Contact Center Quality Monitoring – Best Practices For Chinese Companies
Contact Center Quality Monitoring – Best Practices For Chinese Companies
By Donna Fluss
As Chinese companies build contact centers it’s essential for them to implement programs, such as quality management (QM), that greatly improve their chances for success. Quality management applications have improved significantly during the past few years, substantially increasing their value and benefits for contact centers and their enterprises, but require best practices to make them work. Capturing and evaluating how well your agents adhere to internal policies and procedures and interact with your customers in phone, email and chat/collaboration interactions is a requirement for any contact center. QM is necessary for managing the customer experience, gauging customer reactions to processes, policies and overall satisfaction, identifying opportunities for business process improvements, reducing enterprise risk by managing regulatory compliance disclosures, and increasing agent satisfaction and retention. Quality management applications also facilitate revenue generation by capturing customer insights on products and services and identify missed sales, retention or other sales opportunities. QM programs also help organization focus their monitoring efforts so that they can concentrate their efforts on high impact calls or trends, identify and address training needs, and provide automated data tracking, trending, and reports to senior management.
Quality Management Best Practices Are Essential for Success
Whether you are implementing a formal Quality Monitoring program in your contact center for the first time, helping an outsourcer to build a program or enhancing an existing initiative, best practices are required for the program to succeed. The current batch of QM suites are excellent and getting better all of the time, but technology is an enabler that only works when supported by best practices and training. Here are quality monitoring best practices that will help you realize the greatest benefits from your QA program.
- Find out what’s important to your customers. Before implementing a QM program, survey your customers to determine the elements of their interactions that are the most important to them, such as how your agents introduce them selves, answer questions or close a call. Keep in mind that what is important to an enterprise is not always the same as what’s important to customers). Draft or modify the evaluation form so that it addresses all customer channels, phone, email and chat. (You may need more than one QM form.) Ensure that the weights assigned in the QM form for each category and question appropriately address customer and enterprise priorities.
- Identify business priorities. When developing a QM program, it’s important to understand the needs of all organizations that the contact center supports, to make sure that the QM program incorporates the relevant key performance indicators. Whether supporting the brand, sales initiative, marketing program, or script compliance for risk mitigation, you will need to ensure that the QM program captures the right information.
- Define the number and frequency of evaluations to be conducted. To accurately measure service quality and establish credibility and reliability for the quality monitoring process, evaluations should be consistently performed for all agents, on a regularly scheduled basis. Management must decide how many calls/emails/chat sessions have to be evaluated, on a weekly and monthly basis. It’s important to select a number that is statistically relevant but not too onerous for supervisors and quality reviewers – if you ask them to review too many, they will never reach their goals. It’s also important to ensure that calls are captured on a random basis. (Although it should be noted that precision quality monitoring using speech analytics is changing and improving how QM calls are captured to make them more useful and productive for companies.)
- Communicate the program. Management should communicate their plans about the new or modified QM program to agents. The success of the program is dependent upon agent cooperation and this will be improved if they are invited to participate in the development of the new QM program and all changes are clearly communicated. Communications should include information about why the program is being developed, roles and responsibilities, impact of the program on agents (their reviews and raises), and the program benefits. It’s important to help agents appreciate the positive aspects of QM programs so that they don’t only see it as a way for management to tell them what they are doing wrong. Involving all levels of contact center staff in creating the program will establish team buy-in and support and avoid surprises. This is particularly important in China where contact centers are relatively new and QM programs not widespread or well known.
- Develop or enhance evaluation form. It’s critical to review and enhance your monitoring forms on a periodic basis and minimally, at least every 9 to 12 months. As business needs and departmental policies and processes change, so should the evaluation form. It’s also important to review question and section weighting to ensure that it’s still relevant.
- Calibrate and collaborate. After developing (or enhancing) the quality evaluation form, it’s critical to test it to be sure that it achieves the intended goals fairly and accurately. Management should conduct calibration sessions involving agents, supervisors, and quality management reviewers to ensure that everyone is consistently using the form. (It will take a few calibration sessions to achieve this goal.) Once the QM program is implemented, it’s important to conduct monthly calibration sessions to maintain consistent accuracy of measurement. It’s also important to encourage agents to conduct self-evaluations sessions so that they can collaborate with supervisors on the scoring results.
- Establish written guidelines and procedures. The objectivity of a QM program (and agent perception of fairness) necessitates departmental procedures, otherwise agents don’t know how they are being measured and evaluated. Contact centers need to document all of their transaction handling procedures. (This can be done directly into a knowledge management system or on paper.) Once procedures are drafted, QM guidelines can be established that clearly reflect how each call type will be evaluated.
- Run a program pilot. Before rolling out the new or enhanced QM program, test it to ensure that it delivers the expected results. This gives you an opportunity to validate the new QM form, its weights and criteria and make necessary adjustments before going live. The evaluation conducted during the program test phases should not be included in agent performance evaluations. The testing also gives agents an opportunity to get acclimated to the new program.
- Coach for success. Effective QM programs employ excellent coaches. Coaching sessions must be delivered frequently and on a timely basis. These sessions must address agent strength as well as improvement opportunities. Supervisors or quality reviewers should follow-up and reinforce what was coached and track and report on agent improvement. All evaluators should be trained to provide positive coaching. (Lack of coaching or poor training is one of the primary reasons QM programs fail or do not achieve their anticipated results.)
- Rewards and Recognition. Establish a process for identifying and recognizing agents who achieve quality-monitoring excellence. (It’s critical to reward outstanding performance and gives credibility to the QM program when agents realize that its purpose is not only to capture poor performers.) QM specialists should identify and distribute best practice clips of outstanding agent interactions to all relevant staff. Quality monitoring evaluations results should be an important component of agent’s semi-annual and annual employee performance management review process.
- Establish a closed-loop process between QM and training. The most effective quality monitoring programs have built a closed loop workflow with the training department. Training opportunities identified during the QM process are shared with training so that they can be integrated into the department training programs. This allows the department to address skill gaps or share best practices on a timely basis. Information shared by QM should also be used to ensure that the training programs are relevant and up-to-date.
- Use the monitoring process to identify areas for business process optimization. Establish a cross-functional team to address contact center and enterprise business process opportunities identified during the quality monitoring process. This team should work together to fix business processes that upset customers. Additionally, it’s recommended that enterprises implement an “Executive QA” program where executives of sales, marketing, operations, and all supporting areas listen to calls. This has proven to create customer-focused awareness and fosters collaboration between departments. (Process change is facilitated when senior executives hear first hand the impact of their processes and programs on customers.) When senior managers take this seriously, it has a positive impact on agent morale and satisfaction because it underscores the importance of their function.
- Consistently re-evaluate the program. Quality management is a dynamic and iterative process that must be adapted as the business environment and customer needs changes. When products, processes, policies, customer expectations, systems, or business requirements change, department procedures and quality assurance guidelines must be updated, published and agents re-trained. Quality management isn’t an option. It’s essential for the satisfaction of your agents and customers, to improve agent and supervisor productivity and effectiveness, and to keep supervisors in touch with their agent’s.
Building a Quality Management Program: Roadmap for Success
Building an effective Quality Management program is a multi-step process. To achieve the best results and foster confidence in the program, the process must ensure that the right contact center behaviors and components are measured and reliable. The program must also include reporting that communicates the program’s findings on a timely basis. This process includes seven phases: develop, calibrate, test, train, pilot, implement, and refine. Figure 1 provides a high-level road map for building a Quality Management program.
Figure 1: High-Level Quality Management Roadmap
After the Quality Monitoring program is implemented, it is recommended that enterprises follow the steps in Figure 2, on a monthly basis, to ensure that your QM program remains effective.
Figure 2: Monthly QA Program Follow-up
Contact centers are developing in China. Chinese companies will greatly benefit by adopting best practices that enable them to rapidly build world-class operating environments. Quality management plays an essential role in improving the quality and productivity of contact center staff and should be a priority for all existing and developing contact centers.
When quality management programs are well designed and institutionalized, they yield great benefits for customers, enterprises, contact centers and agents. To achieve the best results and foster confidence in the program, managers have to invest a significant amount of time making sure that they are evaluating the right components, using appropriate measurements and weights.
Building an effective QM program is an ongoing, multi-step process that requires senior management support, planning and buy-in from all levels of contact center staff. Automation is essential for formalizing, standardizing and institutionalizing the initiative, but these programs only succeed if they the staff in on board and believes in its value.