In your contact center, is quality "job one," or ho-hum? How employees view quality has a lot to do with how quality monitoring is structured and performed. If the process is punitive, agents will resent the concept of quality; a stale process will earn an indifferent eye roll; but a fresh, fair and inclusive quality monitoring process will inspire agents to embrace quality and do their part to help the organization meet its quality goals.
In today's experience economy, quality is more important than ever. Consumers are much less tolerant of low quality customer service experiences. On the flip side, they'll reward exceptional customer experiences (CX) with more purchases and referrals. Under these circumstances, contact centers can't afford to have agents who are indifferent about or resentful of quality improvement efforts.
This post will present best practices designed to refresh your quality monitoring program and motivate agents to hop on the quality train. Additionally, we'll discuss some warning signs that your quality efforts are misaligned and connect you with some additional resources that will help you keep quality monitoring on track.
What is quality monitoring?
Quality monitoring is an important sub-task within the broader quality management process. Quality monitoring is the act of reviewing and evaluating customer interactions to assess whether they're meeting the organization's quality standards. The output of quality monitoring, usually a score and some commentary, is used for coaching and training, which are additional components of quality management. These sub-tasks should all work together in a coordinated, continuous improvement effort.
Why is quality monitoring important?
This may seem like a question even Captain Obvious could get right, but the answer is actually multifaceted. Quality monitoring serves many purposes, including:
- Ensuring organizational standards are being met. Organizations often establish standards regarding topics like branding, sales processes, and CX. For example, they may want agents to personalize interactions as part of an overall CX strategy. Quality monitoring can help determine whether or not these standards are being followed.
- Ensuring compliance. Quality monitoring can also identify possible compliance issues. For example, some finance industry transactions require agents to read disclosure statements to customers. By listening to call recordings, quality evaluators can assess if this is happening.
- Identifying and troubleshooting problems. Astute evaluators can identify trends in the calls they listen to, including emerging issues. The information they capture can help businesses squelch problems before they have a widespread impact on CX.
- Maintaining oversight of remote agents. The importance of quality monitoring has been elevated due to the pandemic-related increase in at-home agents. A top complaint of managers with remote staff is the inability to monitor their work. Quality monitoring partially solves this problem by keeping tabs on remote agent quality.
What is a typical quality monitoring process?
A typical quality monitoring process looks something like this:
- Step 1: The contact center designates someone to review and evaluate contacts - smaller operations may assign this to a supervisor as an additional duty, while large contact centers might have a team of analysts dedicated to quality monitoring.
- Step 2: The quality evaluators develop evaluation scorecards - these may be manual or automated forms and are hopefully concise and based on business goals and CX standards. Scorecards contain a series of questions that walk evaluators through the assessment. Contact centers frequently have different scorecards for different interaction types. For example, sales calls will have quality standards unique from service calls, and chat interactions will be evaluated differently than phone calls. Separate scorecards accommodate the unique characteristics of each type of contact.
- Step 3: The scoring method is designed - for example, each question might have the same point value or more important questions might be assigned a higher weight. Additionally, if some questions receive a score of zero, the entire interaction could receive a failing score.
- Step 4: Evaluators pull a random sample of call recordings - this step is particularly tricky and error prone. Evaluators need to review every agent's work and they usually only have the capacity to review a 1-2% sample. Is that really representative? The answer is NO, and we’ll talk about that more later.
- Step 5: Evaluators listen to and score the calls - they complete a scorecard for each call, which ultimately rolls up to agent, team, and contact center quality scores.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 over and over and periodically review scorecards and scoring criteria.
This typical quality monitoring process is very straightforward, but it can become stale over time and lose its effectiveness. Additionally, as with most processes, it can always be improved to make it more relevant and engaging. Applying some best practices to your quality monitoring may give it the boost it needs to take quality from ho-hum to ta da!
15 best practices that can refresh your quality monitoring
- Include agents in identifying what to measure.
If your quality scorecards have been around a while, it's probably time to give them a tune up. This is the perfect opportunity to get input from the agents that interact with your customers every day and have a good handle on what satisfies them. Having been on the receiving end of quality scorecards, they probably already have some ideas about how to improve them. Including agents in this process will not only yield a better scorecard, but it will also help with buy-in.
- Make quality monitoring positive rather than negative.
If agents have a look of dread whenever it's time to receive coaching on their quality results, there's something wrong with the approach. Agents need to be comfortable with receiving a lot of feedback - it's just part of the job description. But they should understand it's to make them even better, not punish them. After all, even world class athletes benefit from coaching. Build trust with agents so they're receptive to feedback and make sure you’re focusing on positives as well as negatives. Quality analytics makes it easy to find successful interactions by pinpointing positive sentiment. The quality monitoring plan should include steps to review some positive interactions for each agent every cycle. See best practice #7 for more information about analytics.
- Implement a dispute resolution process.
Related to #2, agents will have more trust for the quality monitoring process if they are able to dispute the results. This will foster dialog and possibly help calibrate evaluations. Empowering agents by letting them share opinions that will possibly result in a scoring upgrade will lead to better engagement and buy-in. Quality monitoring shouldn't be something that is "done to" agents. They should be active participants.
- Provide incentives.
If quality is truly important to your contact center, put some money behind it. That not only sends a clear message that quality is important, but it will also create excitement and focus among agents. Consider rewarding the individual or team with the highest average quality monitoring score each month. If money is tight, awards like a reserved parking space or choice of shifts can be just as meaningful.
- Make quality scores very visible.
To keep quality monitoring scores top of mind, make sure everyone can see them. They should be part of agent dashboards and available on agent desktops so agents can self-manage their results. Plus, the overall call center average should be posted in a prominent place, perhaps near the employee entrance or on a wall of the contact center floor.
- Use industry-leading quality management software.
The best quality management software automates many of the labor-intensive quality monitoring tasks, relieving evaluators and agents of administrative burden. For example, quality management systems can choose and route call recordings to evaluators based on user defined criteria such as length of call and ACD disposition. Additionally, QM tools can automate the dispute resolution process discussed in #3 above. And modern quality management software can also record agent screens, providing evaluators with a more holistic view of the interaction.
- Monitor 100% of interactions with quality management analytics.
A drawback of traditional quality monitoring is that only a very small sample of interactions are reviewed. Is that 1-2% sample really representative of the contact center's or an agent's entire body of work? Quality management analytics uses AI-powered analytics to pinpoint interactions with specific categories, words or phrases and routes them for evaluation. That way you can ensure you are evaluating a more representative sample of agent performance – both great and subpar – across different interaction types.
- Include all support channels.
If you support digital channels like chat and email, those should also be included in your quality monitoring efforts. Otherwise, you're getting only part of the quality story. Supporting digital channels requires distinct skill sets, so just because an agent is competent at voice interactions doesn't mean he'll have a comparable chat quality score. Taking this up a level, just because your contact center's phone quality is high doesn't mean your chat quality is also high. Quality scores can also be aggregated at the channel level so you can compare results across all the channels you provide.
- Facilitate self-evaluations.
Agents should regularly have the chance to evaluate their own interactions. Ideally, these would include ones the evaluators are also assessing so agents and evaluators can have meaningful conversations about the "why" behind the scores. This will align expectations and give agents a better understanding and appreciation of the process.
- Consider other metrics.
If you expand the definition of "quality monitoring," it could mean keeping an eye on all statistics that impact quality. For example, a holistic quality dashboard would include stats like customer satisfaction scores, transfer rates, and first call resolution rates in addition to quality monitoring scores. Quality scores are certainly important, but they're more powerful when used in conjunction with other metrics.
- Don't just focus on outliers.
If the goal of your quality monitoring program is to develop a directionally accurate quality score, focusing solely on outliers, like short or long calls, won't get you there. The bulk of the sample should be randomly selected and ideally be a representative slice of the overall pie. Someone needs to investigate outliers like repeatedly short calls or excessively long calls to identify system or behavioral issues, but do they need to be formally evaluated? Probably not.
- Show agents what they're striving for.
A call recording (or chat transcript, etc.) can be worth a thousand words. Quality service shouldn't be some vague concept represented by questions on a scorecard. Agents need to know exactly what "excellent" looks and sounds like. Sharing examples of highly scored interactions will help clarify expectations.
- Tailor scorecards when needed but don't go overboard.
Unless you have a very narrowly focused operation, you'll find that when it comes to quality scorecards, one size does not fit all – and like many things, less is more. Different call types often require their own scorecards due to the nature of the interaction. For example, a tech support call has different quality measures than an outbound sales call. Create unique scorecards when needed but try not to create so many that it becomes an administrative mess.
- Incorporate live listening.
Quality monitoring doesn't have to be limited to "after-the-fact" reviews of call recordings and digital transcripts. Listening and coaching while calls are happening can be a powerful way for agents to learn good CX lessons. The best call center software includes features that allow supervisors to see the agent’s screen and listen and whisper coach advice to agents in real-time for on-the-spot course corrections.
- Keep it simple.
As best practice #13 implies, contact centers should strive for simplicity in their quality monitoring. This not only applies to the number of different scorecards they have, but also the contents of these scorecards. It's tempting to include a line item about every little step the organization wants their agents to follow, but overengineering scorecards can render them useless. Keep scorecard questions to a handful of the most important drivers of quality.
4 signs your quality monitoring program is misaligned
Even if you follow all or most of the above best practices, you may still find something is a little off. Quality monitoring efforts need to be considered in the context of other available information to ensure the scorecards are measuring the right things and that the quality scores truly reflect the customer experience. Here are some signs your quality scores might not be telling an accurate story.
- Quality scores are high but customer satisfaction scores are low. This is a scenario that can drive a contact center manager crazy. When the two scores contradict each other, it's often because the scorecards are focused on the wrong thing. For example, the scorecards may be evaluating whether agents are adhering to internal policies and procedures, while customers on the receiving end of those policies and procedures find they create an awkward experience. The lesson is that quality monitoring scorecards need to heavily lean towards what customers, not the business, think is important.
- Each agent's quality scores vary widely depending on the evaluator. Once agents are familiar with contact center processes and expectations, their scores should be fairly consistent month to month. There shouldn't be wide swings based on who did the evaluations that month. If there are, there's a calibration issue. Evaluators should have regular calibration sessions to ensure they are in sync with their scoring. This will ensure quality scores are consistent, trustworthy, and fair.
- High number of agent disputes. There will likely be some disputes with how interactions are scored, but if the amount is high, that's a red flag that there's a disconnect somewhere. Agents need to be trained about the quality monitoring process so they have a baseline understanding. Additionally, best practice #9 will help agents and evaluators get on the same page and reduce disputes.
- Evaluators struggle to meet volume targets. Quality monitoring programs typically have monthly targets regarding the number or percent of interactions to be evaluated each month. The manual nature of some organizations' processes, which require evaluators to search for appropriate contacts and then perform a detailed review of each one, can make it difficult for quality staff to meet their volume targets. If not enough interactions are evaluated, this can make quality scores invalid. Quality management software and quality analytics can eliminate this issue through automation.
Keeping your quality monitoring program on track
To maintain the effectiveness of your quality monitoring program, treat it like a living organism that needs regular care and feeding. Quality is too important to neglect. If you experience any of the symptoms of misalignment, if business priorities or customer expectations change, or if every day in your quality team feels like Groundhog Day, it's time to refresh your quality monitoring program. Start by applying some of the best practices in this article. And remember to regularly review scorecards for relevancy and hold calibration sessions to ensure evaluators and evaluation forms remain in sync with what's important to customers and the business.
Our resource center and blog are packed with helpful insights and tips about contact center quality management. For example:
- To learn more about including agents in the quality monitoring process, watch our recorded webinar How and Why to Engage Your Agents in Quality Management
- For more information about quality analytics, watch our product demo Improve omnichannel customer experience with NICE CXone Quality Management Analytics
- For an overview of contact center quality management, read our two part blog series
- And for advice about creating quality monitoring scorecards, read How to Build a Call Center Evaluation Scorecard