The Siren Song of “Best Practices”

SirenThere’s a strong wind blowing through businesses and call centers right now. Can you hear the music? It’s calling QA managers and professionals to study the "best practices" of other QA departments. It’s become quite common for call center managers or QA managers to ask our group how other call centers score their calls. We are often asked for examples of other QA scales and definition documents. The thinking goes, "let’s go out and get a bunch of examples of QA scales from other call centers and then build our scale on best practices."

In general, I don’t have a problem with the idea of studying best practices. However, it’s important when talking about your QA scale to remember a couple of truths:

  • Other call centers aren’t talking to your customers. A QA scale should be built with your call flow and your customers’ satisfaction in mind. The guy down the street may have built a wonderful QA scale for his customers – but their satisfaction may be driven by completely different elements. With "best practices", businesses run the risk of standing around complimenting one another and slapping each other on the back while their customers stand outside the ivory tower trying to get their attention.
  • Those other QA scales you gather as examples of "best practices" might just be crap. I’m often surprised by the number of people who assume that because the company down the street is large and well-known – they must do it right. In fact, I find that larger companies tend to have more hands in the process, more beauracracy, more red-tape and their QA scales end up as jumbled messes of competing internal expectations. Are you assuming that other companies are doing a great job with their QA scale? How can you tell? Have you identified the basic methodologies that ensure objective, actionable analysis and outcome of your company’s phone calls? Can you tell a quality QA scale from one that will dash your program into the rocks?

Studying best practices has it’s place, and I’m not denying that you can learn from what others are doing. Nevertheless, when delivering sales and service in moments of truth on the phone with your customers, it’s important to stay focused on what your customers expect and what you need to do to meet and exceed those expectations. Be discerning. Another company’s "best practice" may be a siren’s song leading you to impending disaster.

Related Posts:
You Know What They Say About Assumptions
Owning a Spatula Doesn’t Make Me a Chef
Put Some Teeth in Your QA Program

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Flickr photo courtesy of Flickov

  8 comments for “The Siren Song of “Best Practices”

  1. June 13, 2006 at 5:11 pm

    I agree Tom, “best practicing” other call center call scoring is a very slippery slope, because there are so many different variables in what is quite a subjective excercise to begin with. That’s why we’ve developed our own scoring system, for the most part. Great advice!

  2. June 13, 2006 at 8:31 pm

    With you and Starbucker on this as well.
    Best practices don’t import well for the reasons you two note.
    Best practices is a form of business porn for many. Lusting for results that others have achieved by paying attention to their unique variables, clients blindly imitate rather than innovate their own solutions.
    Can you tell I have strong feelings on this? Grin
    Keep creating,
    Mike

  3. June 13, 2006 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks for the comments, guys! I appreciate the insight.
    SB, I’d be interested to hear what you’ve learned in building your own scale both positively and negatively.
    P.S. I took your well-wishes got to Starbucks both yesterday AND today (might even make it tomorrow, too!)

  4. June 14, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    Good question Tom – on the positive side, doing it in a “homegrown” way gave the managers and supervisors greater “pride of ownership”, as it were, and thus a more enthusiastic focus on the results. On the flipside, I do sometimes fear that without some “outside the fishbowl” perspective now and then, the process becomes too rote aand complacency sets in, because everyone has “figured it out” (I hope that made sense).
    Wow, your going a long way just for that Starbucks brew – hope it was worth it (sounds like it was). What’s your drink of choice?

  5. June 14, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    That makes perfect sense, and I’ve known many companies that have experienced the exact same thing. The important thing for our business, as any other, is to remember that any QA scale is an on-going work in progress that should be upgraded and improved as technology, the market, operations and customer expectation change.
    As far as my Starbucks runs, I’ve been treating my ailing stomach to some soothing green tea (iced). Being so far from the nearest Starbucks, I have to be a coffee snob at home, grinding my beans (w/burr grinder, of course) and brewing a hearty dark roast each morning. My favorite is a locally roasted blend called “Luna Tango” – but I’m also partial to Starbucks’ Gold Goast.

  6. Kay
    June 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    “..A QA scale should be built with your call flow and your customers’ satisfaction in mind.”
    Hello,
    I have built the QA score card from our quality guidelines and training materials. However, Call flow has been left out of it. Though the agents are trained to follow a particular call flow, the supervisors and QA’s use this as a coaching point instead of a markdown.
    I did attempt to add the call flow to the guidelines/ scorecard but was told by my supervisor that it was “…way too restrictive. The goal is to ‘generally’ ensure call flow compliance and in-turn a quality experience for the customer. Micro-rules restrict the agent from acting naturally and ensuring a personalized conversation…which is as equally important to quality.” He prefers for it to be a coaching point.
    I do believe that our score card and guidelines have “our customers’ satisfaction in mind” but how do you incorporate the call flow, without “micro-rules?”

  7. June 9, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Thanks for the question Kay. Without seeing the scale to which you refer, I’m not sure I fully understand what you’re asking, but I’ll do my best to respond. When I mentioned keeping your “Call Flow” in mind, it was in a figurative sense rather than it being an actual element of the scale. You can create a scale that flows generally with the high points of your typical call and without “micro-rules.” The key is to make sure that elements you DO list are specific enough that they aren’t open for interpretation from one analyst to the next.

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