monitor calls and trends, and uphold the standard you set for your business. This person could be an external consultant, or part of your staff.
Hire the right employees
Call centers contend with a great deal of employee turnover. Besides that, every agent needs a period of training before they can start working. This represents quite a bit of time spent training new employees. Therefore, it makes sense to hire people you think will ace their training and go on to be high-quality agents.
Present prospective hires with tests during the vetting process. Personality tests, aptitude tests, and self-assessment tests are all great ways to check if a hire will be an asset to your call center’s quality assurance program.
Write solid scripts
Scripts are a staple of call center productivity, and they go a long way to make sure agents respect the standards you’ve set for your quality of service. Whether your call center deals in outbound or inbound calls, a script should be useful to your employees. A solid, well-crafted script reflects the results of your technical monitoring. The insight gained from monitoring analysis will let you know how to refine your scripts.
Nevertheless, you should empower your agents to feel confident enough to go off-script when the situation calls for it. While a good script is a great safety net, being able to improvise with confidence can be the secret to exemplary service. This is where training comes in.
Provide early and regular training
The quality assurance specialist will be responsible for organizing the initial training. They will coach new hires on what your customer service expectations are, and how to exceed them. This training period is crucial to empowering new agents, and sparing them confidence issues or knowledge gaps further down the line.
However, it’s also vitally important to keep up with training “booster shots.” Companies benefit from regular coaching sessions in multiple ways. Imposed sessions are sometimes necessary, but agents should feel free to ask for the extra coaching they require. The results gleaned from call monitoring will invite changes in the direction of your business. That’s where the quality assurance manager will step in, to keep your agents confident and trained in accordance with those changes.
No matter what, coaching should be tailored to the agent as much as possible. If not, then the training won’t be applicable, relevant, or engaging. When coaching is a direct result of monitoring and assessment, everyone’s time is better utilized, and your call center quality assurance system is stronger for it.
Involve the whole staff in a non-judgmental process
Making sure that quality assurance doesn’t hinder productivity is essential because the concept can have a negative connotation for agents. It’s important to strive to remove the perception of call center quality assurance as punitive.
If you include everyone in the process, it will feel less stressful for agents to be evaluated. During training sessions, give agents the opportunity to evaluate each other, to group with others of complementary strengths, and to self-assess. As a quality assurance manager, be flexible, and make yourself available for agents who seek out extra training on issues they have flagged themselves.
During one-on-one evaluations of live-calls or recordings, consider starting from a score of zero and adding points for every success during the call, rather than starting at a full score and subtracting points.
Provide clear goals and corresponding incentives
Managers who display key performance indicators publicly notice improved agent engagement and productivity. Rewarding quality performance can also yield good results. This doesn’t have to just mean financial incentives for your employee of the month. You could also display impressive achievements in a newsletter or success story on your website. This will motivate your agents, and be good publicity for your business.
Now you know the ins and outs of a solid call center quality process. Questions? Want to share what worked for your call center? Let us hear about it in the comments!