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What Is 360-Degree Feedback, and How Can You Use It With a Quality Assurance Program?

| 14 min read

What Is 360-Degree Feedback?

From a Customer Service Quality Assurance (CSQA) perspective, 360-Degree Feedback lets agents and supervisors get a fuller picture of a customer's experience (CX) interacting with a call center. Furthermore, 360-Degree Feedback widens the lens and reduces supervisor bias, providing a clearer picture of an agent's strengths and weaknesses for the supervisor coaching agents to improve CX.

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In addition, 360-Degree Feedback is a method for conducting a Customer Service QA review for agents to understand their strengths and weaknesses based on evaluating a specific call from multi-raters (e.g., customers, QA evaluators, and artificial intelligence) feedback.

For 360-Degree Feedback using multi-raters to be effective, all raters and technology need to assess the same call from different perspectives. For example, multi-rater feedback assessment of the same call includes conducting post-call surveys to receive customer rater feedback about their CX, artificial intelligence for sentiment analysis, and QA evaluator rater to assess call compliance.

Why Should Call Centers Use 360-Degree Feedback?

Many clients ask us to describe the business case using 360-Degree Feedback for CSQA to assess agent CX performance and coach them to improve CX. So let's discuss the business case for 360-Degree Feedback.

One of the strongest reasons to use the 360-Degree Feedback multi-rater approach (e.g., customer survey, QA evaluator, and artificial intelligence) is to provide agent feedback with a fuller picture of the customer service they delivered. Conversely, traditional QA uses only a one-rater approach to provide agent feedback, which can be a biased and limited viewpoint in many cases. In addition, the most effective 360-Degree Feedback approach provides agents with insights based on behaviors they demonstrated on a call that multi-raters could see better than just one rater.

The strongest reason to use a 360-Degree Feedback multi-rater approach is the traditional approach used by most call centers, where a QA evaluator or a supervisor assesses the call for customer service, and compliance is ineffective in helping agents improve customer satisfaction (Csat). However, it is SQM's view that you can make a strong argument that the traditional approach is effective for assessing and coaching agents for call complexity but not for customer service (e.g., Csat, FCR).

Based on conducting hundreds of QA case studies with leading North American call centers, SQM's research shows that a whopping 81% of agents' had no Csat and First Call Resolution (FCR) improvement resulting from traditional QA evaluations conducted by QA evaluators or supervisors. 

The low correlation between traditional QA and Csat ratings is because the customer is not one of the raters for QA evaluation. Conversely, over 70% of call centers improve FCR and Csat using a multi-rater approach we describe as the Customer Service Quality Assurance (CSQA) approach. Put simply, CSQA uses multi-raters focusing on different metrics to assess the call to determine agent performance and for coaching purposes.

Furthermore, most agents value 360-Degree Feedback because it allows them to understand how each multi-rater approach views their CSQA performance. Many agents view 360-Degree Feedback as a holistic assessment of CSQA performance.

The 360-Degree Feedback gives agents insights into their knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors desired to achieve great customer service. Put differently, 360-Degree Feedback is grounded in the behaviors agents need to meet or exceed customer expectations. Moreover, supervisors have a balanced view of an agent's CSQA performance, which provides them with more meaningful insights to coach them on behaviors to build on or improve.

Pros and Cons of 360-Degree Feedback

pros of 360-degree feedback infographic
cons of 360-degree feedback infographic

Six Tips for Designing a Customer Service QA Program Using 360-Degree Feedback

SQM's 360-Degree Feedback helps call center supervisors coach agents to deliver great customer service, adhere to compliance requirements, and lower operating costs. Utilizing the below 360-Degree Feedback tips, you can successfully have an actionable Customer Service QA program that empowers your agents with the necessary knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors to meet or exceed customer expectations.

Here are six tips for designing a CSQA program using 360-Degree Feedback:

six tips for designing a CSQA program using 360-degree feedback infographic infographic

1. Have a Clear Customer Service QA Strategy

It’s always beneficial to begin any new CSQA initiative by gathering key stakeholders together and determining your goals and the necessary resources. CSQA is a process that can help ensure customer interactions are aligned with business goals.

To measure the CSQA of your agent’s performance using 360-Degree Feedback it’s essential to set clear expectations. For example, define CSQA for your agents and determine how you will measure, benchmark, and track it. In addition, decide how many CSQA evaluations you will conduct, the number of monthly coaching sessions, and a plan for how supervisors will help agents improve CSQA.

A few commonly used CSQA metrics include Agent Csat, FCR, Call Resolution, the Negative Feedback Rate, and Total CSQA Score. The CSQA metrics need to be aligned with the company’s customer service goals. Once your CSQA metrics have been determined, supervisors need to review them weekly to coach agents on how to build on their strengths and address their weaknesses.

CSQA in call centers is crucial because it can enhance agent performance and maximize customer satisfaction. When end-user interactions are at the highest CSQA level (e.g., FCR, positive CX, and compliance to crucial metrics are achieved), call volume decreases. In addition, when CSQA increases, so do organizational key performance indicators such as interactional Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Csat increase.

2. How Customer Service QA Multi-Raters Works

There are many ways to implement CSQA 360-Degree Feedback. At SQM, we recommend that the multi-rater approach consists of post-call surveying, QA evaluators, and speech and voice recognition (AI).

Again, the value of using multi-raters for customer service QA is a more holistic and balanced view of an agent's customer service QA performance than the traditional one-rater QA evaluator approach to measuring CX.  

We advise SQM clients that want to use a multi-raters 360-Degree Feedback approach to include post-call survey metrics such as Csat and call resolution. For speech and voice recognition (AI), a positive experience rate metric could be used. In addition, the QA evaluator rater should use a total call compliance score.

Most importantly, the muti-raters 360-Degree Feedback approach should include a CSQA total score which includes Csat, call resolution, positive experience rate, and call compliance. Click here for an example of a Customer Service QA using a 360-Degree Feedback form.

A CSQA form using a muti-rater 360-Degree Feedback should be skewed toward customer experience. SQM recommends that at least 60% of the available points be allocated towards CX, where customers and AI rating methods are used to evaluate CX. The remaining 40% of the available points are allocated toward call complexity. The high skew towards CX sends a loud message to agents that delivering a great CX is essential to the company.

Customer Service QA uses VoC data to judge call quality to enhance, not replace, the established call monitoring process. The customer survey information alone cannot replace the entire QA process because there are some call center metrics that the customer cannot judge (e.g., compliance and the accuracy of information). Thus, it is still necessary for QA evaluators to assess the­­se metrics or use analytical tools to determine call compliance.

3. Tie Agent Results to Extrinsic Rewards

SQM believes that a 360-Degree Feedback use of multi-raters sources enhances the legitimacy of the CSQA score for performance rating, promotion, merit, and bonus pay. Therefore, we strongly recommend that 360-Degree Feedback assessment should not be limited to agent development and coaching but also extrinsic and intrinsic rewards

360-Degree Feedback should include extrinsic rewards (e.g., bonuses, merit pay increases) and intrinsic rewards  (e.g., recognition for high CX performance) to motivate agents to achieve high Csat and FCR performance. This section focuses on extrinsic rewards.

Fair compensation does not mean all agents working at a call center are paid the same pay. Instead, fair compensation pays agents an appropriate amount according to their performance. For example, using 360-Degree Feedback for determining compensation pay is a fair compensation practice for call centers to retain and motivate agents to improve Csat and FCR performance.

SQM's research shows that a typical call center bonus payout is approximately $2,000 per agent, paid out quarterly or annually, with a high concentration of agents (50% to 85%) receiving the $2,000 bonus. However, a best practice is to use quarterly payout installments and have the agent bonus payout distribution weighted towards the higher-performing agents for CSQA results.

Agent annual bonus pay based on their CSQA performance is:

agent annual bonus pay based on CSQA performance infographic

SQM's research shows that most call centers give agents an average merit pay increase of 3 percent. In addition, most agents expect an annual merit increase of 3% to 5%. However, a best practice is to have the agent's yearly merit pay increase weighted towards the higher-performing agents.

The agent increase is based on CSQA metrics (e.g., call resolution, Csat, total CSQA score) and uses non-CSQA metrics (e.g., AHT, attendance) as a qualifier for a CSQA merit increase. In other words, if an agent does meet non-CSQA metrics requirements, they do not qualify for a merit increase. This approach can also be used for the bonus payout. Below is the percentage merit increase for agents who meet non-CSQA requirements.

Agent annual merit pay increase based on their CSQA performance is:

agent annual merit pay increase based on CSQA performance infographic

4. Tie Agent Results to Intrinsics Rewards

One of the strongest intrinsic reward programs for motivating agents to achieve good or great customer service is certifying agents for their CSQA results. Most agents feel being certified by a multi-rater approach for the customer service they deliver is a credible way to evaluate their performance. As a result, when they achieve CSQA certification, many agents feel it is their most significant accomplishment.

SQM's research shows that 30% of calls are non-FCR for the call center industry. Furthermore, agents are the source of error for 40% of non-FCR calls. Moreover, 42% of the time, there is a non-FCR call, the agent had a will issue versus a skill issue. Therefore, a tremendous opportunity exists to create more agent motivation to improve their CSQA results by using a certification program.

SQM's experience is that most call centers that improve customer service do so by creating agent accountability for customer service metrics and reducing the agent source of errors for repeat calls to resolve an inquiry or problem. Moreover, improving customer service based on motivating and creating more agent accountability tends to be quicker than fixing the organizational source of error issues.

Agents and supervisors who have achieved a CSQA total score average of 90 points or more in a given year are certified as having world-class performance. A minimum sample size of 25 evaluations is required.

Agents and supervisors are given a certificate designating them as world-class certified performers. In addition, the top certified agents and supervisors are invited to SQM’s annual Customer Service Award Conference to be awarded and recognized for their CSQA performance. SQM’s agent CSQA certification is the most prestigious award an agent can achieve. The bottom line is that CSQA certification motivates agents to go the extra mile to resolve a call and deliver great Csat.

5. Six Coaching Tips

SQM experience shows that 1:1 agent coaching is one of the most reliable ways for an agent to understand their strengths that they can build upon and weaknesses that need to be addressed to improve their CSQA score results. The following are five tips a supervisor can use to coach agents effectively:

six agent coaching tips infographic

1. Survey and Call Compliance

Again, CSQA combines call compliance metrics, judged by a QA evaluator, and service quality metrics, judged by a customer via a post-call or email customer survey to evaluate the same call. CSQA provides a holistic approach to delivering CX insights. CQA is based on letting the customer be the judge of their experience when using a call center and is one of the best practices for coaching agents to improve their Csat rate. Agents value using survey and call compliance data from the same call to help them improve their customer service delivery because there are areas that QA can judge more effectively and areas that the customer can judge more effectively.

2. Positive Tone and Feedback

Supervisors must have a positive tone for agents to be receptive to constructive feedback about improving their CSQA performance. It is helpful to start the coaching session with positive feedback, then constructive or negative feedback, and close the session with positive feedback. During the coaching session, use the agent's own CSQA data for providing positive and negative feedback. Doing so makes the coaching session more sincere and meaningful for agents.

3. Goal Setting

Agent goal setting should be a collaborative approach. If the agent is not engaged in goal setting, they are likely not to be committed to achieving the CSQA score target. In addition, the CSQA improvement score goal must be attainable. For example, based on 100 available points, a conservative CSQA improvement score goal is 5 points, a moderate CSQA improvement score goal is 5 to 10 points, and an aggressive CSQA improvement score goal would be 10 points or more. Unfortunately, only 5% of call centers achieve 10 points or more increase in overall CSQA score annually. Once the agent goal is agreed upon, you can discuss and develop an action plan to achieve the CSQA score goal.

4. Role Playing

Agent role-playing is a customer service exercise where agents practice call-handling techniques for specific call reasons, with a fellow agent or supervisor acting as the customer. In addition, role-playing with other agents or the supervisor for call handling certain call types in a safe, learning environment – makes it much easier to put new skills into practice before doing it with customers. Agent role-playing is often used in training or when implementing new pricing, products, services, and policies but can be an effective CSQA coaching technique.

5. Actively Listening

It is often said that great coaches are great listeners. For a supervisor to be a great coach, they need to be an active listener (e.g., pay attention, probe, clarify, and confirm) to ensure understanding of what an agent said and respond to what was said. Repeating some of the keywords they mentioned conveys the message that you understand what they have expressed. Active listening keeps both agent and supervisor actively engaged in the conversation. Furthermore, asking an agent to self-assess how they handled a specific call helps ensure productive coaching sessions. Doing so allows the supervisor to actively listen and collaborate with an agent to develop ways to improve their CSQA score.

6. Recognition Reinforcement

After the agent coaching session, monitor calls for the next few days and look for opportunities where the agent demonstrated the new skills they learned from the coaching session. Moreover, share the recording and video with the agent as soon as possible. By doing so, you recognize and reinforce the agent's new skills being used on the call. In addition, agents feel the supervisor is paying attention to improving their skills and, as a result, will inspire and motivate them to continue to use those new skills and develop even more new skills.

6. Software Needed for a 360-Degree Feedback

360-Degree Feedback using multi-raters requires a Customer Service QA software platform that can capture and report post-call surveys, speech analytics, and QA evaluator's data. In addition, the QA software must consolidate the 360-Degree Feedback into an aggregate total CSQA score.

The Customer Service QA data visualization should also include an agent and supervisor dashboard with links to the QA form results for each call evaluated to identify strengths to build on and areas to improve CX and available in real-time.     

Few call centers have coaching activity reporting to provide insights into supervisor coaching activities, such as who got coached, when they got coached, how often they got coached, who coached, and what metrics and behaviors they were coaching. Most importantly, as a result of the supervisor's coaching, did the agents improve their Csat or CSQA score performance?

Supervisor coaching activity (e.g., agents are being coached) is not good enough; you need to understand whether coaching is effective. Ideally, you want your quality assurance program and agent coaching to improve your CSQA, Csat, and FCR performance.

The following questions must be asked to assess supervisor coaching effectiveness:

  • Are my supervisors prepared to coach?
  • How targeted and actionable is coaching?
  • Is coaching consistent across supervisors?
  • How often do supervisors coach?

Our mySQM™ Customer Service QA software provides supervisor coaching activities for every agent that can be displayed at the individual agent, team, line of business (LoB), and call center level. The benefit of the visibility of the supervisor coaching activity reporting is that it provides tremendous insights into trends for agent coaching activities and supervisor coaching effectiveness.

Coaching Activity Reporting Provides Insights For:

  • Understand supervisor coaching trends (e.g., who, what, when, and how)
  • Identify the number of coaching sessions by time frame
  • Identify good, average, and poor CSQA-performing coaches
  • Determine which coaching activities need to be improved
  • Identifying which supervisors require more training to become a better coach
  • Understand SoE, root causes, moments of truth, and behaviors coached
  • Understand coaching effectiveness by agent, team, call type, LoB, call center\
  • Determine activities for coaching, follow-up, and recognition
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