Having an effective QA programme is essential for any scaling business but how do you ensure that it really works? In this blog, we look in detail at how you can ensure that your QA framework is working as effectively as possible.
- - What is Quality Assurance?
- - Why is QA important?
- - Measuring and Scoring Quality Assurance
- - Scoring templates and channels
We all intuitively know that quality is important, when you speak to a support agent over the phone or when you meet someone at a shop, when they empathise with customers, for example but it is also important to put a number on the level of QA.
What is Quality Assurance?
To give a very brief introduction to QA, a couple of decades back when companies started manufacturing products in bulk, they started worrying about the quality of their products, because no one was individually looking at every single product they were rolling out.
So, they introduced something called a Quality Control team and their job was to periodically take samples of the products the company was manufacturing, it could be things ranging from cars to chocolates and they would test whether it met the company standards. Based on that, they would validate that all the products that the company was manufacturing were of good quality.
Moving into how that works in the Customer Support environment, QA involves taking some sample data responses that your support agents give to your customers and seeing whether they meet the required quality according to your company standards. If you're new to Quality Assurance, try our 'Getting Started with QA' Guide.
Why is QA important?
1. Makes a ‘customer's delight’ quantifiable
When you're a small company, a start-up, for example, there's an unspoken understanding as to what good quality is, because people work closely together. But as companies become bigger and as a support team becomes bigger, you tend to get a little more subjective on what good call quality is.
When you create a QA process you make that quantifiable, so you have data like a customer satisfaction survey that gives you a good enough understanding of how happy your customers are, but to truly make things like customer delight quantifiable, you need a QA score.
2. Your team is appraised based on the right metrics
Typically, most customer support teams evaluate agents based on metrics like average handling time, the number of tickets they get through etc. and while metrics like these are important and necessary, in the long run it's not going to help your agents or your team become better at what they do. These metrics will help to make agents more productive but those are not the metrics that are going to set them up for success.
With the QA score you'd be evaluating agents and incentivising them based on how good they are at their job. As they progress in their career, when you appraise them based on the right metrics, you're setting them up for success in the long run.
3. It helps you be consistent with your brand
Every brand that you interact with on a daily basis, it could be your local supermarket or it could be a bank, you're accustomed to a tone of voice that they adopt.
Your customer support team is the voice of the company, so every time a customer interacts with someone from your team, regardless of who they speak to, QA helps to ensure a consistent tone of voice for your brand.
This is especially important as your company grows and you have a mix of employees from different backgrounds.
Measuring and scoring QA
Firstly, it's important to look at who performs QA i.e. who would evaluate and who would be involved in that particular process. These are the possible groups:
- - QA Team
- - Team Leaders
- - Agent Self-Assessment
- - Peer-to-Peer
Some businesses have Quality Assurance teams and some don't and that's okay because it's certainly not the be all and end all, it's merely another option that's available. However, if you do have a QA team or you are thinking about introducing a specific QA team, there are certainly some advantages to that:
A consistent approach to measuring quality
Non-biased as you have a team that will sit outside of the operational team
Dedicated resource means higher volumes of quality check evaluations
More data to support agent development and performance improvement
The costs associated to running a QA team
Doesn’t always fit well within the culture (can create an ‘Us vs Them’ culture)
To avoid the risk of creating an ‘Us vs Them’ culture, it is important to have open lines of communication throughout the QA process.
Where no QA team exists, more often than not, the responsibility of evaluating sits with the team leaders, those people that manage the agents on a day-to-day basis. Again, there are advantages to this:
Team leader remains close to agent performance
Better 1:1/coaching sessions based on first-hand feedback of performance
Limited time to complete sufficient evaluations
Not always seen as a work priority, so not a good long-term solution
Unconscious bias often exists
This type of Quality Assurance approach has started to gather a lot more momentum and it is effectively where agents will evaluate themselves and their own interactions with customers. This is particularly great for a number of reasons.
It empowers agents even further in taking more of a direct role in their own improvement
Gives them more self-awareness about their own performance
No additional resource is required
Helps them to understand QA process more
Bias (both positive AND negative)
Greater need for calibration between agents
Best used in conjunction with another method of QA
Calibration between agents is really important with this type of QA, to try and establish consistency of the process and it also should be used in conjunction with another QA method. We wrote a blog discussing this in more detail, check out 'Top Tips for introducing Agent self-scoring to your team'.
This is perhaps a more adventurous type of QA but it is getting more popular. Some of the key pros and cons to be aware of are:
Agents develop a greater understanding of the QA process
They get closer to scoring guidelines, helping their own development
More exposure to how other agents are performing
More opportunities for sharing best practice
Agents need time to do the evaluations, taking them away from customer contact channels
Consistency and fairness can be an issue
The culture might not work e.g. could cause arguments
Scoring Channels and Templates
Different channels have different components and the approach to measuring quality should be adapted for each one, for example, an agent will interact differently on a live chat compared to over the phone or by email. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Scoring for more information.
By having separate scoring templates for channels, you will have a clear view of performance across each of those individual channels. When it comes to using scorecards, it certainly isn’t a case of ‘one-size fits all’. So, when you are designing your QA process, you should be developing different scorecards for the different channels. If you're looking for QA scorecard templates, you can find them here.
Objective scoring is generally when you're scoring your questions or your line items in your scorecards, using the binary type scoring. So, it's a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’. This type of score is particularly great when you're evaluating the compliance or process elements of your scorecard, where something is done correctly or incorrectly and there is no in between.
This scoring allows you to quickly identify which processes are having the impact on your performance overall, and you can perhaps link it back to your training gaps and also different coaching opportunities that present themselves.
Red, Amber, Green scoring
This is a step up from your pass/fail, and here you have an intermediary option that just allows you to identify either end of the scale or somewhere in between. You can increase the number of scoring options but larger scales require good quality guidelines and definitions to work well. Check out how to write Quality Guidelines.
With subjective scoring, giving scores out of 10, for example, it is again really important to have detailed and clear guidance and definitions to justify the different scores to get consistency.
Top tips to take away
- - Use the data and link back to why you’re doing it
- - Give agents access to data to empower them
- - Give the right data access to the right people
That should give you a really good overview of the different roles involved in the QA process and the pros and cons of applying each approach. If you're looking for more information about creating scorecards for different channels, then you will find guidance and advice on the Resources Hub.