Call Center QA Comprehensive Guide
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 it works, and tips for improving Customer Service QA.
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:
- What Is Customer Service Quality Assurance?
- Why Is Customer Service Quality Assurance Important?
- How Does Customer Service Quality Assurance Work?
- Things To Consider When Implementing Customer Service Quality Assurance?
- How To Use Customer Service Quality Assurance Software?
1. What Is Customer Service Quality Assurance?
Customer Service QA monitors customer interactions with a call center based on post-call customer surveys 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 customer survey 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 group has conducted hundreds of Call Center Quality Assurance effectiveness assessments with leading North American company call centers. SQM's research shows that a whopping 81% of agents' QA scores did not correlate with Csat resulting from traditional QA scorecard evaluations.
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 evaluates the call compliance metrics.
Furthermore, CX metrics are weighted higher than call compliance metrics. The bottom line is that the Customer Service QA scorecard correlations show when a Csat score is high or low, and so is the QA score.
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
3. How Customer Service Quality Assurance Works?
The Differences Between Traditional QA and Customer Service QA
Before we share how Customer Service QA works, we thought it would be helpful to share how it differs from traditional QA.
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 Customer Service QA Positively Impacts FCR More Than Traditional QA
- The customer determines whether FCR occurred, and their opinion matters the most.
- The CQA form places more emphasis (e.g., points) on the customer viewpoint, with the highest points allocated to call resolution and customer satisfaction.
- The high point allocation for call resolution and customer satisfaction metrics motivates agents to improve FCR and customer service.
- 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 FCR.
- Based on customer feedback, non-FCR repeat call reasons are tagged to identify opportunities for improving FCR and actionable.
So, How Does The Customer Service QA Process Work?
Customer Service QA, or CQA, is a holistic view of quality assurance that represents both the customer's and the organization's perspective by combining customer survey 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 analytical tools to determine call compliance.
The call center's most effective 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 report comprising the customer survey and the call compliance results for the same call. As shown below in figure 1, the Customer Service QA evaluation scoring is a total of 100 points, comprised of:
Evaluation Scoring Breakdown:
- 60 points are available based on customer survey metrics, and 40 points are available based on call compliance metrics.
- For the 60 points allocated for customer survey metrics, 30 are for call resolution, 20 for customer satisfaction, and 10 for positive customer experience.
- For the 40 points allocated for call compliance metrics, 31 are customer-focused, and 9 are organization-focused.
- Customer Service QA point allocation is 91% skewed towards customer metrics (i.e., 60 points from the customer survey metrics and 31 points from call compliance metrics).
- Having 91% of the Customer Service QA evaluation form allocated towards the customer's experience sends the message to agents that the customer's experience (e.g., call resolution, Csat) is what really matters in the Customer Service QA evaluation program and to the organization.
Internal Customer Service QA Evaluation
The internal evaluation aspect determines whether the organization's needs are met and is judged by the call center's monitoring team through a slimmed-down version of the industry's current call monitoring practices. In addition, the organization focuses on metrics that the customer cannot judge, such as caller identification, screen navigation, policy compliance, 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 inquiries or problems are resolved and is judged by the customer. Customer Service QA uses post-call phone or email customer survey feedback from an independent third-party survey vendor or in-house surveys to determine whether the call was resolved and whether FCR and Csat were achieved. Furthermore, the Customer Service QA evaluation process is based on customers who called the call center and completed a survey.
Customer Service QA Evaluation Form Metrics and Point Allocation
Below are the standard Customer Service QA evaluation metrics and point allocation from a high-level perspective we use with our clients. The CQA metrics and point allocation should be used as a guide for developing a CQA evaluation form appropriate for your call center.
The CQA form consists of a customer survey and call compliance section with corresponding sub-sections. The CQA form total points available is 100 points and has a five-level CQA scoring range (i.e., great to unacceptable). The Customer Service QA evaluation form is comprised of the following metrics, point allocation, and scoring range:
Customer Service QA Evaluation Form — Free Download
How to Create a Customer Service QA Scorecard
The below information is designed to help call centers create a Customer Service QA dashboard scorecard to deliver great CX. A CQA 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 Customer Service 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.
Customer Service 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 CQA 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 Customer Service 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.
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.
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.
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.
5. How to use Customer Service Quality Assurance Software?How To Use Customer Service QA Software?
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.
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