There are so many different variables to consider when you look at what YOU define as you’re company’s quality. Depending on who you’re asking, depends on what sort of answer that you’re going to get-so for the sake of this conversation I would like to establish that, in general, quality assurance means developing operational controls that meet your desired outcome. In previous writing, we have established the importance of our customer service, but how do you maintain it?
Lets first look at what is included in our quality. There are a range of factors that affect the overall quality of a call. This includes the caliber of the agents, the quality of your training, your staff’s development, customer feedback, and any incentive programs that you may have in place for your employees and the technology used to monitor and record calls. We will tackle each of these one at a time starting with your customer feedback system.
I have seen plenty of professionals who convince themselves into assuming that they instinctively know what good customer service looks like. This is one of the MOST HARMFUL assumptions any manager or agent can make. While YOU may know how you come off as or what you mean doesn’t mean that the customer you’re speaking to is going to agree. You don’t know how you sound or come off as unless you listen to yourself. This assumption should be replaced by feedback-whether it’s from the customers you speak with or the Manager that you work with. If you are contacting customers on behalf of a business or client, you may also find that feedback surveys are quite common and easy to come by. The data is there, so make use of it.
The next topic on our list is training and development. No matter how much natural ability or good business your call center agent have, a high quality training and development program is essential if you want to provide consistent Quality all across the board. It doesn’t matter whether your training is all in-house or outsourced (maybe even a mixture of the two) as long as it covers not only what the client needs, but establish the baseline of customer service skills. Where the training comes from isn’t as important on its effectiveness. Training, however, can only go so far. If you recruit an agent that has NO basic customer service skills or a willingness and motivation to learn and establish those skills then there is not much you can really accomplish with that agent. While a great training and development program can work wonders with willing and able staff, it only waste time, energy, and money on your more unwilling staff. This will eventually lead to poor call performance, and loss of business.
A recruitment policy needs to be just as good as the training and development. A recruitment policy based solely on dollar rate can lead to situations where an unmotivated and unwilling agent makes their way into your company. It times are hard; consider bringing on one or two high-caliber agents instead of multiple inexperienced agents. The quality of your work will bring in more performance and have a positive effect in the long run. Sometimes, getting the top performers out of your agents won’t work with just training and development. We all have had those agent that are just ‘there’-never doing amazing but not doing bad either. How do you get them to give 110% to every call? Well, what do you do when you try to motivate your teenager out of bed? Incentives, of course!
Unfortunately, bacon won’t make your agents perform on every single call. Incentives, such as short-term and long-term rewards should work just fine. Short term rewards can be small things such as gift cards, vouchers, coupons, etc. Long-term incentives an include bonuses, promotions, even salary increase) Individual targets are also another handy thing to do the find the balance between business objectives and agent capability. Giving all these incentives and setting the bar too high can lead to stress and demonization, but setting the bar too low do not encourage excellence and can foster the acceptance of low standards. You need to be sure you find that happy medium.
In order to establish targets for each individual agent, you need to know how your company records and monitors call. I cannot stress enough how important your call monitoring system is. When allied with customer feedback, call monitoring is used to identify areas that need improving and reward excellent customer interactions. This includes ‘live monitoring’ agent-customer interactions (either overt or covert), analyzing recorded calls or a combination of both. Some call centers outsource to an external team, while others prefer to set up their own in-house system. Either way, you can’t just use your customer feedback without taking a look at the calls your agents are making.
Along with your live monitoring, you should try to include some sort of ‘Call Leveling’-often referred to as synergy sessions. Synergy Sessions are held by a group of gathered agents whom provide feedback sessions on training, development, and the listening and scoring of a few sample calls. Call centers that have synergy sessions report up to a 20% increase in customer satisfaction scores. Rather than ‘showing up’ poor performance, feedback such as this has been able to quickly bring all agents in line with company standards. Throwing in one-to-one feedback is recommended as well.
Even if you have everything in order- strong recruitment, relevant training, regular call monitoring, an attractive employee development program, and even the latest technology, standards can still come tumbling down. You have to make sure everything works together. All of the above tactics should form one lucid quality assurance strategy which, in turn, needs to sit within a larger business framework. There is no point in training optimal agents only to overwhelm them with calls because the marketing department failed to alert operations that ‘Hey, that campaign we told you about three months ago that we may or may not get? We’re launching it today, hope you’re prepared!”
Everybody needs to own up to the quality assurance process, including the agents! Rather than directing them, have them buy into the quality assurance process. Let the agents have a say in their targets, there training needs, and allow them to monitor amongst themselves. If everyone can be onboard, then quality of the company and its employee’s should never be a concern.