If you owned a grocery store, you obviously wouldn’t want your employees to harass your shoppers. This is a pretty simple thing to keep an eye on for anyone whose business is an actual grocery store—but it’s not so easy across all industries.
Modern contact centers, for instance, can be particularly difficult to monitor because they don’t have a physical presence. Simply put, there are no contact center agents walking down the halls/aisles of people’s homes, offering to help, and following up to make sure things worked out.
Now, this isn’t to suggest that your contact center agents are harassing customers behind your virtual back, but it would be tougher to find out. At the same time, contact center employees are usually a customer’s first point of contact with a company, so there’s a lot of pressure on them to make a good impression on your behalf.
Getting a sense of how customers feel about their experiences with your contact center is what quality assurance (QA) is all about—but it’s not all smiles and waves across the cold-cuts counter for contact center reps.
There are a lot of challenges that your support team faces, including the huge amounts of data they have to sort through and the pressures of providing long-distance customer support.
Thus, if you’re striving for the highest QA you can, it’s important that you do your best to make it easy and enjoyable for your contact center agents to provide great customer service. This includes both basic and advanced strategies, as well as proper feedback loops.
If done well, gamification has proven to increase employee engagement in many ways, with some studies showing a 50% productivity increase. This includes contact center teams, whose agents often encounter repetitive tasks and could benefit from out-of-the-box motivation strategies.
Essentially, gamification is a way of motivating workers by creating friendly competition in their operational workflow. It doesn’t turn their work into a game, per se, but it can be pretty close if there are prizes involved.
Gamification often quantifies work-based achievements using the basic principles of video games. Regardless of the metrics used, the goal is to reinforce social learning and increase everyone’s engagement during otherwise mundane tasks.
For example, let’s say you want to increase both the number of outbound calls your agents make and the number of inbound calls they accept. With an employee management system that is equipped for gamification, each individual agent’s progress can be tracked, and it can also show them a daily results screen with points, badges, progress bars, gains, winners, and anything else you’d like.
Simply put, it’s kind of like holding an “employee of the month” competition based on measurable performance.
But to succeed, however, gamification needs a few important features.
First, it needs to encourage daily motivation and set clear benchmarks for workers to gauge their achievements. They might earn points, “level up,” see themselves ranked on leaderboards, win badges, or move across a game board. Whatever incentives you think will work best for your staff.
Next, you need to make sure there’s a feedback loop with your game systems. You can offer bonus points with extra training or one-on-one coaching sessions. You can even provide extra resources to reinforce company policies through the game.
The most important thing is not to leave people behind. The point of the game isn’t to weed out the stragglers and embarrass them, but to encourage everyone to play as a team.
In a contact center, gamification can technically be implemented without software, such as by having the progress bars on the wall of the break room—but to get modern employees engaged with the system, you’ll want something they can pull up on their phone or laptop.
Lastly, keep in mind that competition can get out of hand this way. For example, if you’re scoring agents based on the number of calls they miss, they might start neglecting their current caller to move on to the next one as soon as possible. Gamification can be cool, but how you set up the system and encourage their engagement makes a huge difference.
2. AI Workflows
Your quality assurance workflow has a lot of functions, and each of them has its own performance metric. These take time and effort to collect and report to your team leaders, and it also has to be done if you expect them to improve their strategies.
The great thing about automating QA workflows with AI is how easy it is to gather in-depth performance insights. Instead of relying on your team to spend time collecting data—while also risking clerical errors from even the most experienced people on the job—the system can do it all for you.
And believe it or not, automated workflows can support your team’s performance by tracking metrics related to both soft and hard skills, such as:
With this kind of employee performance data, AI can create models and reports that help your leadership strategically improve your QA. This helps you see your team’s overall core performance areas, in addition to the strengths and weaknesses of individuals.
However, it’s important to be careful with this, as over-relying on AI can be a pitfall for some contact centers—particularly if their software suite can’t customize the strategies for the individual business’s needs. Thus, when shopping for software, remember that customization options are important. A lot of businesses are using combinations of VoIP phone systems, AI-enabled analytics, and other advanced solutions to dial up their competitive edge—and to dial down their labor costs.
3. Active Listening Training
You likely know the importance of training contact center agents to handle calls in general. Your training materials probably put a lot of weight on courtesy. But you may not have considered training employees on how to be empathetic, as opposed to just sounding like it.
This might be an overlooked skill, but when the customer connection drives profitability, it sure is an important one.
Active listening training is a set of principles that people can follow when talking to others. It’s been shown time and again to improve the quality of the emotional connection between the speakers. In the context of a call center, this means more customer engagement and better conversion rates. But it also just makes everyone feel better about the interaction.
The concept of active listening training includes:
- Learning how to pay attention
- Providing feedback to the caller
- Recognizing and acknowledging emotions
- Holding off on hasty conclusions
- Practicing empathetic responses
Active listening training can augment the contact center etiquette you’re probably already teaching. It’s a way of reinforcing the concept that your agents are actually speaking to people—not just customers.
4. Customer Journey Maps
Customer journey maps visualize how customers interact with your contact center. They not only take into account the hard facts of whether or not the customer bought something, but they also consider the customer’s needs and perceptions throughout the entire interaction with your agents.
The point of these maps is to get a better grasp of the customer’s perspective on the interaction. You’ll get a deeper insight into them, which is an often overlooked aspect of a contact center’s QA strategy.
Customer journey maps also ask important questions about what customers are trying to accomplish, how long they’ve been at it, and with what and/or whom they’re interacting. This allows your team leaders to improve interactions based on the customer’s actual experience, as opposed to just the standard, robotic touchpoints with your agents.
Think of it this way: you can’t possibly see the whole customer journey—let alone respond to it—if you’re only laser-focused on the moments where they directly interact with your call center. The other factors (aka the “off-stage” interactions) are just as important, such as the queries they make after the call, the newsletters you send out, and the feedback surveys you give them.
Your map needs to include the before, the during, and the after of interactions with your contact center. Once you see the whole journey, you’ll be much better equipped to help guide future customers to the right destination.
5. Agent Strategy Participation
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not as common as you might think. Agents should be actively participating in developing ongoing QA strategies rather than simply being subjected to them by management.
Simply put, while a lot of QA strategies involve team leaders listening to their agents’ calls and then giving them feedback, that’s not the only way of doing it. Instead, you can invite the agent to listen to the call with the team leader so they can evaluate the feedback together and come up with improvement strategies on a level playing field.
Strategies like this can get the agent thinking about his or her own performance in a way that encourages personal responsibility. This can encourage more employee engagement, which studies show can increase customer responses, level up productivity, and even increase profits by as much as 21%.
Keep in mind that evaluations can be stressful, so you don’t want your agents to be afraid to self-assess just because they’re worried about being assessed by everyone else. Active participation in their own improvement is an overlooked way of getting agents in on the action of their performance and caring more about their customers.
At the end of the day, this method can be less stressful for managers, too, because nothing dampens a day like having to be punitive for no reason.
Benchmarking is a great way to see how your contact center measures up. Basically, the point of benchmarking is to use performance indicators to compare your center as a whole with ones of similar size. Likewise, you can also see how you stack up against the best of the best in your industry.
While benchmarking is rather common, it’s not always done properly or effectively. Many companies treat it as a one-and-done deal. It’s not. Instead, it’s a continuous process that expands well beyond only one or two metrics. After evaluating your performance in one area, you should be shifting to another to get a bigger picture.
Additionally, choosing the right key performance indicators (KPIs) can make a world of difference, so you don’t always have to target the most common ones. It’s up to you and your team to figure out what combination will provide you with the greatest insight for improving the quality of your service.
In any case, common KPIs to track include the following:
- Customer satisfaction rates
- Service level
- First Call Resolution
- Agent turnover rates
- Average Handle Time
Keep in mind that you’ll probably need a software solution to organize this data, preferably one that can be tailored to your objectives. Otherwise, you may fall into a common trap that often comes with benchmarking, which is that it takes up a lot of time for team leaders.
To avoid this, try to use workforce analytics software so you don’t end up getting so caught up in the assessment of quality that you neglect to maintain it.
By far, surveys are the most common tactic for assessing agent performance and improving QA. It’s as simple as asking customers to give you direct feedback and taking it seriously into account.
Nevertheless, the data collected by surveys—whether it comes through paid questionnaires, random calls, or mandatory call monitoring—still has to be collated into something useful.
Surveys are like sauces. They don’t really do much on their own. Instead, you have to follow up on them, and you have to value the feedback enough to take action.
Acting upon survey results means thanking customers and letting them know their input was heard—and then sharing it with your agents if there are changes that need to be made.
A lot of businesses make the mistake of thinking that critical feedback is necessarily negative feedback. They respond by putting on their big boss hat and blaming their employees. But there’s a better way to do it.
If you use surveys as an opportunity for growth, coaching, and additional training, they’ll probably generate a lot more value than if you were to use them as disciplinary tools and reasons to wag your finger at your agents.
By demonstrating commitment to your QA and sharing the data in positive ways, you can build loyalty with your staff. At the end of the day, the surveys themselves might still be boring—but the results don’t have to be.
Just remember to treat it as an opportunity to upskill, which is something more and more employees value in their current jobs.
The Takeaway for Contact Centers
Contact Center QA can be complicated because it involves the quantification and the qualification of a lot of moving parts, like the emotional experiences of your customers, the tactics of your agents, and the strategies of your team leaders. When you put them all together, it can feel a bit like trying to do a crossword puzzle while skydiving—and then your phone rings.
This is why many businesses are turning to software solutions for their communications, because with so much data coming in all the time, it’s easy to lose sight of the factors that truly impact QA. Nevertheless, if you keep the right strategies in mind, you can ensure that you have a proper feedback loop for improving the experience for your customers and employees alike. And nobody has to get harassed in a grocery store, either.