The Changing Nature of Quality

​​Sony has evolved since​ its founding in 1946 into a quality leader in electronics, entertainment and financial services. The company's Pledge of Quality explains its commitment: "Sony employees will always respect our customers' viewpoints in striving to deliver product quality and customer service that exceed their expectations."

In pursuit of this goal, the organization has gone beyond basic reliability testing during manufacturing. Sony runs a Quality Hotline that collects, investigates and responds to feedback from customers and employees. By engaging with the real concerns of their users, Sony has been able to make many improvements, such as making products more user-friendly and manuals easier to understand. The company has learned that quality is more than a single metric: It's a relationship influenced by multiple touchpoints and experiences over a long period of time.

Increasing complexity
​As Sony has learned, quality continues to become more complicated and holistic. With new channels for interaction and a growing brand awareness among consumers, quality demands more than ever from the contact center employee. Agents, back-office staff and managers strive to meet a diverse range of quality standards: compliance with regional regulations, optimized first call resolution, customer satisfaction, lowered average handle time, adaptability, accurate claims follow up, expressions of empathy – the list goes on, and each organization is tasked with prioritizing and enforcing its unique expectations. Quality requires that brands invest significant time and energy into defining and ensuring ongoing quality in their products and services.

In this environment, old fashioned quality management practices often fall short. Today's assessments of performance quality are much bigger and more complex that traditional evaluator checklists. A comprehensive, end-to-end view of quality within the organization requires evaluations of customer interactions across multiple channels, from calls, email or chat to claims processes, follow-up work and compliance auditing. Multiple metrics are necessary, and evaluators can take many forms, including customers, supervisors, peers and agents themselves. Reporting and coaching are also no longer restricted by routine – agents and managers can view their performance metrics in close to real time. The process incorporates any interactions or transactions, from all sources of data, into one evaluation process to deliver a more holistic view of both the customer and agent journey.

A quality management solution
​Though quality management is a big task, it doesn't have to be overwhelming. Various tools and strategies can support contact centers in assessing and improving quality. Some experts advocate for an entire culture of quality, creating "an environment in which employees not only follow quality guidelines but also consistently see others taking quality-focused actions, hear others talking about quality, and feel quality all around them." Dashboards and strategic coaching methods have also entered the scene in recent years, inviting employee engagement into the quality process.

Companies that emphasize quality across the entire employee and consumer experience see long-term results, regardless of industry, service or product. Increasing peer engagement and employee ownership can lead to tangible benefits that extend well past the quality control forms of the past. Making employees stakeholders in process improvements can lead to higher morale and reduce turnover, producing happier customers. In cross-industry averages, companies with robust cultures of quality spend, on average, $350 million less annually fixing mistakes than their less quality-focused competitors. Customer service stars like Trader Joe's, Nordstrom and Virgin American pay close attention to every aspect of customer interaction, from the staff's apparel to flexible return options.

Lego, for example, sells bits of colored plastic at a premium, but it has been a leader in the global toy industry for decades. The brand is successful because it is attentive to every aspect of customer interactions, from high-profile deals with Star Wars and Harry Potter to strict manufacturing measures that ensure every Lego fits into the next easily and cleanly. If you're wondering whether that matters, ask a ten-year-old.

Quality is large, complex and always redefining itself. Managing it requires an authentic commitment to delivering greater efficiency. Yet with the right tools and strategy, businesses can uncover actionable insights that truly improve agent engagement and customer satisfaction. The resulting comprehensive, end-to-end view of quality achieves new levels of performance and excellence that are reflected in staff and customers alike.


Lauren Maschio is a product marketing manager for NICE Quality Central, the leading software solution used by contact centers to achieve next-generation quality management. For more information, visit /engage/workforce-optimization/quality-management