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Call Center Quality Assurance (QA) — Comprehensive Guide

For defining Customer Service QA, its importance, how to measure it, and tips for creating a scorecard.

| 14 min read

Call Center QA Comprehensive Guide

Customer Quality Assurance

Most call centers aim to deliver great customer service effectively and efficiently. This Call Center Quality Assurance (QA) blog is a comprehensive guide for defining QA, its importance, how to measure it, and tips for creating a Customer Service QA scorecard.

The Call Center QA name is sometimes called Customer Service Quality Assurance or Customer Quality Assurance (CQA). The comprehensive guide was developed based on SQM Group's over 25 years of measuring and benchmarking the QA impact on delivering customer service with leading North American call centers. For clarity purposes, in the remaining sections, we will use Customer Service QA name to describe Call Center Quality Assurance.

SQM is considered the thought leader and the gold standard for the call center industry to measure, benchmark, and improve first call resolution, customer satisfaction, and QA. This comprehensive guide will answer the following five Customer Service QA questions:

  1. What Is Customer Service Quality Assurance?
  2. Why Is Customer Service Quality Assurance Important?
  3. How to Measure Customer Service Quality Assurance?
  4. Things To Consider When Implementing Customer Service Quality Assurance?
  5. How To Use Customer Service Quality Assurance Software?

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five steps of customer service QA

1. What Is Customer Service Quality Assurance?

Customer Service QA monitors customer interactions with a call center based on post-call customer surveys, quality assurance, and call compliance data to create agent accountability and for coaching purposes. In addition, customer quality assurance metrics are used to measure, benchmark, and improve agent, team, and call center performance.

It is considered a holistic view of Customer Service QA because it represents both the customer's and the company's perspective by combining experience (CX) survey, quality assurance, and call compliance metrics.

Why has traditional QA monitoring not been effective in improving Csat?

SQM Group's research shows that 95% of call centers use quality assurance and coaching to improve customer service. Yet, very few call center managers can say they improved their Customer Satisfaction (Csat) due to their call monitoring practices. Furthermore, our research shows that only 83% of agents do not believe their quality assurance program helps them improve Csat.

Many call center managers mistakenly assume that their QA program is helping the call center achieve or improve First Call Resolution (FCR), Csat, and customer service performance. The reality, in many cases, is customers do not view the call in the same light as the person who is evaluating the call.

Most QA practices typically focus on metrics important to the call center. Such as caller verification, adherence to script, the accuracy of information provided to a customer, screen navigation, policy compliance, tracking of sales initiatives, and customer treatment, but not call resolution, which matters the most to customers.

In many cases, QA metrics are weighted higher importance towards areas that are more important to the organization than the customer. Moreover, the QA form can use a lot of metrics to assess the call that meets the organization's needs more than the customer's needs.

As a result, of the above practices, the traditional QA program has effectively helped their agents comply with organizational need metrics but has little or no impact on improving FCR and Csat.

SQM's research shows that a whopping 81% of agents' QA scores did not correlate with Csat resulting from traditional QA scorecard evaluations. Put differently, traditional QA has no or limited impact on Csat scores. However, most call center managers believe their QA program positively impacts Csat scores.

The low correlation between traditional QA and Csat scores is because the wrong metrics and weighting used to evaluate the call and the customer's viewpoint (e.g., post-call survey) are not used as part of the QA evaluation of the call.

Conversely, the Customer Service QA Scorecard Csat Correlates Highly to QA Scores

The high Csat and QA score correlation is mainly because the QA evaluation form includes CX and call compliance metrics. In addition, a customer judges CX via a post-call or email customer survey and artificial intelligence, and a supervisor or QA evaluator or AI evaluates the call compliance metrics.

Conversely, Customer Service QA combines call compliance metrics, judged by a QA evaluator or AI, and service quality metrics, judged by a customer via a post-call or email customer survey and AI. Customer Service QA's premise of letting the customer judge their own experience when contacting an organization is one of the best practices for improving the FCR rate and customer satisfaction.

traditional QA vs. customer service QA scores correlation to customer satisfaction infographic

2. Why Is Customer Service Quality Assurance Important?

Implementing Customer Service QA in the call center makes agents and managers accountable for delivering better customer service and call compliance performance and identifying improvement opportunities effectively and efficiently handling calls. Furthermore, understanding Customer Service QA gaps in performance help determine where agent coaching and training are needed. On the other hand, Customer Service QA can be used to recognize agents who achieved high Customer Service QA scores.

Customer Service QA is important because it can help improve CX problems:

  • 93% of customers expect their call to be resolved on the first call; however, 30% of calls are not resolved on the first call, and 12% of calls go unresolved
  • 46% of customers whose call was not resolved felt the agent could have done more to resolve their call
  • 13% of customers calling a call center describe their call as a complaint, and only 41% of complaint callers are very satisfied with how the agent handled the call
  • Only 53% of customers would describe their call center CX as great

Other benefits of using Customer Service QA for agent coaching are:

  • Higher customer satisfaction scores and FCR
  • Lower call center operating costs
  • Improved ROI for call monitoring
  • Higher agent productivity
  • Higher agent job satisfaction
five call center QA customer service statistics and facts infographic

3. How to Measure Customer Service Quality Assurance?

The Differences Between Traditional QA and Customer Service QA

Before we share how to measure Customer Service QA, we thought it would be helpful to share how it differs from traditional QA.

traditional QA vs. customer quality assurance

One of the most important reasons to use Customer Service QA is that it uses a 360-Degree Feedback multi-rater approach (e.g., customers, QA evaluators, and artificial intelligence) to provide agent feedback.

Conversely, traditional QA uses only one rater approach to provide agent feedback. In addition, the most effective Customer Service QA 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.

With traditional QA, a supervisor or QA evaluator listens to the calls and evaluates the customer's experience. Regardless of the metrics used or the person who conducts the QA evaluation, what remains clear is that a call center employee is judging the customer's experience for resolving an inquiry or problem, not the customer.

Conversely, Customer Service QA 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. Customer Service QA's premise of letting the customer judge their own experience when contacting an organization is one of the best practices for improving the FCR rate and customer service.

If Customer Service QA is appropriately implemented, a call center can expect up to a 10% improvement in FCR. That means for an average call center performing at a 70% FCR rate, if they improved by a 10% FCR rate, they would be performing at the world-class FCR rate of 80%. Unfortunately, only 5% of the 500 leading North American call centers we benchmark annually can achieve the world-class FCR rate of 80% or higher when the customer is the judge for determining whether FCR is achieved.

When traditional QA evaluators assess FCR, SQM research shows the FCR rate to be overstated by up to 20% over the Voice of the Customer (VoC) FCR rate, which can cause call center leaders to not focus on improving FCR.

Furthermore, the benefits of FCR for driving customer service improvement are immense. For example, SQM Group's research shows for "every 1% improvement in FCR, there is a 1% improvement in customer satisfaction."

The Top 5 Reasons Why mySQM™ QA Score Positively Impacts Csat and FCR More Than Traditional QA

  1. Customers determine their satisfaction, and if FCR occurs, their opinion matters most.

  2. The QA scorecard form and mySQM™ QA Score emphasize the customer viewpoint (e.g., points), with the highest points allocated to call resolution and customer satisfaction.

  3. The high point allocation for call resolution and customer satisfaction metrics and that mySQM™ QA Score is benchmarkable motivates agents to improve Csat and FCR.

  4. The customer feedback on why the call was not resolved on the first call provides excellent insights for coaching an agent on how to improve Csat and FCR.

  5. Based on customer feedback, non-FCR repeat call reasons and Csat are tagged to identify opportunities for improving Csat and FCR.

So, How Does the Customer Service QA Process Work?

Customer Service QA, sometimes referred to as CQA, is a holistic view of quality assurance that represents both the customers' and the organization's perspective by combining customer survey, QA, and call compliance metrics.

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 CQA process because there are some call center metrics that the customer simply cannot judge (e.g., compliance and information accuracy). Thus, it is still necessary for the call center monitoring team to evaluate these metrics or use artificial intelligence tools to determine call compliance.

The Customer Service QA program is a two-part process that blends external VoC evaluation with internal call evaluations. First, each agent receives a Customer Service QA evaluation scorecard and dashboard reports that combine the customer survey, QA, and call compliance results. As shown in the figure below, the mySQM™ QA Score evaluation is 100 points, with 85% of points customer-focused and 15% of points organization-focused.

customer service QA form scoring breakdown infographic

Internal Customer Service QA Evaluation

The internal evaluation aspect determines whether the organization's needs are met and is judged by the organization's supervisors, call center monitoring team, or AI practices. In addition, the organization focuses on metrics that the customer cannot judge, such as caller identification processes, screen navigation, call compliance adherence, and call handling (e.g., the accuracy of the information, using knowledge management tools, note-taking, and wrap-up).

External Customer Service QA Evaluation

The external evaluation determines whether the customer's needs are met and is judged by the customer. In addition, the customer focuses on metrics that the customer should judge, such as resolved inquiries or problems, Csat, and QA metrics (e.g., CX journey, empathy). The customer-focused metrics use post-call phone or email customer survey feedback, analytical tools, and AI to determine the mySQM™ QA Score.

How is the mySQM™ QA Score Measured?

The mySQM™ QA Score is based on 10 Customer Service QA metrics that are weighted for importance for impacting customer service delivery. Due to the standardized measurement approach, the mySQM™ QA Score can be tracked and benchmarked at the agent to the call center level within a company or against other companies.

The total mySQM™ QA Score is based on three categories (i.e., post-call survey-40 pts, quality assurance-45 pts, call compliance-15 pts), and the total QA score is based on 100 points available. 85% of the points are weighted toward customer service delivery and 15% toward call compliance. mySQM™ QA Scoring range is the following: Great: 100 Points, Good: 90-99, Average: 70-89, Needs Improvement: 50-69 & Unacceptable: 0-49.

The high weighting for customer service metrics powerfully conveys to agents and supervisors that meeting customer needs matters the most. If an agent makes a critical error * in customer service delivery or for call compliance adherence, they receive 0 points for their entire mySQM™ QA Score evaluation.

mySQM™ QA Score data evaluation method includes analytical tools, artificial intelligence, and post-call survey. For the QA category, we use a 2 or 3-point rating scale. For the call compliance category, we use a 2-point rating scale. A 2 and 4-point scale is used for the post-call survey.

customer service QA evaluation infographic

Customer Service QA Evaluation Form — Free Download

a laptop with a CQA form on the screen

How to Create a mySQM™ QA Scorecard?

The information below is designed to help call centers create a mySQM™ QA dashboard scorecard to deliver great CX. A mySQM™ QA scorecard evaluates and scores agents on behaviors and skills related to customer experience and call compliance metrics.

Each customer call presents a unique situation and requires an agent to adapt. An effective CQA scorecard will empower your agents to deliver great customer service for every customer situation.

The mySQM™ QA scorecard uses a grading rubric for your agents to understand their performance and coaching opportunities to improve. If an agent meets all the CQA criteria on the scorecard, they have successfully delivered great CX.

mySQM™ QA scorecard provides your call center with outstanding CX insights and value. Agents can deliver great customer service with the proper guidelines and metrics that are appropriately weighted. When the right mySQM™ QA scorecard metrics and guidelines are in place, agents are coached to them, and agents follow them, FCR and Csat will improve.

When a call center uses the right CQA guidelines and metrics, agents appreciate using the CQA scorecard because it identifies strengths to build on and weaknesses to develop. Therefore, in many cases, they get high mySQM™ QA scores when they follow the guidelines and standards.

Furthermore, if agents meet the criteria of the CQA scorecard, they know what is expected of them and how to achieve it, which creates job satisfaction and reduces anxiety and stress. Below is an example of mySQM™ QA Scorecard with a proven track record for benchmark performance and improving Csat.

customer service QA scorecard infographic

4. Things to Consider Implementing Customer Service Quality Assurance

​Educating agents and supervisors on the Customer Service QA philosophy of using customer surveys and call compliance data to evaluate calls is essential. Getting the agents and supervisors to buy into the Customer Service QA approach for evaluating calls is vital for success.

The criteria for evaluating a call is the customer completed a post-call survey, which is a random approach for determining calls that will be assessed for CQA. All customers who phoned the call center should be eligible to participate in a post-call survey. A post-call customer survey must occur within one business day of the call center interaction.

The post-call or email survey should focus on quality metrics that the customer can judge, such as their satisfaction with the agent and whether their call was resolved. A CQA program should collect surveys randomly, with equal distribution of surveys throughout the month. A minimum of 5 surveys per agent per month is collected to conduct a customer quality assurance evaluation.

SQM Group's research shows that for the call center industry, calls monitored per agent per month, 60% of call centers evaluate 5 more calls. Furthermore, 71% of call centers say they coach an agent on 4 or more calls that have been QA evaluated.

calls evaluated and monitored infographic

​When creating the CQA form, the evaluation should not include soft skills attributes such as agent communication style, the right tone, and expressing empathy. Instead, the customer provides an agent satisfaction rating and feedback representing soft skills attributes. Soft skills are subjective and difficult to measure from a QA evaluator's perspective. As a result, it is better to let the customer judge agent soft skills via their agent satisfaction rating and corresponding feedback.

If a customer did not get their call resolved and they are the reason the interaction was not resolved, it should be viewed as a critical error. Therefore the agent will get zero points for the Customer Service QA evaluation. The reason for zero CQA points is the customer will need to call back to resolve the same inquiry or problem, which can severely damage the relationship.

​There may be metrics (e.g., security) within the call compliance section required by your organization or government regulations that must be done within every call. If an agent fails to demonstrate that requirement, it should be viewed as a critical error and receive zero points for their entire call evaluation. Furthermore, if the agent's behavior puts the organization at financial risk, the appropriate consequences should be tied to the agent's misbehavior, such as termination.

The call compliance metrics identified as critical error metrics send a clear message to agents that they need to meet those standards. They also need to recognize they will not get high CQA points for achieving these expected metrics but instead be severely penalized for not achieving these metrics. Furthermore, to earn high CQA points, an agent must comply with all call compliance metrics associated with critical errors, resolve the customer call, and deliver great customer service.

graphic of agent standing next to mobile device

Conduct a test pilot project, and run your current QA program alongside the new CQA program. Make any necessary changes before rolling out to the entire call center. Determine your FCR baseline rate before implementing the test pilot CQA program in the call center. After three months, assess FCR and customer satisfaction to determine whether there is an improvement from the FCR baseline rate. Use CQA data to help develop ongoing action plans for improving people, policies, and technology practices.

Conversational QA reviews are used to help call center agents improve their performance for customer service and call compliance. For conversational QA reviews, you can use QA evaluator reviews, supervisor reviews, peer reviews, self-reviews, and customer reviews. Most SQM clients that have used customer reviews have been successful in improving FCR and Csat and lowering agent costs for handling calls. However, as previously mentioned, the best practice is to use the customer and employee (e.g., self, peer, supervisor & QA evaluator) reviews to assess the call, determine the QA score and use the information for agent improvement.

5. How to use Customer Service Quality Assurance Software?

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Firstly, you must ensure that agents can view their real-time Customer Service QA data in an easily understood customer experience software dashboard. Additionally, agents often improve their CQA performance by viewing the CQA dashboard performance and benchmarking it to other agents on their team or call center.

In addition, supervisors should be able to view agent CQA scorecard performance to benchmark them to other agents, understand trends for key CQA metrics, identification of strengths to build on and weaknesses, to coach agents on behaviors and skills to improve.

To augment the agent CQA scorecard dashboard, agents need access to each evaluation's detailed Customer Service QA data. The data an agent needs to be able to view are all the metrics, call recording, screen capture, and CQA evaluator notes to view before being coached by their supervisor. When agents have access to the essential CQA data, it puts them in a better position to understand their performance and leverage the coaching they receive from their supervisor.

Call centers should track CQA metrics trends at the agent and team levels. For example, a supervisor or analyst can determine if coaching, policies, processes, and technology changes have impacted customer service by conducting a trend analysis.

Tracking agent CQA scorecard performance for critical metrics will enable a supervisor to recognize agents who have performed at a high level for delivering great CX. In addition, supervisors will be able to identify agents whose CX performance is below the benchmark average and require additional coaching.

Request a mySQM™ Customer Service QA Demo Video

Learn about SQM's agent… Csat prediction model, which is based on standardized metrics, AI, and regression analysis to predict customer satisfaction derived from a QA evaluation. Our Csat prediction model provides a high statistical correlation, translating to a 95% success rate in predicting agent Csat in most cases.

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Stars on G2 for mySQM™ QA Software Reviews

mySQM™ QA solution uses AI and its Intellectual Property to predict benchmarkable customer satisfaction for every call, and to provide agent self-coaching and near real-time agent financial recognition.

"Resolutionary!"

This will give advocates the opportunity to self-coach and learn better ways to improve before their coach or supervisor gets to them.

"User-friendly interface, strong service team!"

I've worked with several CX research supplies and would say that the mySQM tool is the best I've worked with so far. Dashboards are easy to setup and customize and it is also quite easy to setup data exports. The team at SQM has been flexible and great to work with.

"Valuable information everyday!"

The widgets are great for quick results and knowing how to start your day with your team. We can see the feedback and hear the input of our customers. The reporting can break down by different levels and metrics. Great way to benchmark your performance and see trends and opportunities.

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