Looking Back After Fifteen Years: Lessons Learned in Time

The race for quality is a marathon. Our group has had the blessing of earning the loyalty of several clients. I'm spending a few days this week coaching teams for one of our long-term clients. I have been analyzing calls and providing call coaching for this company (and some of the same individuals) for 15 years!

As I sat between call coaching sessions and pondered those 15 years, it struck me that there are some life lessons that only come with time and experience. In the realm of service quality, here are a few lessons that I've picked up over the long haul:

  • Service delivery is a human enterprise, given to a natural ebb and flow of life and the human condition. There are a few stellar service providers on this team. In fact, there is one who has the rare distinction of maintaining a perfect service score over an entire quarter. I've only seen one other person do that in fifteen years. Yet, over the long haul you can see that even this exceptional CSR has dips in the trend line. One of the things that a good QA program does for you is to help catch those dips and provide people two things: the knowledge that their service delviery is dipping and the specific behaviors that they are missing so the dip doesn't become bad habit.
  • When done correctly, QA is a marathon, not a sprint. There are a few CSRs on this team who did not buy in when we started fifteen years ago. They were slow to change, thinking that if they waited long enough the fad would wear out and they wouldn't have to change their behaviors. Guess what? It didn't go away. Their leadership's resolve to invest in QA over the long haul sent a clear message that taking exceptional care of customers was an expectation that does not go away. There are still a few CSRs who make it clear they'd prefer if I just went away (not in a mean way – they are just honest), but they eventually began to change their behaviors and build good habits.
  • There are different paths to excellence. I look at all the CSRs I've trained for this client through the years. Some were exceptional service providers from the start. Some were agonizingly slow to learn and adopt certain service skills in their delivery, but with continuous positive reinforcement they were able to attain a high level of proficiency. Some CSRs have maintained a "manic" trend line. Their service levels rise and fall with their mood, and only vigilant coaching has helped smooth out the peaks and valleys. There were a small group of CSRs through the years who responded only to the stern message from management that service quality was not optional. And a few, and only a few, were never willing to meet service expectations. A good QA program has to be flexible enough to meet individuals where they are and give them what they need to succeed.

Those are just a few thoughts bouncing around my head between sessions. Take heart, my QA colleauges. I've been doing this for 15 years and my brain isn't completely turned to mush, nor have they had to haul me off to a rubber room somewhere. Keep pressing on. The race for quality is a marathon. Pace yourself.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and eleftheriag

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