Whether your call center is in-house or outsourced, with 4 agents or 400, a thorough and repeatable quality assurance (QA) process is essential. A Quality Assurance (QA) process ensures that your team is performing at the standards expected by your team and brand.
Not only does a QA process ensure your call center services are the best they can be, but it can also help:
- identity and prevent potential problems or trouble areas
- highlight common customer issues and complaints
- make communication processes smoother
- reduce costs by managing inefficient processes or call volume trends (allowing you to scale up or down as needed)
A QA process should track both measurable KPIs, such as CSAT, FCR and AHT, as well as more qualitative data around agent’s soft skills, responses and overall call quality. This process ensures that your call center quality is stable and improving—which in turn will improve customer service and retention, sales, compliance and more.
In this article, we’ll break down the ways that quality assurance can help improve various facets of your service, as well as how to design, implement and evaluate a new or existing QA program.
How Quality Assurance Can Help Improve Customer Service
One of the primary desired outcomes for many companies who implement a quality assurance process is to help improve customer service—and quality assurance is a great way to do that! After all, a solid QA process helps your team improve and ensure the quality of your customer support interactions.
And, as we all know, improving the quality of your customer service and experience has a myriad of benefits, such as improving customer loyalty, brand affinity and retention. All of this has a direct impact on the bottom line:
- 89% of customers said a positive customer service experience “makes them more likely to make another purchase.”
- 63% of consumers say they’re “prepared to modify their spending habits in order to maximize the benefits of a loyalty program.”
- Increasing customer retention rates by even 5% can increase profits by anywhere from 25% – 95%.
A QA process can help improve quality of customer service by measuring qualitative data from calls and interactions alongside quantitative data. For example, you might measure first call resolution rate, average hold time and average handle time, while also measuring how satisfactorily the agent resolved the call, how empathetic or understanding the agent was of the customer’s problems, the overall quality of the information or solution provided, and so on.
As you track quality over time, your QA results can point to key areas of weakness or ongoing customer dissatisfaction on your team and can help optimize your CSAT efforts. If Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT) is a metric you’re tracking (and it should be!), a solid QA process can help match certain call or interaction qualities to the level of customer satisfaction, giving you insights into what you should focus on more in the future.
How Quality Assurance Can Help Increase Sales
Whether or not your call center focuses on outbound sales and marketing, a good QA process can directly impact sales and drive improvement for your bottom line. As mentioned above, a loyal customer is a profitable customer—and quality customer service is one of the biggest drivers of satisfied and loyal customers.
However, if your call center handles outbound sales and marketing calls, a QA process for sales is even more important. Not only does it ensure agents are using your known best practices, but it also enables your team to find and create best practices by listening and evaluating successful calls. Of course, you can also glean useful insights from unsuccessful calls.
Either way, listening and analyzing call recordings as part of your QA process can allow you to see things like:
- the average call length of successful (or unsuccessful) calls, allowing your agents to maximize their efficiency and effectiveness
- the types of empathy or emotional connection that resonates most with customers and leads to more sales
- which products have the highest on-call conversion rate amongst certain types of customers
As you uncover this data, you can create and manage scripts for different audience personas, based on what you know has been successful in the past, leading to more successful sales calls in the future.
For call centers that don’t handle outbound sales, a QA process can also be useful for any inbound sales—whether that’s a customer upsell, upgrade, or renewal; a recommendation for a product the customer inquires about; or another type of sales activity. As with outbound sales, your QA process can uncover more effective sales techniques, as well as allow for more personalization.
And of course—more personalization leads to better customer experiences, which in turns drives customer loyalty, which in turn drives—more sales and revenue. It’s a self-fulfilling loop that benefits everyone in the end.
How Quality Assurance Can Help With Compliance
For industries that have many compliance regulations to adhere to (i.e. FinTech, banking, healthcare, transportation, etc.) a quality assurance process is essential, and should be implemented as soon as the call center is active. Of course—it’s never too late!
Quality assurance ensures that:
- accurate and up-to-date information is getting to customers
- procedures and regulations are being followed
- agents understand best practices
- agents continue to receive ongoing training in weak areas
Essentially, your quality assurance process not only ensures that agents are providing excellent customer service, but it provides security for you to know that the accurate policies and procedures are followed. For example, QA processes can check to ensure that customer data is being handled appropriately, that agents are following the required steps for identity approval, and so on. In short, whenever there are specific processes and procedures in place for customer communication, a QA process should be implemented to ensure they’re being followed accurately.
And if they’re not? Your QA process will uncover that and you can provide agents with ongoing training to strengthen their understanding and implementation of the process. A QA process can also help point to areas where your scripts or procedures are weak and need additional processes to be more compliant.
In addition, having QA specialists on your team—whether those are dedicated positions, team leaders or managers—allows you to have go-to point positions to coordinate with compliance or legal teams. These team members can act as a liaison between compliance experts and your call center agents, collecting any new information or policies from your compliance team and ensuring your call center agents are adequately briefed and trained on any changes. This streamlines the flow of knowledge and information sharing, making your overall workflow more efficient.
Call Center Quality Assurance Best Practices
No two QA programs are—or should be—exactly alike. However, there are some best practices that you should know and implement. Whether you’re designing a QA process for an in-house team, or just ensuring that your outsourced call center is getting the most out of the QA process they’re using, use these best practices for an effective and efficient QA process.
Document your QA process
All effective QA processes share (at least) three things in common: they are straightforward, understandable, and repeatable.
Your QA process should be simple to understand and straightforward to implement. Many call centers make the mistake of thinking that a more complex process will yield more results, or better data, but in reality, a simple process is more likely to be followed consistently and can yield clean, actionable data. In addition, your process should be easily repeatable, and able to be implemented or followed by multiple agents or QA specialists.
Ready to perfect your CX?
As you build out your process, create documentation around each step of the process. Then, have someone unfamiliar with the process attempt to perform a QA analysis of a call. If they’re able to understand and repeat the process, you’ll know that you’re in a good place. If they struggle to replicate the steps or understand what to do, simplify your process and/or improve your documentation until it’s easy to follow and repeat.
Collect qualitative and quantitative QA data
A QA process should be quantitative as well as qualitative. Too often, call center teams make the mistake of focusing on one at the expense of the other—but both types of data provide useful insights, and can work in tandem.
In order to collect QA data effectively, you should develop a QA rubric that interactions are evaluated based on that provides a final score at the end. Many call centers end up developing a Quality Standards Definition Document (QSDD), that defines the elements of the call that will be evaluated, and what standards will receive which scores.
This rubric or QSDD can include basic quantitative data, such as CSAT score after the call, or the handle time. But it should also include a rubric for “grading” more quantitative, or subjective, elements of the call. For example, you might have a rubric that allows QA specialists to judge the empathy or emotional intelligence shown during the call on a scale of 1 to 5, using concrete metrics or markers. You may also want to create scoring rubrics for things like:
- following compliance procedures or policies
- providing accurate information to the customer
- creating a satisfactory solution to the problem the customer presented
- demonstrating empathy and active listening throughout the call
- attempting to upsell or upgrade the customer as relevant
Each team will have to determine which elements of customer service are most important—or which most need improvement—and design their scorecard around those. At the end of the day, the scorecard should be able to clearly and objectively evaluate even subjective portions of the call, and provide a final score.
This allows you to collect data around overall QA scores, as well as more detailed trends over time. For example, if you recently hosted an emotional intelligence training for all of your agents, you can pay special attention to the emotional intelligence scores of calls during your QA process during the month after the training. Did scores improve? Are they on an upward incline after the training? If so, you’ll know the training was influential—and if not, you can adjust accordingly.
Finally, make sure to include this data in a dashboard that agents can see. They should be able to monitor their own scores as well as overall trends. This kind of immediate feedback allows agents to improve on their own—not just when they’re meeting with a manager or team lead for feedback—and it also provides positive reinforcement for agents who are doing an excellent job.
Develop a QA process for each channel
While many call centers have a QA process for voice calls, any channel with customer communications should be included in the QA process. This includes channels such as email, web chat and even social media messaging. After all—you want to provide quality customer service no matter where customers meet you!
Your QA rubric or scorecard will need to be flexible based on the channel, and you might even have to design channel-specific QA processes, depending on your workflow and the types of communication you have available. At any rate, be sure to include any channel-specific metrics or measurements, or adjust the scorecard accordingly for what “good” customer service looks like on each channel.
For example, if a customer sends you an email, they likely don’t expect an immediate response. However, if they call you on the phone or reach out to you via a live chat option, you can bet that they’re looking for someone to respond within minutes, or even faster. Design your scorecards appropriately based on customer expectations for each channel, and pay special attention to the channels that are used most frequently by customers.
Ensure that QA is an ongoing process
Any good QA program requires continual maintenance, evaluation and adjustments in order to provide you with the highest quality data and actionable items. Rather than just “setting it and forgetting it,” you should be continually evaluating and improving your QA process to get the most value.
Ideally, your call center should have a team that is responsible for QA processes. A dedicated QA team can evaluate, improve, and implement changes and feedback.
As your team evaluates your QA process, you can consider:
- Is this process meeting our needs?
- Are we making progress on our goals and KPIs?
- Are we tracking the most effective metrics for our goals?
- Do agents feel they are receiving the feedback they need to improve?
Over time, as the evaluation of the QA process takes place, your QA team can improve the process and implement changes and feedback over time.
Provide ongoing feedback loops
A QA process is ultimately intended for process as well as quality improvement—however, performing the QA process alone won’t ensure that anything improves. Instead, you’ll need to build feedback loops into the process to ensure that insights and data uncovered are actioned and implemented into future calls and processes.
Each QA team should be collecting and actioning at least 3 types of feedback:
Feedback to agents: Providing feedback to agents as a result of your QA process and data is a must—otherwise, what’s the point? Agents cannot improve without feedback on the results of your QA. Collecting data and insights from each agent’s calls, as well as the team’s calls as a whole, and providing both collective and individual feedback to agents will ensure that your team continues to improve and provide better customer service.
Feedback to QA specialists: Whether you have specific team members specializing in the QA process or have it as a shared responsibility among other employees, providing feedback to whoever is implementing the QA process on an ongoing basis is important. This feedback should come from both above and below. Team leads should provide feedback on improving processes, data and agent feedback and training. Agents may want to provide feedback on the evaluations they’re receiving—whether they need different feedback, disagree with the feedback, want it in a different format, or so on.
Feedback to team leads: Agents and QA specialists should also be able to provide feedback on the QA process as a whole to team leads, or other staff who are creating or implementing the process. After all, the QA specialists and agents are the ones who are using the program day-in and day-out, so they should be able to—and encouraged to—provide feedback about the process, design and implementation, as well as any ways to make it more effective.
Providing ongoing feedback loops—and taking action accordingly—will not only improve your QA process over time, but will ensure that agents and QA specialists are actively engaged with the process, knowing that their feedback will be heard and considered.
Does Your Call Center Quality Assurance Process Pass The Test?
If you’re currently outsourcing your call center or customer service, it’s important to not completely hand off the QA process. Instead, you should be evaluating and providing feedback on the process on a regular basis as well.
For example, when consider whether or not your current provider’s QA process is effective, evaluate the following questions in light of the current program:
- How much time does the QA process take?
- Is it actionable, understandable and repeatable?
- Does the QA process happen regularly and produce actionable data?
- Does your provider offer an appropriate amount of data? Your call center should follow the Goldilocks rule: not too little, not too much.
- Is the data analyzed and interpreted accurately?
- How do agents feel about the QA process? Is their feedback incorporated? Are they receiving enough feedback? Do they feel the QA program provides them with effective feedback while also maintaining some privacy for them?
- Is the software used for QA up-to-date and does it offer the best features for what you need?
By running regular evaluations and audits of your providers QA process, you’ll ensure you have an accurate understanding of how well it is—or isn’t—working. If, after running through the list of questions above, you find that your provider’s QA process is lacking, it’s essential to work toward improving it as soon as possible. After all, without a solid QA process in place, you’re not able to be as effective with your customer service—potentially losing valuable customers and revenue along the way.
Of course, if your provider is unable to make the necessary improvements, it may be time to transfer to a provider who can support a more robust QA process. For example, at Global Response, we have 40+ years of experience and dedicated QA processes and teams that will ensure your customer service is continually improving.
Ready for next-level customer service and quality assurance that drives revenue and develops loyal customers? Chat with an expert at Global Response today to learn how our solutions can help you drive success with your goals.