We begin with the front line supervisor who seems like the natural choice, and for good reason:
- They are the closest managerial person to the floor.
- They usually know the Customer Service Representative (CSR) better than anyone else.
- They usually have direct responsibility for the CSR's performance management.
- They can closely monitor progress and keep their eye on the CSR day-to-day.
However, in over 15 years of working with call center QA programs, I've found that there are inherent problems with supervisors being the primary call analysts and coaches:
- Quality becomes back burner issue. I've always held that front-line supervisors have the toughest job in the call center and they are usually the most stressed out level of management. I have the greatest respect for them. They have the competing priorities of helping their agents, training, mentoring, managing, taking escalated customer calls, answering e-mails, scheduling, facilitating team meetings, motivating, counseling, and we haven't even gotten to all of the things call center and upper management ask of them by way of reports, special projects, performance management, and committee meetings. And this is before call volumes spike, systems crash, and a viral epidemic spreads through the floor. This is why, in most cases I've encountered, the front line supervisor struggles as a QA analyst and coach. With all of the pressing issues demanding their attention at any given moment, QA responsibilities are quickly and easily pushed to the back burner.
- Evaluations are rushed. For all the reasons I just stated, even when supervisors do get to their QA duties, they simply can't afford the time and attention required to objectively analyze phone calls with the required precision. Quality Assessment is done with little, well, quality. QA duties get procrastinated until the just before their report is due and then a bunch of calls are hastily evaluated just to meet the requirement. This is not a criticism of the supervisor! This is simply the reality of most call center organizational systems.
- Objectivity is easily skewed. People are people. When you work with someone everyday, and you have issues with someone everyday, it's easy to lose your objectivity. Through the years I've had some pretty tense discussions with supervisors who are upset when a CSR's quality scores are good (you read that right). When a supervisor has issues with a CSR's attitude, attendance, or personality – it's easy for their frustration to bleed over into their analysis of the CSR's behavior on the phone. The reverse is also true. When a CSR happens to be a model employee and has the favor of the supervisor, the supervisor is apt to overlook and excuse negative behaviors that the CSR consistently demonstrates with customers on the phone. In either case, you've got problems which undermine the objectivity and validity of your entire quality program.
- Call Coaching becomes HR Coaching. When supervisors coach calls, it is easy for the call coaching session to get sidetracked into all sorts of other productivity or HR related issues. Instead of the session being centered on how the CSR can provide better service to the customer, it ends up being about how the CSR can be a better employee for the supervisor.
While many call centers utilize supervisors to analyze calls and provide quality coaching, the issues I've just related usually have some degree of impact on the effectiveness of the quality program. Call Centers must actively work to minimize these problems or take their QA progam another direction.
Next post: The Pros & Cons of having a dedicated QA team.