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Quality Monitoring Best Practices Drive Contact Center Success 

Quality Monitoring Best Practices Drive Contact Center Success

Quality Monitoring Best Practices Drive Contact Center Success

4/26/2006
By Donna Fluss
ICCM Newsline

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Today, quality management applications (also called quality assurance) have increased functionality that increases their value to the contact center and the enterprise.

For a contact center to be successful, it is essential to capture and evaluate how well agents adhere to internal policies and procedures and interact with customers in phone, email and chat/collaboration interactions.

QM is necessary for managing the customer experience, gauging customer reactions to processes and policies, 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 identifying missed sales, retention or other opportunities. QM programs also help organizations focus their monitoring efforts so that they can concentrate on high impact calls or trends, identify and address training needs, and provide automated data tracking, trending and reports to senior management. But all contact centers need best practices to make this happen.

Whether you are implementing a formal quality monitoring program for the first time, or improving an existing initiative, best practices are essential to your success. The current batch of QM suites are excellent and getting better all the time, but technology is only an enabler, which must be complemented by best practices and training. The following quality monitoring best practices will help your company realize the greatest benefits from your QM program.

1. 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 most important to them. (That’s not always the same as what’s important to your enterprise). Draft or modify a quality evaluation form for all channels (phone, email, chat) that includes the most relevant performance criteria and customer satisfaction attributes. Ensure that category and question weights are commensurate with customer and enterprise priorities.

2. Identify business priorities. Understand the needs of all constituents of the contact center to make sure that the QM program incorporates key performance criteria for the enterprise. Whether the focus is on supporting the brand, a sales or marketing initiative or script compliance for risk mitigation, you will need to ensure that the program captures and measures relevant performance criteria.

3. 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 performed consistently for all agents, on a regular basis. Management must decide how many calls/emails/chat sessions have to be evaluated weekly and monthly. It’s important to select a number that is statistically relevant, but not too onerous for supervisors and quality reviewers—if asked to review too many interactions, they will never reach their goals. It’s also important to ensure that calls are captured randomly. (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 for companies.)

4. Communicate the program. Management must communicate the plans for a new or modified QM program to agents. The success of the program depends upon agent cooperation, which will be enhanced if agents are invited to participate in program development and all changes are clearly communicated. Communication should include information about why the program is being developed, roles and responsibilities, impact on agents (their reviews and raises), and the program benefits. It’s important to help agents appreciate the positive aspects of QM programs so they don’t see the program as just 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 avoid surprises.

5. Develop or enhance the evaluation form. It’s critical to review and enhance your monitoring forms on a periodic basis—minimally, 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 weights to ensure that they are still relevant.

6. 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 determine that everyone is using the form consistently. 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-evaluation sessions so they can collaborate with supervisors on reviewing scoring results.

7. Establish written guidelines and procedures. It is essential to establish departmental procedures to ensure the objectivity of a QM program (and agent perception of fairness), otherwise agents won’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 created that clearly reflect how each call type will be evaluated.

8. Run a program pilot. Before rolling out the new or enhanced QM program, test it to make sure 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 assessments performed during the program test phase should not be considered when doing agent performance evaluations. The testing process also gives agents an opportunity to become acclimated to the new program.

9. Coach for success. Excellent coaching is an essential component of an effective QM program. Coaching sessions must be delivered frequently and on a timely basis. These sessions must address agent strengths as well as opportunities for improvement. Supervisors or quality reviewers should follow-up and reinforce the material that was coached and also track and report 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.)

10. Motivate with rewards and recognition. Establish a process for identifying and recognizing agents who achieve quality monitoring excellence. (It’s critical to reward outstanding performance, as the QM program will gain credibility when agents realize that its purpose is not only to catch poor performers.) QM specialists should identify and distribute best practice clips of outstanding agent interactions to all relevant staff. Quality monitoring evaluation results should be an important component of each agent’s semi-annual and annual employee performance management review process.

11. 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 should be shared so that they can be integrated into 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.

12. 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 change 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. (Rapid process change is facilitated when senior executives hear first-hand the impact of their processes and programs on customers.) When senior managers take this step seriously, it can have a very positive impact on morale and satisfaction because it underscores the importance of the agents’ function.

13. Consistently re-evaluate the program. Quality management is a dynamic and iterative process that must be adapted as the business environment and customer needs change. 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.

Bottom Line
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 agents. 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 the time to make sure that they are evaluating the right components and 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 succeed only if the staff is on board and believes in its value.

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