When customers contact a company with whom they’re doing business, they expect a certain level of service. The most common types of customer interactions are those where someone is requesting information, in need of support, or initiating a transaction. Their expectations for service are usually centered around three areas:
Sounds simple. Right? However, many companies find it difficult to consistently deliver on these expectations.
Call center agents are the first line of defense and point of contact for customers. Their interactions are critical to defining the customer experience. Service agents are trained to adhere to numerous policies, procedures and metrics while keeping abreast of an ever-evolving list of new product information that must be effectively communicated.
To better align customer service agent efforts, quality standards are defined and audited by internal quality teams. Nearly every customer service center has a quality assurance team or “phone police” – that listens in on interactions and assesses whether or not the front line agent’s conversation meets a specific standard. In fact, it’s somewhat ironic that the most skilled agents, who are promoted to the Quality team, are considered inhibitors rather than champions of success. Is a Quality team necessary to build and deliver strong customer service?
Let’s examine several areas that outline responsibilities vs capabilities.
First, the role and goal of a Quality team is to listen to customer/agent interactions and assess whether the correct information was provided in a way the customer understands. The team manages their checklist that measures the agent’s skills and effectiveness. Some checklists are short, consisting of five to seven 5 – 7 questions, while others are quite rigorous consisting of more than 30 questions. Some are of the opinion that the more questions included on a checklist, the higher the quality of the assessment. But, if you stop to think about it, your customer does not care about the checklist; they only care about if someone is actually listening to them.
The main reason most quality processes fail is due to the lack of focus placed on listening to the customer and determining whether the company is delivering on expectations. This is not achieved by filling in a checklist, but by collecting the relevant information that illustrates the reasons why the customer is reaching out for help. By design, Quality teams are uniquely positioned for this purpose. Just think: Who listens to the most calls in a customer service operation? Not operations, not training, and not even the senior leaders. It’s the Quality team. Your Quality team can potentially be the central source for ascertaining what customers want and how to deliver what they expect.
Secondly, Quality teams provide objective feedback and are the voice of truth. They know how things should be and are responsible for documenting what happened versus what should have taken place. This feedback is usually packaged with an evaluation and provided to a supervisor or directly to the agent. The process is sometimes ineffective, resulting in unnecessary work that includes fact checking by several individuals as well as an effort to determine if the assessment is 100% correct. Just one error and the Quality process loses credibility and could potentially be considered a waste of time and money as supervisors and agents may discard these files. What is most helpful and effective to agents is a clear path to success. The Quality team is uniquely positioned to provide this support. How? You may ask….
Because your Quality team listens to both good and bad interactions, they can pinpoint the most effective agents who provide positive customer experiences. Choose the calls that model the types of behavior that support ideal customer experiences. To test this belief, ask your Quality team “Who are the best agents on the floor? Who are the less than stellar performers?
Your mission is to collect the successful attributes of your best agents and use them as examples to show others how to be effective and in coaching and development sessions. Admittedly, this process still has some flaws. For instance, some supervisors may not know how to effectively provide helpful, actionable steps for improvement. But it is a start in the right direction.
Kevin Zehnder is the Vice President of Customer Experience Solutions, for eClerx Customer Operations. With over 24 years’ experience in Customer Service and Sales, he is an industry leader in aligning Quality processes to optimize Customer Experience, including quality process design, customer survey methodology, closed-loop feedback, and associate coaching. Kevin has also designed and implemented Customer Analytics that have provided corporate leaders with the data to enhance decision making in keeping with their brand promise. Prior to joining eClerx, Kevin spent nine years managing quality delivery for major outsource partners and has worked with industry leaders in NPS that include USAA, Amazon, and T-Mobile.
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