What Is Call Center Quality Assurance?
The call center quality assurance process is an integral part of call center management. It aims to make sure the customer experience is all it should be, through monitoring and evaluating agent performance.
The specifics of the quality monitoring call center managers typically carry out vary from company to company, but some aspects of the process are — or should be — universal.
A heavy focus on feedback, KPIs, and target-setting is a good start. However, implementing QA effectively in call centers also involves dealing with certain challenges. Proficient handling of those is essential to ensure the QA process achieves its objectives consistently.
What About Quality Management and Quality Control? How Are They Different?
Let’s dive into the differences between quality assurance, quality management, and quality control.
Quality management is an umbrella term used across many industries that covers the following four processes:
A quality management system is all about taking a comprehensive, 360° approach to maintaining and improving standards. Quality control actually falls under the quality management umbrella.
Now let’s look at the distinctions between the four processes under quality management.
For starters, there’s a simple difference between quality planning and quality improvement: They happen at the beginning and end of the production of a good or service, respectively. Before you produce something, you plan how you will achieve good quality, and afterwards, you review how it went and try to think of ways to improve.
The distinction between quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA) is generally about the focus. Quality control involves scrutinizing the product or service itself, whereas quality assurance is about scrutinizing the process by which goods or services come to see the light of day.
For industries centered around creating a physical good, this distinction is relatively intuitive. Quality control might involve, say, testing items from each batch as they roll off the production line, whereas quality assurance will be used to identify any potential vulnerabilities in the production process itself.
It’s fair to say that when it comes to service operations like call centers, the difference between QC and QA can seem a little less clear. But, in truth, it doesn’t really matter. The important point to note is that QA is all about trying to make sure standards are as high as possible.
Why Is Quality Assurance Important in a Call Center?
It’s no surprise that call or contact center quality assurance is a top priority for many businesses. It’s worth taking a little time, though, to delve into exactly what kind of concrete benefits it delivers for organizations.
Here are a few of the most important ones:
Let’s begin with an obvious one. After all, boosting standards is what it’s all about. When you’re looking at how to improve quality in a call center, pushing standards of service higher is the primary goal.
The truth is that you can’t know what you don’t measure. Raising standards in call center operations has to start with an assessment of current performance. That way, you can learn what’s working, as well as find areas that could do with an improving tweak here and there.
Helps Identify Problems
It’s not always obvious if more serious systemic problems are developing until a crisis hits.
Call center quality monitoring on a regular basis keeps you tuned in to operations on the ground. This makes sure you’re alerted to larger issues as soon as they arise, so you aren’t surprised further down the line.
For example, suppose some of your newer agents are struggling to resolve a specific type of customer query because it wasn’t covered in their initial training. In that case, you’d probably see a drop in first-call resolution rates pertaining to that specific topic.
This would tip you off that you need to do some digging into why. Following up with agents and supervisors affected would help you determine the core of the problem. Then, you could easily fix it by scheduling additional training and reviewing your onboarding materials.
Improves the Customer Experience
According to a survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Forbes Advisor in August 2023, 48% of consumers in the U.S. say they’re happy to pay more for quality customer service. This figure won’t come as a shock to anyone familiar with the modern world of business. It’s good to be reminded sometimes, though, of just how important providing a top-quality customer experience is to keeping that bottom line healthy.
Call center QA puts a major emphasis on optimizing the customer experience. Customer feedback features prominently in most quality assurance processes, and it’s easy to see why. It’s only when you have an in-depth understanding of how the customer feels about their interactions with your team that you can begin planning improvements.
Increases Customer Retention Rates
The OnePoll survey for Forbes also reports that as many as 58% of people will switch to a competitor if they think they can get better service elsewhere. It’s in the top three reasons people ditch a brand, just slightly behind “better product quality” and “better deals.”
Given how crucial retaining existing customers generally is to long-term success, ensuring you’re delivering on your promises is key. And you can’t know whether you are or not without monitoring your call center agents’ performance regularly.
Ensures Regulatory and Legal Compliance
Dealing with the complexities of regulatory compliance can be a major headache. But there’s no mistaking it — call center compliance is vital to any business.
One of the difficulties in remaining compliant is that the rules do change from time to time. Some changes can have an immediate impact on operations, so updating your training quickly is vital.
But that’s not enough on its own. You also need to establish that the rules are being followed to the letter, or else risk facing unpleasant legal repercussions. A solid QA process will pick up any compliance-related issues quickly so you can eliminate them before they create a problem.
Raises Productivity Levels
When you implement a comprehensive QA system, it often helps improve efficiency in general. You’ll find that the elements of the process can work together in harmony to streamline workflows, improve cross-team collaboration, and incentivize excellence.
This means that productivity levels across your organization climb higher as a result. If you take the right steps, agents will be more motivated to deliver top-tier work. In other words, good QA monitoring can have a direct impact on your company’s overall performance.
Common Challenges of Establishing an Effective Call Center QA Framework
Whenever you make changes to your business processes, it’s likely you’ll encounter some challenges. Establishing a call center QA framework is no different in this respect.
Here are some of the most common issues you might come across:
Pressure To Deliver
Have you ever noticed how it’s sometimes too difficult to make time for things that don’t seem immediately urgent?
The gate in the yard that’s been squeaking for years or the broken knob on the door — somehow, fixing them never seems to be of pressing importance. After all, the gate still closes and the door still opens, whereas other tasks really won’t wait.
The professional equivalent of that kind of situation is the process that you simply can’t find the time to implement.
You’re already extremely busy meeting deadline after deadline, and that pressure to deliver time-critical tasks can mean not being able to create space in the schedule for a big new project like developing a QA framework.
Change can be hard. That applies to all aspects of life, but it can be especially stressful in the workplace, particularly if you feel you don’t have much choice about new developments.
If QA monitoring is a completely new concept in your workplace — or even if you’re just trying to implement a more rigorous version of an existing QA process — you might meet a little resistance.
It’s understandable. Call center monitoring necessarily involves close scrutiny of agent performance. The reality is that this will put your call center staff under increased pressure, so it’s crucial to be mindful of this as you begin implementation.
Ideally, you want everyone aligned before you start because you’ll get better results that way. As they say, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Inadequate Training Resources
You might find that your existing training materials aren’t up to the task of supporting the new QA process. For one thing, it’s possible that you’ll need to train staff members on how to apply analytics techniques or use software platforms that they’re not familiar with.
More generally, your onboarding and training processes may require a bit of an overhaul to accommodate the changes to your operational workflows.
For instance, your existing training documentation will need to be updated to reflect the additional QA-related responsibilities that agents and supervisors are now expected to meet.
Call Center Quality Assurance Best Practices to Overcome Challenges
The good news is that none of these challenges are insurmountable. There’s a lot you can do to smooth the way. If you follow these best practices, you’ll set yourself up for success:
Choose the Right Call Center Quality Management Software
Any manager thinking about how to improve quality assurance in a call center should be prioritizing tech solutions. Call and contact center quality assurance software is widely available — but it’s crucial to choose wisely.
A comprehensive unified communications software platform could be ideal for small to medium-size businesses. Such a solution will likely offer a number of features that are useful for QA purposes. For instance, you could take advantage of call monitoring functionality that allows supervisors to join customer calls either silently or openly.
The best of these cloud-based platforms can be very sophisticated, providing much more than just telephony services. Typically they are integration-ready. This means you can easily connect them to the business tools your team already uses, like your customer relationship management (CRM) platform, helping you quickly generate critical call center analytics.
Conduct Regular Agent Training
Training shouldn’t ever be a one-and-done deal. While bringing new hires up to speed is an essential part of the onboarding process, regular training for all staff members is also an important part of the picture when you’re building an effective QA framework.
The overall aim should be to create a circle of constructive feedback and service improvement. To that end, it’s a good idea to use a call center quality monitoring scorecard system to keep track of your agents’ progress.
The scorecard should include an assessment of overall performance, as well as a breakdown of KPIs such as:
Average call handling time
Average speed to answer
First-contact resolution rate
Agent utilization rate
Assuming you’re using a good software platform, it should be straightforward to share these scorecards with the agents themselves. This is vital, because your staff are more likely to embrace the new system with enthusiasm if they know where they stand.
Set Clear QA Standards and Document Them
Make sure your expectations are transparent. Everyone should be very clear about how the system works, what their performance targets are, and how to give feedback.
Create a call center quality assurance checklist. This should set out — in a concise format — the standards everyone in the team will aim to meet. It should work in conjunction with the QA scorecards to define targets and evaluate performance.
It can cover topics like:
Call handling protocols
Customer satisfaction targets
Professional communication standards and techniques
Providing this kind of documentation means there are no gray areas. When everyone understands exactly what they have to do, they’ll be more motivated to do it well.
Get Agents Involved in the Development Process
One way of getting agents on board with the new QA framework is to get them involved in the process.
For instance, setting personalized KPIs can be a more effective plan than creating a blanket set of targets that everyone is expected to meet.
After all, if you tell a new hire to hit the same first-call resolution rate as someone who's been with the team for years, it could bring down their morale. Instead, get supervisors to work with each agent to agree on individual KPIs that are challenging but realistic.
You can take it further than that, though. Getting agents to self-evaluate is an excellent starting point in motivating them to succeed.
Additionally, encourage them to give feedback on the evaluation system and the QA framework generally. You may find they produce some important insights that can help improve the process.
Choose the Right Sample Size
When evaluating an agent’s in-call performance qualitatively, be careful to select the right sample size. In other words, examine enough calls that you build up a fair picture of their performance, but not so many that it becomes an inefficient use of your time.
There’s no need to listen to every single call. The KPIs will already tell you a lot about how each agent is faring, so the point of call monitoring is to round out the picture a little.
It generally makes sense to spend more time monitoring calls taken by less experienced agents — although, of course, you should do regular check-ups on every customer-facing team member.
Motivate your agents to perform at their best by offering incentives for a job well done. You could introduce a bonus system for those managing to hit or exceed targets. Or you could find another way to show your appreciation.
Even something as simple as gamification can make it more fun to achieve goals. Whatever approach you take, make sure to acknowledge your high performers and celebrate their achievements.
What’s more, encouraging collaboration between agents can work well to help improve results and foster a positive team spirit. Pair up your top performers with underperforming or less experienced staff members to help them improve.
Optimizing Performance With Call Center Quality Assurance
Call center work can be highly demanding and pretty intense. Trying to make sure all your agents are performing at the top of their game takes planning, consistency, and a dedication to the process.
Implementing a well-structured call center quality assurance framework gives you the best chance of optimizing your team’s performance. With the right procedures in place, you’ll find that you can motivate your people to deliver the kind of top-tier customer service that your clients expect.
Want to know more about how Vonage Business Communications can help you provide an outstanding customer experience? Contact a Vonage expert today to learn more about call center solutions for your business.
Want to know more about call center quality assurance? We’re here to help! Call us at 1-844-365-9460, or fill out this form! A dedicated specialist will tell you all about:
- How call center quality assurance monitors and evaluates agent performance to ensure that the customer experience is everything you want it to be
- The important role QA plays in boosting standards, identifying problems, increasing customer retention, and more
- The challenges you might face in establishing a QA system — and how to overcome them
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