Quality Assurance and Compliance have a bad rep, because, when it’s not working…
- Agents can feel unfairly treated – “why do you always choose to mark my really bad calls?”
- QA Teams can feel unfairly criticised – “Careful, here come the Gestapo!”
- Team Leaders and Coaches become disengaged because they’re “caught in the middle”.
Factor in the physical separation that comes with remote home-working, and the resulting pain can be amplified.
When I worked for Vertex, a global customer management outsourcer (CMO), my role involved supporting account teams to help them “sell” quality management and improvement best practice to their clients.
Since we set up EvaluAgent in 2012, as CEO my role has evolved, but it’s still all about supporting prospects and clients to improve sales and service performance through quality monitoring, feedback and coaching.
Over the years, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve probably worked with hundreds of quality managers, analysts and operational leaders, and whilst I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing and learning myriad ways of implementing quality and improvement, one question I was almost universally asked was...
“How do we improve the working relationship between quality and ops”.
On more than one occasion, I’ve had quality managers breaking down in tears as they recount their experiences and frustrations on the subject.
So, this week I thought it would be useful to share a few thoughts and experiences on operational practices I’ve observed where quality, compliance and team leaders have worked together very effectively to support agents to higher levels of performance.
Breaking down barriers
This isn’t a robust conclusion based on any scientific research, so bear with me. However, based on observations and anecdotal evidence, whenever I walk into an operation and see the Quality and Compliance team in their own office with the door closed, there’s typically a challenge ahead!
In quite a few cases, I’ve observed quality teams in completely separate locations to the operational team. In extreme cases, I’ve seen businesses outsourcing their quality to offshore locations.
If that’s your business model, that’s cool.
Your objective may be to save money, whilst still providing management information to satisfy contractual obligations and/or regulators.
Go for it!
But I can save you some time, nothing I’m saying in the rest of this blog will help you.
If, on the other hand, your objective is to generate actionable insight that can help agents improve performance, there are some things you can do to break down barriers…
Is quality adding value?
The first step towards change, is accepting you have a problem.
Back when I was at Orange, we were joined by an experienced, charismatic, although somewhat mercurial Customer Service Director who, within a month of joining the business, halted all QA activity.
It was generating lots of spreadsheet reports but adding very little value to the business.
It was in effect a tick-box exercise. So, he stopped it, dead.
Tens of colleagues were outraged and scared at the decision, but after weeks of focusing feedback and coaching on other performance data and seeing business and customer outcomes trending upwards, the lesson was learnt.
It was only at that point that he brought the relevant teams together and shared his vision for how we were to redefine our quality management processes – generating results and insight focused on how to further enhance and improve those business and customer outcomes.
And I guess that’s my first point – do things for the right reason.
Use the right people. Measure the right things. Use the data for the right reasons.
Because, if you don’t, QA is just about generating another number on a management report and, let’s be really honest, that’s a complete and utter waste of everyone’s time…
Recruit the right people and properly support them
Be careful on who you employ as your Quality & Compliance managers. Too much process-focus and it’s all about MI with no engagement. Too much people-focus and there’s not enough insight to act on.
It’s a fine balance in terms of skills and behaviours. It’s also a key leadership role that requires experience of driving cultural change, so if you promote a high performing colleague into the role who hasn’t done it before – make sure you invest in subject matter and leadership training.
Otherwise, the whole endeavour is doomed to failure and you’ll soon be thinking your best option is to save money and outsource the whole function.
So, with your business objectives clear and the right people involved, it’s about your ways of working.
It may not be easy to arrange, but seating your quality and improvement team amongst your operation is key. It can be disturbing and noisy at first, but you really do get used to it, and it’s the best way of breaking down barriers.
Ensuring quality team members also spend a regular portion of time (say half a day a week) dealing with service and sales enquiries serves two core purposes;
- It keeps them up to date with the latest processes, policies and guidance for dealing with customers
- It gives them credibility with colleagues when it comes to evaluating contacts and providing feedback.
One last piece of advice on this point - Putting quality team members on the phones only when service levels are spiralling is a big mistake – it diminishes their perceived value to the business and removes a core support function at the time you most need it!
Implementing highly collaborative workflows to help colleagues “calibrate” their scoring develops a clear and common understanding of what “great service” reads and sounds like.
It’s one of the best ways of building higher levels of trust amongst everyone involved in quality.
And, in these times where team leaders are not physically together, it’s a great way for them to stay connected and support each other.
Get agents involved whenever possible so that they can play an active part in the discussions that result.
It’s painful and can be a little confrontational at times but so long as those “heated discussions” are managed and facilitated well (Hint – invest in training on this core skill) it will ensure that you continue to measure and improve the skills and behaviours that impact most on customers and the business.
Check & Query workflows
By configuring your QA workflow so that Agent scores can be reviewed before publication, team leaders are able to play a more active role in the process.
Results and feedback can be discussed between QA and operational management to ensure that all perspectives and experiences are considered whenever an outcome may be in question.
My top tip here - take it one step further, and enable your agents to query their results.
OK, it may cause some friction and extra work in the short-term.
However, as the resulting sense of empowerment starts to build trust, everything starts to become simpler, and the whole QA process becomes less painful.
We’ve done it tens of times.
The best example was an operation that had let things go a little too far – they’d implemented an appeals process with the equivalent of a High Court and a Chief Justice. The quality team were spending almost a quarter of their time dealing with these queries from agents.
We acted on some of the advice I’ve shared here and, by the time we re-introduced the query process, agents challenging their results had become the exception rather than the rule!
Beware of automating your way out of the problem
Technology can have a phenomenal impact on efficiency and here at EvaluAgent, we’re currently developing an AI-augmented approach to quality that doesn’t replace the quality team, but rather helps them to focus on truly value-adding activity.
We'll share more soon but in essence, using speech and text analytics to help QA teams, coaches and team leaders focus on the agents and elements of the customer experience and compliance that require most attention.
But a word of warning, there are advocates and vendors out there that believe and are selling the cool-aid drenched vision that 100% auto-quality is the way ahead.
Whenever I hear that, that Little Britain sketch comes to mind… “Computa says NO!”
I’m honestly not convinced that you can coach agents purely based on that sort of approach.
But hey, if you disagree – you’ll love this idea. Apparently, as well as using AI and tech to evaluate your robots (sorry, I meant people), you can also take a picture via webcam every 10 minutes to check that they’re at their computer. What will the techies who’ve never managed and supported a team of human beings come up with next?
On that point of irony. I better end it there. But, thanks for reading.
Hopefully some of my more constructive observations have sparked an idea or two.
If you have any questions or comments, let's connect on LinkedIn and start a conversation.
Have a good one,