30 tips to improve your call quality monitoring
Monitoring isn’t all about spotting problems and dealing with them. It’s also about identifying and amplifying positive messages. Even in today’s technologically sophisticated contact centres, a simple ‘thank you’ can work wonders. Here our panels of experts share their tips with us……….
1. Make good use of the information you gather
Call quality monitoring is essential for any contact centre, providing invaluable insight into how you are performing and what consumers are really experiencing.
The most useful results often stem from measuring and improvement processes that go beyond monitoring sample calls, impinging on wider areas of the business, from the setting and evaluating of standards, to advisor coaching, through to the training and development of staff.
2. Get the small things right
Having said that, regular monitoring is a good way of maintaining best practice, ensuring advisors get the details right: greeting consumers appropriately, adhering to the laid-down call structure, and using agreed positive phases throughout the call.
With regular quality monitoring, you can prevent bad habits creeping in, spreading from advisor to advisor, and contact centre to contact centre. Regular monitoring, support, feedback and training all help you maintain your high standards.
3. It doesn’t have to be hi-tech
But you don’t have to go hi-tech. Remember, some monitoring – even the most basic – is better than no monitoring at all. You can start with simple activities – a spreadsheet with tick boxes filled in manually – and work your way up slowly. And if you set realistic targets, achieving them will be motivating, paving the way to other more ambitious goals.
4. We’re not out to catch you out
Winning employee engagement and involvement from early on in the monitoring process is essential.
When monitoring is first introduced, there’s a tendency for some people to think it will be critical. On the other hand, where a monitoring system has been in place unchanged for a long time, advisors may start to take it for granted.
Call quality monitoring is not – or should not be – a negative, top-down activity, designed to trip advisors up. In the best contact centres, it is an integral part of the skills programme, of benefit to advisors as well as consumers.
Monitoring that is collaborative rather than prescriptive, inclusive rather than authoritarian, is likely to lead to more acceptance and co-operation. Most advisors find it helpful to know what the company expects of them and why their calls are important to the business and its customers.
5. Feedback, support and training are fundamental
Feedback from the monitoring process should be objective, using a method of scoring and evaluating that is fair and agreed by all in advance, and it must be consistent and regular. Once milestones are agreed and set, they must be kept to, built on and progressed.
Feedback can be delivered one-to-one, remotely, or via group sessions where advisors share and spread best practice. Whatever method is selected, the important thing is that there is an opportunity for individual advisors to contribute to the discussion.
Not only does this encourage their buy-in to the process, their comments and suggestions are often extremely insightful. But bear in mind that advisors are sometimes harder on their own and colleagues’ performances than supervisors would be.
Staff support should be provided through interventions such as refresher and formal skills training, and development and action plans to improve advisor performance, always with the aim of improving the customer experience and achieving your business objectives.
6. Quality people for quality monitoring
Quality evaluation is only as good as the person doing the evaluating.
If possible, it’s worthwhile investing in a dedicated person – or, in the case of larger contact centres, a specialist team – to monitor quality in your contact centre. Supervisors are there to manage the floor and plan campaigns, not to monitor quality. By giving that role to a dedicated individual or team, you leave your operational staff free to manage.
Once you have identified someone to handle monitoring, evaluating and training, give them the resources, training and skills they need to carry out appraisals, coaching, training and development, either by developing your own people or by recruiting in the required expertise.
7. Time and effort spent on monitoring is never wasted
There’s a direct correlation between call quality and the accuracy, frequency and excellence of monitoring and coaching. The equation is simple: the more time and effort you invest in monitoring and coaching, the better the service to your customers will be, and the bigger the benefits to sales and customer retention levels.
8. External benchmarking
As well as internal monitoring, it’s also helpful to compare your performance with others, especially the competition. Internal checks will give you a more subjective picture, which could be misleading. For a truly objective result, you need external benchmarking. Contact centres with no monitoring systems or resources in place should consider outsourcing these functions to an external agency. It can be a cost-effective option.
9. Reward best practice
Reward high-quality work through mechanisms such as ‘advisor of the month’ awards and staff excellence certificates, or highlight it in your company newsletter and intranet site. And if consumers are pleased with the service, pass on their messages. Integrate all these positive points into the company’s annual appraisal and benefits schemes.
James Le Roth, Eclipse Marketing (www.eclipsemarketing.co.uk)
Jonathan Evans, Senior Business Systems Manager, TNT Express (www.tnt.com)
11. Apply a well-thought-out quality management procedure
I am amazed at the number of companies who purchase call recording solutions in order to remain “compliant” with security or FSA regulations, that do not have a structured call quality monitoring policy in place. It’s always one of those “we’ll get to it sometime” things that might not show itself as important, or possibly there are other larger fires to fight in your business. Others may baulk at the inordinate amount of time or effort to manage the process as well.
If you want to see an uplift in the overall customer experience, a well-thought-out quality management procedure can work wonders. It gives your agents something to strive for. It gives you insight into the core traits and skills that your agents need to interact with your customers, and the customers themselves will also have a more positive experience when doing business with you, giving your business that competitive advantage.
12. Get your contact centre involved in defining the criteria
Section the call into a number of points where you can create criteria which would satisfy the majority of customers. It could be something very tangible such as offering your name to the caller, or something more intangible or subjective, such as showing empathy on the call. People tend to have shied away from those criteria, but, I can assure you, they are measurable, and there are methods and tools to coach in those sort of skills.
Make sure you get your contact centre involved in defining the criteria. The last thing they need is another rule or policy that has been imposed on them. Having a team of people design the call quality procedure makes them advocates and champions to the cause.
13. Put the time into training and coaching
In my experience, the biggest issue where these quality monitoring processes fall down is a lack of thought put to training and coaching the skills the agents are going to need in order to succeed. Be sure you have spent some time with some experts who can show you how to coach these skills effectively into your operation when required.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of an application to assist your agents and your team leaders through the procedures. Introducing a call quality process will also introduce another load of work on your team leaders and agents. Be sure to look for applications which will mitigate this. In some cases, the technology pays for itself in the form of reclaimed time.
14. Include a feedback process
Lastly, make sure there is a feedback process in your operation to gauge customer satisfaction when interacting with your operation. There’s no point in assuming what your customers want in terms of call quality. A simple yet effective customer advocacy survey will help to validate the steps you are taking in your operation and will help identify where to fine tune the process.
Gene Reynolds, Senior Consultant, Corporate Communications (www.cc.net)
15. Define what good looks like
Call monitoring will not be effective unless you fully understand the reason for monitoring and what you are trying to measure or discover. Identifying what ‘good’ or ‘unsatisfactory’ looks like is essential for objective and effective call monitoring. ‘Good’ will be different depending on the reason for monitoring.
16. Get your scripts right
Ensure the wording in your scripts, or what your agents are expected to say to be compliant, is identified in your call monitoring forms and that your scoring reflects the common understanding of what would be classed as compliant or a breach.
17. Set up a call quality forum
An additional step of setting up a forum to reach a consensus on what good looks like will pay dividends. Ensuring that all stakeholders are agreed on what constitutes ‘good’ and capturing the criteria in your monitoring forms will support your call and quality monitoring staff in achieving the objectivity that is so essential. It is critical that measurement criteria are clearly defined and agreed and there is consensus on what ‘good’ looks like.
18. Set up call levelling sessions
The best way to do this is to set up call levelling sessions that are held on an ongoing basis. Take a random selection of calls. Get all stakeholders and, where possible, call monitoring staff, or managers if this is not feasible, and listen to the calls together. Score them as you go along.
After each call, discuss the scores for the criteria monitored and where there is a wide variation, the reasons. If all scores are within a narrow range you’re in luck, but more often than not, there will be a wide variation between the scores for many elements of the call, especially when you first start this process. Through the session the range of scores should narrow as the various stakeholders adjust their scoring and reach consensus. Over time, opinion and individuals involved will change so it is important to have regular call levelling sessions in order to maintain the consensus.
19. Use an independent call monitoring facility
Objective call monitoring can be difficult to achieve and maintain when all monitoring activity is carried out internally using your own people. There are companies who offer independent call monitoring services and can provide you with a truly objective view of the quality of your calls, whether they are compliant with the prevailing industry guidelines and regulations and in some cases benchmarking. To keep control of costs, look for companies who are happy to give you a one-off report covering a batch of calls, perhaps the same batch of calls used for your call levelling sessions.
Janette Coulthard, Marketing & Communications Director, 2gether Consulting (www.2getherconsulting.co.uk)
20. Assign quality ownership
It sounds obvious, but if nobody wants to own the process, how can it be audited and calibrated to ensure it is effective and continues to improve and adapt to the business’s changing needs? Similarly, there should be a clearly documented process for monitoring and evaluating calls, and all agents and team managers should be trained and familiar with all areas of quality monitoring and how to get the most from the system they have in place.
21. Develop and maintain evaluation forms
Evaluation forms are at the heart of a good quality monitoring programme and when compiling them you need to ask yourself:
- Am I asking the right questions?
- Am I getting the required results? i.e. output which leads to a continuous coaching and development plan for my team
- Does the scoring mechanism allow agents to provide an ‘outstanding’ or ‘Wow factor’ service not just an ‘average’ or ‘satisfactory’ service?
22. Evaluation dispute process
Agents need to be given the opportunity to dispute their evaluation if they feel they are not happy with any aspect of it. The dispute process allows the agent the opportunity to have their evaluation re-evaluated by another person if they are unhappy with the result. This way, agents feel they have more control over their call evaluation, thus further empowering them to take ownership of their own quality
23. Agent synergy session
Synergy sessions involve groups of agents, team managers, CSMs and trainers listening to calls together to discuss call-handling techniques and evaluate the quality of the call. These sessions help reinforce quality standards and allow new and experienced agents to share experiences, best practice and provide a natural way to cross-skill agents from different departments. Recent studies have shown that agents attending regular synergy sessions achieve anywhere from 5% to 20% higher quality scores than the overall contact centre.
Brent Bischoff, Business Solutions Consultant, Business Systems (UK) Ltd (www.businesssystemsuk.co.uk)
A further 6 quick-fire tips………
24. Keep your call monitoring standardised
Keep your call monitoring standardised and consistent so you can build a steady, reliable picture of performance within your business.
25. Don’t waste time searching
Don’t waste time searching through your database for suitable calls – use a tool which allows you to find and recall calls quickly and easily.
26. Record calls in the background
Remove agents’ stress from call monitoring by using a solution which records quietly in the background, without influencing the behaviour of the individual under assessment. [In one call centre I went to the agents knew they were being monitored when the supervisor put her headset on - editor]
27. Allow self assessment
Gain “buy-in” from your teams by allowing agents to self-assess some of their work – make them feel their input is valued and that your team ethos is inclusive.
28. Make it a habit
Monitor calls on a regular basis to build a progressive picture of your team’s performance.
29. Assess the effectiveness of your training programmes
Use call quality monitoring to assess the effectiveness of your training programmes – listen in to verify that points taught in training sessions have been noted and put into practice. Call quality monitoring is also an easy means of assessing where gaps in knowledge or practice may exist – use this learning to build training solutions which close those gaps off.
Cameron Ross, Managing Director, Veritape (www.veritape.com)
30. Define what constitutes a quality customer interaction and what you are measuring
A typical example of best practise is a call answered in a timely and appropriate manner, dealt with swiftly and to the customer’s satisfaction, meeting service levels and KPIs.
The aim of quality monitoring from an operational point of view is to identify the calls failing to meet pre-defined standards and get to the root cause of why. You can then make informed decisions to make the process better, faster and quicker, e.g. implement or refine agent training and coaching initiatives to bridge skills gaps, correct broken internal processes, improve workforce scheduling, or perhaps alert other areas of the organisation that are having an impact.
To achieve this you need to be able to evaluate a representative sample of interactions. The smaller the sample, the less accurate your benchmark scoring will be and you will run the risk of making the wrong decisions.
Using modern recording and quality monitoring tools it is possible to capture not only the call itself but the activity that took place on the agent’s screen and score 100% of the interactions, giving an accurate and comprehensive view of agent, team, campaign and overall contact centre performance.
Craig Pumfrey, Director of Marketing Communications at NICE Systems (www.nice.com)
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