Category: Call Center Issues

Five Reasons to Outsource Your CSAT and QA Initiatives

Training & Coaching

Over the past decade more and more companies have adopted an attitude of “it’s cheaper for us to do it ourselves.” We have experienced an era of increased regulation, executive hesitation, and economic stagnation. Companies have hunkered down, tightened the purse strings, and found ways to play it safe. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) research and Quality Assessment (QA) have been popular areas for businesses to do this given technology that makes it relatively easy to “do it yourself.”

Just because your team can do these things yourself, doesn’t mean that it’s a wise investment of your time and resources, nor does it guarantee that you’ll do it well. Based on a track record of mediocre (at best) renovations, my wife regularly reminds me that while I technically can do home improvement projects cheaper myself, she’d prefer that we pay an expert to do it well (and free me to invest my time doing more of what I do well so we can pay for it).

So why pay an outside group like ours to survey of your customers, or monitor your team’s calls to provide a Quality Assessment report on how they’re serving your customers?

I’ll give you five reasons.

  1. It gets done. Analyzing phone calls, surveying customers, and crunching data require a certain amount of discipline and attention to detail. When things are changing, fires are raging, and the needs of your own business are demanding a team’s time and attention, then things like crunching data or listening to recorded phone calls become back burner issues. It’s common for people to tell me that they have their own internal QA team. When I ask how that’s going for them, I usually hear excuses for why it’s hard to get it done with all the urgent matters to which team members must attend. When you hire a third party provider, it gets done. It’s what we’re hired do.
  2. It gets done well. Our clients represent diverse areas of the market from manufacturing to retail to financial services. Our clients tend to be leaders in their industries because they are good at what they do. Developing expertise outside of their discipline isn’t a wise investment of resources and (see #1) and who has time for that? Our clients want to invest their time and resources doing what they know and do well. Measuring what is important to their customers, turning those things into behavioral attributes, analyzing communication channels, and coaching their agents how to improve customer interactions in ways that improve customer satisfaction are what we do well.
  3. You get an objective perspective. When providing audits of internal Quality Assessment teams or reviewing internally produced customer survey data, it’s common for us to find evidence of various kinds of bias. Employees at different levels of an organization have motivations for wanting data to look good for their employers, or bad with respect to coworkers with whom there are other workplace conflicts. I’ve observed supervisors who are overly harsh assessing the calls of employees with whom they have conflicts. Internal call analysts, wanting to be kind to their coworkers, will commonly choose to “give them credit [for a missed service skill] and just ‘coach them on it.'” Internal research data can be massaged to provide results that gloss over problems or support presuppositions that are politically correct with the executive team. Our mission, however, is to provide objective, customer-centric data that give our clients a realistic picture of both customer perceptions and the company’s service performance. It is our mission to be accurate and objective in gathering and reporting data.
  4. You get an outside perspective. It has been famously observed that “a prophet is not welcome in his hometown.” Internal data is often discredited and dismissed for any number of reasons from (see #2) “What do they know?” doubts about the expertise of coworkers to (see #3) “They hate me” accusations of bias which we’ve discovered are sometimes accurate and other times not. Front line managers regularly tell me that they appreciate having our group providing assessment and coaching because they can’t be accused of being biased, and as outside experts we have no internal ax to grind. In addition, our years of experience with other companies provide insight and fresh ideas for handling common internal dilemmas.
  5. You can fire us with a phone call. “Do you know why I keep you around?” a client asked me one day. I took the bait and asked him why. “It’s because I take comfort in knowing I can pick up the phone and fire you whenever I want.” He went to explain that he had no desire to hire an internal team to provide the survey data, quality assessment, and call coaching our team provided their company. Not only would he bear the expense and headaches associated with developing an expertise outside of their company’s discipline (see #2), but once employed he couldn’t easily get rid of them should they prove as ineffective as he expected they would be (See #1, #3, and #4). His point was well taken. Our group has labored for years with the understanding that our livelihoods hinge on our ability to continually provide measurable value to our clients.

Yes, you can technically generate your own CSAT survey or call Quality Assessment data. Technology makes it feasible for any virtually any company to do these things internally. The question is whether it is wise for your company to do so. When calculating the ROI of internal vs. external survey and QA initiatives, most companies fail to calculate the expenses associated with ramp up, development, training, nor do they consider the cost associated with employee time and energy expended doing these things poorly and providing questionable data and  results.

Three Things They Won’t Tell You About Speech Analytics

Me: “Hey Siri? I’m bleeding badly. Call me an ambulance!”
Siri: “Okay. From now on I’ll call you ‘Anambulance.'”

Most all of us have humorous, and often aggravating, anecdotes about trying to communicate with Siri, Alexa, or any of the other voice prompted technology apps available to us. I am quite regularly thankful that no one is around to hear the tirades I scream to the disembodied, robotic female voice of my car’s voice prompt technology. It amazes me, then, to know that businesses spend huge amounts of money on speech analytic technology as a way to replace their Quality Assessment (QA) programs.

Let me start with full disclosure. Our company, C Wenger Group, has spent a quarter century monitoring and analyzing our clients’ phone calls as a third-party QA provider. Sometimes our clients hire us to be their QA team, and other times they hire us to provide periodic audits and reality checks to their internal efforts. Over the past few years we have learned that speech analytic technology has become a competitor to our service. I can quickly name two clients who have dismissed our services in favor of speech analytic software.

The promise of speech analytics is in the ability to monitor vast quantities of phone calls. Most human QA efforts, by comparison, utilize relatively small random statistical samples. Our data over the years reveals that our team can quite capably provide an accurate reflection of service performance with relatively few calls. I remember calling one skeptical client after our initial month listening to a minimal sample of calls for sales compliance. I gave him the names of three sales people whom our call analysis identified as problems. He laughed and told me that all three had been fired the previous day agreeing that our sample and analysis was, indeed, sufficient.

Nevertheless, the idea of being able to catch the needle in the haystack has certain appeal. Random samples don’t capture every instance of irate customers, lying representatives, and forbidden behaviors. That’s where tech companies and their (big ticket) speech analytic software promise nervous executives a peaceful night sleep knowing that every phone company can be monitored by computers and flag problem calls when they occur.

Just like Siri flawlessly hears my every spoken request and never fails to provides me with exactly the answer I was looking for.

I have followed up and spoken to both clients who dismissed our company’s services in favor of speech analytics. In one case, my contact admitted that they abandoned the technology after a year of unsuccessfully investing significant resources (money and man hours) trying to get it to provide meaningful results or value. In the other case my client contact admitted that the technology never worked, but that his company continued to play the political game of pretending it was working because they didn’t want to admit that they’d wasted so much money on something that wasn’t working. I have also spoken to representatives of other companies with similar words of warning. As with most technologies, it’s important to know what you are, and aren’t, getting before you sign on the dotted line.

My conversations with those who’ve employed speech analytics reveal three key things that should be considered when considering it as a technology investment.

It’s going to require a lot more work to set it up, monitor, tweak, and successfully utilize it than you think. At one industry conference I attended a forum of companies were using speech analytics. I found it fascinating that all of the panelists admitted that the technology required far more time and energy than they anticipated when they purchased it. One company on the panel admitted that they hired five full time employees just to make the technology work and to keep it working. Many people don’t realize that you have teach the speech analytic software what to listen for, what to flag, and what to report. Then you have to continually refine it so that it’s catching the things you want it to catch and ignoring the things you don’t.

In many cases, this process is not intuitive. It’s more akin to computer programming. Operations associates who thought they were going to save themselves time having to personally analyze phone calls find themselves spending even more time mired in IT issues related to the technology.

The technology is going to give you a lot of false-positives. I love that I can say “Hey, Siri” and my iPhone will come to life and ask what I need. I have also been annoyed and embarrassed at the number of times in normal conversation or business meetings that I say something that my iPhone mistakenly hears as “Hey, Siri” only to wake-up, interrupt my conversation, and ask what I want. In similar fashion, you can expect that for every instance of speech analytic software catching the right thing, it is going make at least as many, if not more, mistakes.

One of my former clients told me that the speech analytic software they employed never worked as well as advertised. “Every time it flagged a call for us to listen to there was nothing wrong with the call,” he admitted. They quickly stopped listening to any of the calls flagged by speech analytics because they soon saw it as the proverbial child crying “Wolf!”

Speech analytics can monitor volume, pitch, and words that are said, but cannot intelligently analyze content across calls. Our team recently monitored a randomly sampled set of phone calls for a customer service team. The CSRs were articulate and professional in the words they used and the tone with which they communicated with callers. Across the calls, however, we quickly noted a pattern:

  • “Let me get you to the person who handles your account.”
  • “I don’t handle your area.”
  • “You’ll need to speak with….”

In various ways, using different words, many of the CSRs were refusing to help callers. They would immediately “pawn them off” (one customer’s words) to other CSRs or dumping callers into voice mail. In some cases we heard veteran employees claim that they didn’t know how to do the most basic of customer service functions in an effort to avoid helping callers.

Our team quickly recognized that our client was struggling with a culture on their call floor in which CSRs tried to avoid helping callers (in the most professional sounding way). Customers were being dumped into voice-mail and transferred unnecessarily as CSRs played an internal game of “that’s not my customer, that’s your customer.” We addressed it with our client, citing examples. They quickly moved to address the issue and are already making significant progress toward changing behavior on the call floor.

I tried to imagine how I would tell a speech analytics program to catch such an occurrence. The ways that CSRs communicated that they couldn’t help were as varied as the CSRs themselves and their own communication styles. Customers frustration never escalated to shouting or profanity. It was all very subtle, and required experienced analysts making connections across multiple calls to recognize the pattern of behavior. Speech analytics could never do that.

Like most technologies, speech analytics has its place and its purpose. For those companies who have the resources to successfully employ it, speech analytics can analyze vast quantities of interactions and flag, with relative degrees of accuracy, when certain words are spoken or certain levels of emotion are expressed. Those considering this technology as a replacement for a thorough and well structured QA program should understand, however, that the technology has requirements and drawbacks that the technology salesperson will be quick to ignore or minimize.

Three Ways to Improve Your Quality Program in 2017

It’s still January and everyone is busy implementing goals for 2017. It’s not too late to take a good, long look at your contact center’s quality program with an eye to improving things this year. Here are three thoughts for taking your quality assessment (QA) to a new level.

Reevaluate the Scorecard

Most quality programs hinge on the quality of the criteria by which they measure performance. A few years ago there was a backlash against behavioral measurements (e.g. “Did the agent address the caller by name?”) as companies sought to avoid the calibration headaches and wrangling over definitions. The pendulum swung in true human nature to the opposite side of the continuum to become completely subjective. Multiple behaviors gave way to two or three esoteric questions such as, “Did the agent reflect the brand?”

This shift to the subjective is, of course, wrought with its own problems. You can forget about having any objective data with which to measure agent performance. If your analyst is Moonbeam Nirvana then you’ll get consistently positive evaluations complete with praise for what Moonbeam believes was your good intentions (and lots of smiley emoticons). If, on the other hand, your analyst is Gerhardt Gestapo then your performance will always fall short of the ideal and leave you feeling at risk of being written up.

Measuring performance does not have to be that difficult. First, consider what it is that you really desire to accomplish. Do you want to measure compliance or adherence to corporate or regulatory requirements? Do you want to drive customer satisfaction? Do you want to make agents feel better about themselves? Any of these can be an arguable position from which to develop criteria, but you should start with being honest about the goal. Most scorecards suffer from misunderstood and/or miscommunicated intention.

Next, be clear about what you want to hear from your agent in the conversation. Define it so that it can be easily understood, taught, and demonstrated.

Prioritizing is also important. While exhaustive measurement of the interaction can be beneficial, it is also time consuming and may not give you your bang for the investment of time and energy. If your priority is ad-on sales, then be honest about you intention of measuring it, define what you want to hear from your agents, then focus your analysts on listening for those priority items.

Look at Data for Both Agents and Analysts

One of the more frequently missed opportunities to keep your QA process on task is that of looking at the data of how your analysts actually measured the calls.

Years ago our team was the third party QA provider for several teams inside a global corporation while other internal teams managed the job for other locations. There was an initiative to create a hybrid approach that put the internal and external analysts together in sampling and measuring agents across all offices. When we ran the numbers to see how analysts were scoring, however, the internal analysts’ average results were consistently higher than the external analysts. Our analysis of analyst data provided the opportunity for some good conversations about the differences in how we were hearing and analyzing the same conversations.

Especially with larger quality operations in which many analysts measure a host of different agents and/or teams, the tracking of analyst data can provide you with critical insight. When performing audits of different QA programs, it is quite common for our team to find that analysts who happen to also be the team’s supervisor can be easily given to sacrifice objectivity in an effort to be “kind” to their agents (and make their team’s scores look a little better to the management team). Likewise, we have also seen instances where data reveal that one analyst is unusually harsh in their analysis of one particular agent (as evidenced in the deviation in scores compared to the mean). Upon digging into the reasons for the discrepancy it is discovered that there is some personality conflict or bad blood between the two. The analyst, perhaps unwittingly, is using their QA analysis to passive aggressively attack the agent.

If you’ve never done so, it might be an eye opener to simply run a report of last year’s QA data and sort by analyst. Look for disparities and deviations. The results could give you the blueprint you need to tighten up the objectivity of your entire program.

Free Yourself from Software Slavery

As a third party QA provider, our team is by necessity platform agnostic when it comes to the recording, playing and analyzing phone calls. We have used a veritable plethora of software solutions from the telephony “suites” of tech giants who run the industry like the Great and Powerful Oz to small programs coded for a client by some independent tech geek. They all have their positives and negatives.

Many call recording and QA software “suites” come with built in scoring and analysis tools. The programmers, however, had to create the framework by which you will analyze the calls and report the data. While some solutions are more flexible than others, I have yet to see one that gives one the flexibility truly desired. Most companies end up sacrificing their desire to measure, analyze, and/or report things a certain way because of the constraints inherent in the software. The amazing software that the sales person said was going to make things so easy now becomes an obstacle and a headache. Of course, the software provider will be happy to take more of your money to program a solution for you. I know of one company who, this past year, paid a big telephony vendor six figures to “program a solution” within their own software, only to watch them raise their hands in defeat and walk away (with the client’s money, of course).

Tech companies have, for years, sold companies on expensive promises that their software will do everything they want or need it to do. My experience is that very few, if any, of the companies who lay out the money for these solutions feel that the expensive promises are ever fully realized.

If your call data, analysis and reporting is not what you want it to be, and if you feel like you’re sacrificing data/reporting quality because the software “doesn’t do that,” then I suggest you consider liberating yourself. If the tool isn’t working, then find a way to utilize a different tool. What is it we want to know? How can we get to that information? What will allow us to crunch the numbers and create the reports we really want? Look into options for exporting all of the data out of your software suite and into a database or Excel type program that will allow you to sort and analyze data to get you the information you want and need. Our company has always used Excel (sometimes in conjunction with some other statistical software) because it’s faster, easier, more powerful and infinitely more flexible than any packaged QA software we’ve ever tested.

Continuous improvement is key to business success. Scrutinizing quality criteria, analyst data, and your software constraints are just three simple ways to take a step forward with your quality program. Here’s to making sure that we’re doing things better at the end of 2017 than we were doing at the start!

 

4 Reasons to QA Your Collections Team

Money CashPeople are always surprised to hear that our group regularly provides Quality Assessment (QA) services for our clients’ collections team(s). The mental picture we all seem to have in our head is that of low rent thugs beating up the poor customers of loan sharks on television. We think of collectors as nasty, hard-boiled agents who know how to threaten, hoodwink and cajole customers into paying up. There are, no doubt, collection agencies who operate with such tactics. Our clients, however, have learned over time that collecting from customers with respectful professionalism and a consistently high level of quality is worth the investment. Here are four reasons why:

  1. Better collections. Customers will often write the first check to the creditors who treat them respectfully. If a customer owes your company money, it’s likely they owe money to other companies as well. When the next paycheck or windfall comes in, that customer is going to decide which creditors to pay and which creditors to put off. When a collector treats a customer with empathy, professionalism and respect, we often hear customers state that it factors heavily into their decision to pay that company first.
  2. Customer loyalty. Our research team has quantified in some of our clients’ CSAT surveys that “willingness to work with me in tough times” can drive customer satisfaction and loyalty. Not all customers who owe money are dead beats. Quite often, and especially in a tough economy, good customers fall on hard times. When a company is willing to work with that customer through their difficulties and provide quality service on each call, customers tend to remember it. “What goes around comes around,” they say. When you stick by your customer in tough times, that customer will often stick with you for the rest of their lives.
  3. Employee satisfaction. Even collectors feel the weight of people’s misperceptions and I will never forget speaking with the manager of our client’s collections department a year or so after we’d been working with her team. She was ecstatic. She reported that her team had never felt so empowered and equipped (after long feeling like the company’s “red-headed step-child”). And while there will always be difficult customers to deal with, her collectors were more satisfied with their jobs knowing that the company wanted them to treat customers well. The fact that the company was willing to invest in our Service Quality Assessment to benchmark their service and help them improve was a boost for the team’s morale.
  4. Peace of mind. Even the best of collections departments can run into extreme situations. The collections effort can be some of the more contentious conversations any company has to manage. If you have collectors with short fuses or situations that need management’s attention, our clients tell us that they sleep better at night knowing there’s an objective third-party listening in (and occasionally sending them an e-mail saying, “you better look into this one.”).

It’s a mistake to assume that “collections” and “service quality” don’t go together. In fact, measuring and improving the quality of service your collectors consistently deliver on the phone can be a win-win-win-win for you, your customers, your employees, and your bottom line.

Five Reasons to Consider a Third Party QA Provider

c wenger group is a full service Quality Assessment provider, assisting clients set up their QA programs and providing QA as a 3rd party complete with call analysis, reporting of team and individual agent data, and even data led coaching and training.

c wenger group is a full service Quality Assessment provider, assisting clients set up their QA programs and providing QA as a 3rd party complete with call analysis, reporting of team and individual agent data, and even data led coaching and training.

If your team or company is thinking about getting into call monitoring and Quality Assessment (QA), or for those who are seeking a solution to their internal QA headaches, we would encourage you to at least give consideration to a third party QA solution. Many companies dismiss the idea of a third party provider without really weighing the option. With nearly a quarter century of experience and multiple client relationships of twenty years or more, the team here at c wenger group believes we’ve proven that it can be a sensible alternative.

Here are five reasons to consider a third party QA provider:

  1. Expertise. I’m sure your company is good at what it does. You have expertise in your field and would like to focus your resources and energies on doing what you do well. We feel the same way. It may seem that analyzing a phone call, e-mail, or chat should not be that difficult. The technology company who sold you your suite of software probably made it sound like it would practically run itself and give you all sorts of powerful information with a few clicks of the mouse. The truth is that a successful quality program is more complex than it seems. Many companies go down the road to setting up their own quality program only to find themselves bogged down in a quagmire of questions about methodology, sample sizes, criteria, and calibration. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel building expertise in a business discipline that distracts you from doing what you do well (and what makes you money). Let us do what we do well, and help you with that.
  2. Expediency. We’ve had many companies tell us that they purchased or installed a call recording and QA solution that they thought would deliver an easy, “out of the box” program. Instead, they find themselves feeling like they purchased an expensive plane that sits on the tarmac because no one knows how to fly it. Don’t spending months wrangling and struggling just to figure out how you want your QA program to look and work. How much time will you and your valuable, talented team members waste in meetings and strategy sessions just trying to figure out how you’re going to analyze calls? We’ve been doing QA for companies of all shapes, sizes, and types for many years, and in short period of time we can have a working, effective, successful QA program set up and delivering useful data and information right to your desktop.
  3. Objectivity. One of the most common pitfalls of internal quality programs is analyst bias. Supervisors are tasked with monitoring their own teams’ calls, but they don’t want the team (or themselves) to look bad so when they hear something that goes wrong in a call they give the agents credit on the QA form and (wink, wink) “coach them on it.” A quality team member has personality issues with an agent, so he scores that agent more stringently that the rest of the team. A team leader has an agent who is disruptive to the team. She starts looking for “bad calls” to help make a case to fire the problem team member. These are scenarios we’ve seen and documented in our QA audits. They happen. What’s the cost of an internal QA program that doesn’t deliver reliable data or results? A third-party QA provider is not worried about making people look good or grinding axes. We are concerned with delivering objective data that accurately reflects the customer’s experience.
  4. Results delivered regularly, and on time. One of the biggest problems with internal QA programs is that they chronically bow to the tyranny of the urgent (which is all of the time). When things get busy or stressed, the task of analyzing calls is the first thing pushed to the back burner. Internal analysts procrastinate their call analysis until the deadline looms. Then, they rifle through calls to get them done and the results are not thoughtful, accurate, or objective. Our clients tell us that they appreciate knowing that when we we’re on the job the QA process will get done and it will be done well. Calls will be analyzed and reports will be delivered regularly and on time. Better yet, the results will be effective at helping you make tactical goals for improvement, effectively focus your training, manage agent performance, and successfully move the needle on customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty.
  5. You can always fire us. A client once told us that he kept us around because he slept better at night knowing that he could always fire us. His comment was, admittedly, a little unnerving but his logic made a lot of sense. “If I do this QA thing myself,” he explained, “I have to hire and pay people to do it. In today’s business environment it’s impossible for me to fire someone without a lot of HR headaches. So, if the people I pay to do it internally don’t do it well then I’m stuck with both them and the poor QA program. I like having you do QA for us. Not only do you do it well, but I know that if anything goes wrong I can just pick up the phone and say, ‘we’re done.'” The good news is that he never made that call before he retired!

If you’re looking at getting started in call monitoring and assessment, or if you have a program that isn’t working, we would welcome you to consider how one of our custom designed solutions could deliver reliable, actionable, and profitable results.

 

CWG logoLR

c wenger group designs and provides fully integrated Customer Experience solutions including Customer Satisfaction research, call/e-mail/chat Quality Assessment, and coaching/training solutions for teams and individual agents. Our clients include companies of all sizes in diverse market sectors.

Please feel free to contact us for a no obligation conversation!

Note: c wenger group will maintain your privacy

Quality Assessment and Survey Data Efficiently Delivered to your Desktop

SQC Screen Capture 1

One of the many frustrations of corporate Quality Assessment programs is how to efficiently get the results and data to the agents so that they are aware of their performance and can make necessary efforts to improve. For years, c wenger group has been delivering our clients’ QA and research data, both team and individual agent reports, directly through our Service Quality Central web portal. Managers and agents can both access their most recent data 24/7/365 with a provided user name and password. Supervisors and Managers can quickly access all of their agents individual QA data from one easy to use source and agents are able to utilize down time to pull up their QA data right at their desk.

SQC Screen Capture 3

Our Service Quality Central website can be branded for each client and offers the flexibility to provide more than just data. We have are able to provide audio and video content. In some cases we’ve uploaded individual agents calls and coaching notes so that they can hear one of their own calls at their leisure, right at their own desk. Training videos, coaching handouts, training manuals can all be shared with agents.

SQC Screen Capture 2

Our clients are busy doing what they do best and the tasks that make them profitable. They don’t want to be burdened with tasks that may be strategic and valuable, but aren’t in their area of expertise. Surveying customers, analyzing calls for quality and compliance, interpreting data trends, and reporting data to the front lines are activities that drain time, energy and resources; Resources that our clients would rather invest in their core business. That’s where c wenger group comes in.

We have over a quarter century experience surveying customers, analyzing phone calls, and turning data into actionable, effective training and coaching solutions. Our Service Quality Central web portal is one of the ways we take the burden off of our clients and deliver effective, measureable value directly to their desktop on an on-going basis.

For more information, please drop us an e-mail at info@cwengergroup.com.

An Airplane on the Tarmac Profits You Little

Plane on tarmac: Sydney NS
Plane on tarmac: Sydney NS (Photo credit: mattjiggins)

I had an interesting conversation with a call center manager the other day over breakfast. I asked him how things were going at work. After a pause and a long sigh, I wondered if our breakfast was going to become an informal counseling session. He launched into his story. His company recently made a huge capital investment in the latest technology for call monitoring and evaluation. This is good news, right?! He’s got the latest programs that allow him to do all sorts of things in capturing, analyzing, and reporting on service quality. So, why was he looking so glum?

With all the investment in technology, there was no money in the budget to hire anyone to actually use the shiny new QA program. The marching orders from the executive suite were to use the new whiz-bang technology to work more efficiently and productively. “We bought you technology so we don’t have to hire more people,” was the mantra. He went on to make an interesting statement:

“It makes about as much sense as me going out and buying a new airplane. What can I do with it sitting there on the ground? I can stare at it. I can keep it clean. I can sit on the ground, stare at the dials, and play with the controls. But, I certainly can’t fly the thing.”

My colleague went on to explain how the corporate decision not to back-fill positions while increasing responsibilities for his call center staff meant that everyone had far more on their plate than could reasonably be accomplished. He knew his skeletal QA efforts were not coming close to utilizing the new, expensive technology, but the IT department who chose the system does not have the human resources to help the get it optimized or train the call center staff on how to best utilize it. Without human resources and human expertise, the investment in technology seemed a total waste. The company can certainly brag and feel good about having the latest technology that will allow them to fly with the best in the business world. However, without the necessary expertise and investment in human capital to actually make it fly, their team will sit on the tarmac admiring the dials on their very expensive placebo.

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QA is Important: You Get What You Measure (or Don’t)

Portrait of happy female manager with business staff working in a call center

Last night I was preparing a Service Quality Assessment report for one of our clients. For years, the team was led by a strong manager who set the bar high for his team and held them accountable for their service performance. Agents had individual performance goals based on the service quality data we provided and could check their progress monthly through our on-line web portal. The manager even committed a generous monetary bonus to agents who could consistently deliver high levels of service. Then, just two months ago the manager was promoted and moved on to a new position.

Wouldn’t you know it? The team’s sevice performance plummeted after one month.

In recent years I’ve heard a cacophany of industry voices saying that QA is old school and ineffective. Most of the time, it seems to come from the technology sector who have a new widget to sell which promises to measure quality better (without actually involving humans) with the click of a mouse – or who want businesses to direct dollars spent on quality to their latest technology fad.

Last night’s report was a good reminder to me, and to my client, why the old fashioned discipline of setting an expectation, measuring behavior, encouraging, coaching and holding your people accountable works. You can set the expectation, but without the measuring, encouraging, coaching and accountability you’re not going to know if your team is delivering on that expectation (and it’s likely they won’t). It may not be glitzy. I may not be glamorous. Because it involves humans and human interaction it can even get messy at times. But, it works.

Ask my client, who this morning can go into her team meeting with the data to know how her team performed, what they did well, and what specific service behaviors they stopped demonstrating once they thought they weren’t going to be held accountable. She knows specifically what they need to do and can efficiently communicate the game plan and expectation for improvement.

Quality is for Internal Customers, Too!

from andrewscott via Flickr

Our group just completed two pilot Service Quality Assessment projects for a client. We’ve been providing QA services for this company for several years, but our work was confined to the front line Customer Service teams. Earlier this year, the client began to notice a discrepancy between the service expectations of their Customer Service team and those of the teams who service internal customers. We thus began a project to objectively measure and benchmarch service for the client’s IT Service Desk and and internal procedural service team.

As with most internal teams we’ve assessed through the years, the results showed huge opportunities to improve service delivered to internal customers. While service delivered to an internal customer may not be as formal, there is no reason why it should not exemplify adequate levels of courteous, friendly service. In fact, it can be argued that these internal teams, who are deemed as experts in their respective disciplines, should be setting the example to their internal customers of how an end-user customer should be treated.

Along with benchmarking serveral behavioral service skills which had plenty of room for improvement, our assessment also unearthed some procedural issues that could mean significant savings and improvement in efficiency. With one team in particular, a huge percentage of the calls received were found to be simple requests to check on the status of a previous request or to see if correspondence had been received. With a small investment in available technology to auto-reply that correspondence had been received and provide status updates, this internal team stands to substantially reduce calls, reduce costs, improve productivity, and more efficiently process the work which will ultimately affect the end-user customer.

Many companies rightly concern themselves with measuring the quality of their customer interactions, but teams who service internal customers are just as critical in the service chain that ultimately impacts customer satisfaction and loyalty.

You Can’t Fix What You Don’t Know is Broken

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I’m working with several new teams for a particular client. It’s always a bit of a sticky wicket when I show up for the first time. The other day I walked into the office of a department manager who’d been ducking me for weeks. Unanswered e-mails, unreturned voicemails and missed appointments. My team has been hired by the executive team to do a pilot assessment of his team’s service, and he wasn’t too happy about it. Many times a team and their managers are a little freaked when Mr. or Ms. Big tells them that someone is coming to listen in on their customer conversations.

  • “Oh, great! Big Brother is here!”
  • “What? Do you think we’re bad?”
  • “Someone’s just looking for the dirt to fire us!”
  • “What did I do wrong?”

I get it. It’s not always comfortable doing something new and a bit threatening when you’ve never done it before. And yet, I have almost twenty years doing this for many different companies and many different teams who started out as skeptics and are now long-term partners in better sales, service and even collections. it seems comfortable and easy rolling along without really knowing what’s happening in those moments of truth when your customers are talking to your company. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” they say. But we are all human beings working for human beings dealing with human beings in a system created and maintained by human beings. I therefore have come to trust more in Bob Dylan’s perspective: “Everything is Broken.”  My experience is that with any cusotmer service, sales, or collections team there are things which are broken in the system which could be easily remedied if they are simply identified. But first you have to identify what they are. If you’re not listening, then you might not know something is broken until it’s too late (and no one wants that to happen at any rung of the corporate ladder).

When our team does a first time pilot assessment with a team, we generally start by assessing the whole team. We listen from the customer’s perspective. We don’t care who is who. We don’t identify individual agents. Like the customer, when you call Acme Anvils you don’t care who answers the phone. You’re talking to Acme Anvils. By starting with a blind assessment of the team, we can quickly identify areas that the team needs to improve. There’s no finger pointing, no calling out, no working agreements, and no private converstions in the corner office. There’s just a common issue that the whole team needs to address.

I’m happy to say that the vast majority of our clients, from the front-line to the board room, eventually learn that our Service Quality Assessment benefits everyone from the customer to everyone in the organization who cares about the customer and wants to do a good job. But, I first have to prove it to them and earn their trust. And so, I begin my day.