Call Center Quality Assurance Guidelines: Building a QA Program

COVID-19 turned what was a gradual shift toward more remote work into an overnight transition as contact centers rushed to keep employees safe and comply with government orders. A lot had to happen in a short time from a technological standpoint, from enabling access to systems to providing agents with headphones and ensuring reliable internet access.

How to make quality management a continuous cycle in 6 steps 

As agents and supervisors adjusted to a new working environment, there were new distractions to contend with, including pets and children at home. At the same time, call volumes spiked dramatically in many industries, causing a choke point in the contact center. The nature of conversations changed as well, introducing the need for contact centers to equip agents with policies and procedures on how to talk about the effects of COVID-19 on their customers and their business.

What hasn’t changed, however, is that customers still expect and require great service – even more so now because they’re under great personal stress. Some organizations – as much as 14%, we found in a recent survey of quality leaders – put quality on hold in the short-term to allow quality managers to help accommodate the influx of calls, but that number has dropped by half in the weeks since. A larger proportion (44% of leaders we surveyed) have made changes to their quality programs to adjust to the new normal. And a new normal it may well be: 43% of leaders in our recent survey said they’ve completed the transition to a work-from-home model and have no plans to go back.

Quality and coaching have a major role to play in helping agents transition successfully. The good news is that quality and coaching programs can be adapted very quickly to meet evolving needs.

What purpose does quality serve?

Regardless of whether agents are working remotely or on site, quality management enables contact centers to assess interactions or transactions, including off-phone paperwork handled by agents, to:

  • Improve business processes, such as how orders are processed or how problems are logged and escalated.
  • Improve agent performance. Evaluation forms are designed to rate or score agents on particular behaviors and provide results for performance ratings and coaching. Traditionally, the QA team will evaluate a specific number of interactions per agent per month.
  • Monitor for compliance purposes. Evaluation forms often include measurements to ensure that agents comply with critical business rules, including regulatory compliance.

When implemented holistically across an organization, a quality program has the potential to have real strategic value. And with agents working from home, a tightly coordinated effort between quality and coaching teams has never been more important. Quality teams can help transform the coaching program with relevant and timely information that supports business objectives and empowers agents to be successful and self-improve, no matter where they are located.

How to make quality management a continuous cycle

Customer experience is the No. 1 KPI organizations are trying to address, and quality and coaching drive this metric. You can make quality a continuous cycle that drives customer satisfaction and employee productivity by focusing quality management activities in six key areas:

  • Monitoring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Decide what you want to monitor, then keep an eye on your KPIs for trends or anomalies related to calls or digital interactions.
  • Identifying interactions that affect those KPIs. For example, if you determine that transfers and calls that last longer than 10 minutes negatively affect customer satisfaction, you should ensure that those interactions are evaluated.
  • Evaluating interactions. Have quality teams and supervisors complete an evaluation checklist or form, then score and tally their answers to obtain an overall quality score. Make sure you’ve incorporated measurements of how closely your agents are following any new procedures related to dealing with COVID-19-related conversations with customers – and that you’ve communicated to teams any changes in how calls are evaluated and scored.
  • Coaching agents on behaviors that are negatively affecting your KPIs. Assign coaching that can be completed by the agent or delivered by the supervisor. Keep in mind that remote agents no longer have the same opportunities for informal coaching sessions as they did in the brick-and-mortar contact center, so you may find that coaching needs to be more formalized.
  • Calibrating and auditing the process. Ensure that all evaluators are using the same criteria for evaluation; consistency can be especially challenging when evaluating soft skills. Similar to agents, quality evaluators have also gone through a lot of changes during the transition to working from home, so pay particular attention to productivity and whether they are evaluating agents appropriately. If your contact center policies and procedures are changing rapidly during this period, consider increasing the frequency of calibration sessions until conditions stabilize.
  • Measuring the effectiveness of the quality program. Look for coaching effectiveness or results of changes in operations. Compare your performance on key metrics before COVID-19, during the transition and after agents and supervisors settle in to remote work.

While quality assurance best practices for agents working on site still hold true with remote workers, one component becomes even more important when agents are working from home: the need to solicit agent feedback. Making agents stakeholders in the quality program is one of the best ways to get them on board, and they have unique insight into where processes are inefficient or broken. A voice of the employee program can help ensure that you’re gathering agent feedback in a consistent, comprehensive manner.

The overall goal is to improve your quality processes so you can give consistent, objective agent feedback, and collaboration between quality and coaching – one that treats quality management as a continuous cycle – can help create a culture of ongoing improvement. As agents become a more integrated part of the process and learn where they need to focus, they are better able to adapt to the changes underway, for a more productive, engaged workforce and happier customers.

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