The right approach to call center quality management builds agents’ skills and enhances workforce engagement
Quality assurance (QA) sessions are a primary vehicle for skills-building in any contact center. These one-on-ones take agents beyond what they learned in a few days or weeks of training and help them respond effectively to real-life customer situations. And a better prepared agent isn’t just more effective, they’re more confident and engaged as well.
This means a proper QA process must reach beyond call center analytics and reporting. QA also demands time, attention to detail and a human touch to ensure that agents feel supported in their jobs and included in the culture.
How can you make that happen in these brief meetings? Here are a few tips.
#1 Teach the process
Some agents arrive knowing how to accept and incorporate feedback. For others, getting performance input is new and disconcerting. Responses to constructive criticism can range from dejection to defensiveness.
To defuse the emotions, it’s important to explain why QA sessions happen and to underscore that everyone is offered ideas for improvement. Getting better is a marathon, not a sprint, so make sure agents understand that critiques don’t threaten their job—they’re part of the job.
It’s more difficult to hear criticism or “fess up” about a lack of knowledge if a colleague in the next seat is listening in. So keep QA private. Creating a quiet space for one-on-ones ensures confidentiality and helps build the trust necessary for agents to confront the challenges they face, ask questions and invest in the process.
#3 Do it often
Making QA feedback a regular occurrence has many benefits. When agents deal with feedback once or twice per week, they become more comfortable with it.
Regular feedback also allows leaders to strike while the iron is hot. Contacts that happened within the past few days represent an agent’s current skill set, not mistakes they may have corrected weeks ago. What’s more, the agent is more likely to remember the thinking behind the choices they made, so QA feedback can help them adjust how they strategize their contacts, not just incorporate rote behaviors.
#4 Be specific
The QA scorecard helps take the concept of an improved call center customer experience and break it down into specific elements—like a recipe for success. To take full advantage, however, agents need specificity. They must be able to identify exactly when and where they applied—or failed to apply—certain skills.
QA leaders should feel free to pause a call recording and praise a particular phrasing or empathetic comment, explaining why it worked. When there is room for improvement, modeling an alternative response can help agents understand precisely what is being asked of them.
Be sure not to overwhelm agents with feedback. Offering a “scattershot” of comments, both good and bad, can create confusion and leave the employee unclear on next steps.
Instead, focus on one or two related points per QA session to provide a manageable list for the agent to attend to in the coming shifts. Once these skills are firmly established, future QA sessions can move on.
Sometimes focus may mean devoting an entire QA session to positives. If an agent made a great leap forward, allow time to celebrate and save other critiques for next time. It’s a great confidence builder!
#6 Separate behaviors from outcomes
Not every contact will result in the targeted outcome. On-point product pitches frequently result in no sale, while the most empathetic and efficient response to a complaint may not be enough to soothe some of the worst callers.
QA managers can help agents build resilience by focusing on behaviors in addition to outcomes. Note an agent’s professionalism, knowledge, patience, or other positives displayed on a difficult call that didn’t turn out as they’d hoped.
#7 Communicate both ways
Give agents a voice by allowing them to help design the post-QA action plan with goals they feel are achievable by the next session. You might be surprised how the focus shifts.
A QA manager, for example, might be looking for improved customer satisfaction scores in post-call surveys, while the agent is mostly worried about getting flustered in certain scenarios, which compromises their service quality. If agents can surface the root cause of contact shortcomings and devise ideas for addressing them, they’ll often get further, faster than by following a one-size-fits-all formula.
Bonus Tip: Accept defeat
What if despite all of the efforts above, QA sessions with a particular agent just aren’t working? Sometimes it’s worthwhile to send in a different QA manager to see if there’s a personality mismatch. Other times, a human resources intervention may help if an agent is dealing with issues beyond the job. Yet there will be occasions when there is no choice but to let go.
Contact centers will boost their coaching success rates, however, by making QA part of an overarching contact center workforce engagement strategy, with transparency during hiring, an organization-wide mission to believe in, a supportive culture, adaptable scheduling, opportunity for advancement, and so on.
Struggling to incorporate such strategies with agents who are now—or maybe always have been—working from home? Here’s our take on that challenge.