By Linda Duba
So, you’ve just assumed the role of quality manager and have been tasked with redesigning the quality program, including the monitoring form. Where do you begin? How do you proceed? What steps do you take to ensure the new program meets everyone’s needs, from the agent to the executive?
These are challenging questions that require a thoughtful and structured approach. The right quality program has the potential to transform your contact center into a powerhouse that drives business results.
This transformation begins by changing the quality culture from a “monitor” environment to one of focused and proactive change management. The following quality redesign road map is based on my work with thousands of contact centers of all sizes:
Establish a Strategic Vision
One of the keys to building an effective quality program is knowing what to measure and how those metrics help drive business success. An executive sponsor can help you establish a strategic vision for your program based on corporate objectives. This guidance will drive your process and inform design. Your sponsor can define the following key business initiatives and business goals:
Overall business vision and brand
- What is the vision statement, and how is this vision practiced within the organization on a daily basis?
- What message or image does the business strive to project to callers and employees?
Market share and/or customer acquisition
- What are the specific initiatives planned to acquire new customers?
- How does the contact center support those plans?
- What are the current revenue sources and channels?
- How does the business extend or expand the customer relationship?
- Are there new strategies to increase revenue per customer?
- How can the contact center support those strategies?
- How is satisfaction measured?
- Is “net promoter” a key measure?
- Is FCR (first call resolution) a key business metric? What comprises FCR?
- Does customer satisfaction and feedback drive organization change?
- Is there a “problem incidence” or “service recovery process” metric?
These corporate objectives are the basis for your strategic vision, a simple statement of how the quality program will support these goals. For example, “The ABC Company’s customer service quality program ensures that the customer service organization achieves the highest levels of customer satisfaction while meeting our growth objectives and operating in the most efficient manner possible.”
Assess Your Current Program
The next step is understanding how agents, supervisors, and managers feel about the quality program and how well the program supports the strategic vision. You may find that supervisors as well as agents are somewhat mistrustful of the current monitoring process and evaluation form.
Agents may feel like they’re being watched or corrected. Supervisors may struggle with using the monitoring form and helping agents improve their performance versus just monitoring for errors. In many cases, you will also find misalignment between strategic objectives and the specific behaviors and skills being evaluated.
Establish New Quality Guidelines
This is the stage to establish a “quality council” comprised of key stakeholders in the quality process: agents, supervisors, trainers, sales coaches, and managers. Members will gather peer feedback that they can bring to the table, as well as draw upon their own experiences and ideas.
Through a series of meetings and feedback sessions, the council will review the strategic vision and begin the process of translating that vision into pragmatic quality components.
Map behaviors that relate to each of the business initiatives and goals, such as:
- Sales effectiveness
- Problem identification, ownership, and resolution
- Effective listening
- Relationship-building and rapport
- Effective call management
Document the “need to have” components based on:
- Legal or regulatory requirements
- Customer security or privacy
- The brand (if branding drives the business)
Assess all components using these statements:
- Are they actionable? Will they lead to better business results, process change, or customer satisfaction?
- Can they be objectively defined?
- If they can be defined, are there tactical ways to coach for improvement?
- Will they help identify and close process and satisfaction gaps?
- Will they help motivate agents, supervisors, coaches, and trainers towards continuous quality improvement?
Finally, the council develops themes and groups the accepted components within these themes, such as:
- Opening, greeting, and customer verification
- Probing and problem identification
- Fundamentals and policy or process adherence
- Finesse and soft skills
- Sales effectiveness and expanding the relationship
- Closure and ensuring customer satisfaction
Design the New Monitoring Form
Now it’s time to design the actual quality monitoring form. Start by placing the strategic vision on the form; it will serve as a reminder and reinforcement to quality, coaching, and agent development.
Next, build the questions, statements, and supporting coaching points that will be used for measurement. Ensure that the question or statement has supporting coaching points within the form where possible.
Refer to your assessment criteria to clearly define each question or statement. Make sure that the sections and questions provide a logical flow. Agents and quality analysts will provide valuable insight here, since they service or listen to calls on a daily basis. Having an effective flow will save time for quality analysts.
Finally, determine the importance of each section and the questions and statements within those sections. Refer to your strategic business initiatives to help make these scoring decisions. Look for critical questions that support compliance, regulatory, and customer satisfaction objectives. Weight the form according to the behaviors you wish to drive and can support with positive coaching.
Few organizations put enough emphasis on the critical communications step. Providing information updates throughout the development and design process goes a long way in making the program a success. Use bulletin boards, Intranet sites, team meetings, and “desk drops” to keep employees informed of various stages and decisions being made. The more they know, the more likely they are to process the changes and accept them. Also, ensure that they have feedback channels.
Design a launch process that incorporates a “nesting” phase for the new form. Use parallel testing with both the existing and new form to understand how agent performance is affected. This also allows agents, supervisors, coaches, and analysts to adapt to the changes.
John Wooden, former UCLA basketball coach and the “Wizard of Westwood,” said, “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”
The entire purpose of evaluation and measurement is to improve – and improvement happens in the direct feedback, encouragement, and guidance provided between agent and supervisor or quality coach. The best coaching practices involve both “virtual” and “sit-down” coaching.
Virtual coaching gives the agent the opportunity to receive written feedback and review evaluations and call recordings on their own, as well as conduct self-assessments. This is a time to listen, consider, and reflect, and it creates an openness to truly “hear” the feedback and learn from it.
When virtual coaching is followed by a sit-down meeting, the impact grows tremendously. Great coaching is a dialogue, not a lecture. The agent is receptive and learning and growth happen at a dramatic rate.
And when the coaching is firmly rooted in important objectives for the company, it becomes an experience of working as a team towards common goals versus an interpersonal and subjective evaluation.
The road map laid out in this document will help you transform an existing quality program into a strategic asset. Remember that quality is a journey with great challenges and tremendous potential rewards. Employ these principles to avoid a bumpy ride and guide your contact center to gain the utmost value from this important process.
Linda Duba is a business professional with over twenty-five years of contact center experience supporting services operations, training, project management, branding, and customer experience management for a worldwide financial services company.
[From Connection Magazine – March 2012]