By Marshall Ogen, Vice President of Business Strategy at Concentra Solutions, Inc.
Think back to pre-COVID days when we regularly dined out. You’ve seen it many times but may have just glanced past it. I’m speaking about that sign in the window or on the wall of a restaurant that displays a 100 percent score or an A-Rating on the health inspection. What better testimony could there be to the restaurant’s quality?
We all know the flaw in this analogy. If the food or service is of poor quality, few people eat there, and the place stays clean. In other words, a perfect score! The health inspector doesn’t care if the food tastes good or even if the staff is polite or knowledgeable. They have a list of things that must meet code or else! Quality is not on the list. However, quality is the primary part of what is important to a customer like you and me.
When monitoring your contact center effort, are you merely checking that the call is “to code” and nothing is being done wrong, or are you trying to make the food taste better and serve it with a smile? If you could achieve all of this, you would have a pretty successful quality assurance (QA) program which leads to an improved customer experience (CX). Wouldn’t it be nice if program adherence were 100 percent and the script or call flow were delivered with the right tone, pace, enthusiasm, and inflection? How about the agent delivering the script and it sounding conversational and interesting? Let’s keep going and throw a bit of confidence, common sense, and product knowledge into the pot. It’s starting to taste better already, isn’t it?
In the contact center sector, it has become common to manage the “average.” While many strategies can be deployed in a call center, for this illustration I’ll speak to what is often deemed as the old school strategy of managing-the-average – because it still works in the right environment. There will always be above-average performing agents and there will always be below-average performing agents. A good QA program will recognize this, reward and model the successful agents, and provide corrective coaching for the deficient ones; however, it is important to understand that a program’s success or failure will ultimately be determined by how well you manage the average performing agents.
Before you can do this, you must have:
- A great script or call flow that is agent friendly and CX focused.
- Defined agent and program KPIs that encourage the right behavior.
- A good training program for all levels of agent skill.
- Someone doing the evaluation who understands the specific goals and what it takes to compel others to help reach these goals.
- A commitment to creating a quality customer experience regardless of whether you can satisfy the intent of the interaction.
For performance enhancement, you must determine:
- Which agents need improvement.
- How the agents can improve.
- A way to follow up to make sure that the coaching feedback is implemented.
There are many formulas for the quantity of QA evaluation that should take place. Some say that a percentage of all interactions should be evaluated. Some say that each agent must be evaluated a specific number of times per week. Honestly, it’s a variable metric that should be reverse engineered based upon your goals and the amount of data that statistically supports the channel goals. Getting back to the managing-the-average strategy, let’s discuss focus instead of frequency of evaluation for illustration purposes. The best use of your focus will be to evaluate the “above average” for best practices, baseline measurements of an agent, CX as well as agent motivation. Typically speaking, the above-average agents enjoy being evaluated because they know they’ll get a consistently good score. The goal with these agents should be two-fold: First, you want to give them the positive feedback they deserve and need to stay motivated. Second, it will help assure that they do not slip, which happens to agents who are not evaluated enough.
When deploying the managing-the-average strategy, the bulk of the evaluating is spent on the average and below-average performing agents. The average agents are the group where the most gain can be realized. There is room for improvement and general acceptance of coaching tips. They see the above-average agents hitting better numbers, so they believe they can improve and are motivated to do so. The below-average performing agents are more of a challenge. It is important to spend extra time with this group because some will be able to move up with coaching and attention. Others will not be able to meet the minimum KPI thresholds, no matter how much time and effort you put in. The goal is to determine how much effort you need to give before diminishing returns set in.
There are many tactics and associated technologies to capture and measure contact center agent performance and CX. At the end of the day, the industry is about delivering human-to-human interactions via a multichannel strategy. All the bells, whistles, and AI are great advancements but sometimes the old-school tactics can work in tandem as well. The key to success is to find a balance between the two worlds.
Marshall Ogen is the Vice President of Business Strategy at Concentra Solutions, Inc. and has over 25 years of experience in outsourced contact centers, quality assurance, having consulted with many of the world’s most recognizable brands to ensure successful customer engagement activities.
Concentra Solutions maximizes contact center performance through outsourced BPO and Quality Assurance services with a specialization in compliance and customer experience. With operations in both the US and Canada, including a WFH model, Concentra Solutions drives performance and operational improvements with a strong focus on Customer Journey. For more information, visit www.concentrasolutions.com. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.