The Importance of Quality Assurance
Your contact center’s interactions with customers – be they via phone, chat, or email channels – reveal how well you are taking care of the people who use your products/services. It is through these points of contact that you have the opportunity to deliver… or disappoint. Given the vital importance of this division of your business, you need to be sure it is working to your maximum benefit in four ways:
- efficiently processing conventional interactions
- appropriately following compliance regulations
- decisively solving problems, and
- proactively uncovering opportunities.
In order to track all this, you need a well-functioning Call Center Quality Assurance program – your most effective tool in assuring your company is keeping the promises you have made to your customers. This means finding the best Quality Assurance analyst for the job.
What Does A Call Center Quality Analyst Do?
Quality analyst roles and responsibilities include evaluating your customers’ experience when interacting with your company’s call center associates through the monitoring of inbound and outbound calls, email, chat and social media responses against the Company’s standards of performance. This may include assessing Associates’ demeanor, technical accuracy, customer service performance, and conformity to company policies/procedures and regulatory guidelines. The analyst uses a quality monitoring system to compile and track performance and provides actionable data and feedback to call center agents, coaches and managers as well as to various internal support groups, as requested. QA analysts may be called upon to deliver effective coaching to contact agents, are expected to participate in call calibration sessions on an ongoing basis and have a pivotal role to play in call center QA and training.
10 Things to Look for In A Great Call Quality Analyst
Call center quality assurance is a job that many can do, but few can do well. Not only does it involve a wide range of skills and disciplines, it also demands a certain attitude. With that in mind, a great call quality analyst may not necessarily be your top agent. Rather, your ideal call center QA analyst will have these 10 attributes at their beck and call.
1. An Analytical Approach
We’ll start with the traits that you would logically expect a call quality analyst to have. The most obvious trait is baked right into the job title: they must be analytical. The analyst will be gathering and working with multiple datasets. They will be expected to mine this information for trends or discrepancies and make recommendations based on their conclusions. For example, an analyst may correlate long holds on the phone channel and significant waits between chat entries to discover that a knowledge base has become unwieldy and difficult for the agents to use. The analyst would then reach out to the appropriate department with ideas on how the most requested information might be streamlined.
2. Keen Perception
Related to a strong analytical approach, the call center QA analyst must be perceptive. They will be listening to hundreds of recordings for things that your call center agents are doing and not doing. Superior attention to detail is essential. They will need to sort through rambling conversations to pick out important compliance markers and notice when they are missing. Just as important as their ability to focus on the technicalities of vocabulary, they will need to note the subtle emotional reactions of both agent and caller and be able to pinpoint when and why call goes off track and be able to recommend a path for the agent to avoid such a derailment in the future. Similarly, when a conversation is lifted to become an exceptional customer experience, the analyst should be able to identify the contributing factors to that success and specifically point them out to the agent – thereby cementing the desired behavior.
Discernment is an important subset of your call quality analyst’s strength in perception. Thanks to detailed scorecards and metrics there will always be something to note, something to coach to, something to improve on. It is important that your analyst prioritize the issues that will have the biggest impact on your business. While an engaged and friendly agent may consistently forget to use a caller’s name a second time as your scorecard demands, another agent may be posting higher scores by saying all the right words in a by-rote fashion, thereby ticking all the boxes in hopes of coming in under the QA radar. In such a situation, it is the latter agent – the one who is bored and on automatic pilot – who is the greater risk to your company’s business and therefore warrants the analyst’s QA time and attention. An astute QA analyst will arrange for some side-by-side auditing and coaching in order to re-engage the agent who is ‘phoning it in,’ and leave the multiple name use reminder as a quick fix for later.
Call center QA demands diligence. To be sure that your QA team has an accurate picture of what is going on in your business, QA analysts will be required to complete specific quotas of evaluations within limited time periods. Effective time management is required to not only fulfill these basic responsibilities but also react to any coaching or training issues that might arise as a result of these evaluations. While there will be times when your QA team will be mobilized to put out a customer service fire, they must also be careful not to lose track of their role in the prevention of those fires. As any emergency services personnel will tell you, the easiest crisis to deal with is the one that never happens. By diligently staying on top of their monitoring schedule, QA analysts can remind agents of training, policies, and procedures before any lapses become habits and lead to bigger problems. In addition, such consistency makes it more likely that your QA department will be well-positioned to pick up on business trends early allowing your company to get out in front of opportunities ahead of your competition.
5. An In-Depth Understanding of Your Business
A strong QA analyst must have a comprehensive understanding of your company. They need to be intimately familiar with your processes, your values, and your goals. They must be well-versed in your agents’ procedures, service level agreements, and your established QA process. You are looking for someone with the ability to learn quickly and approach the position with the flexibility of an open mind. That said, the need to upload all this information in a short period of time comes with the very real risk of overwhelming them. It is often wise to hire from within your organization, thereby by passing the steep learning curve faced by an employee new to your company. Or, if a fresh outside perspective is what you are looking for, candidates with QA experience in a similar background are worth looking into, as they will likely be able to integrate more smoothly.
6. Exceptional Communication Skills
Above all else, your call center QA analyst must be an exceptional communicator. They may be called upon to connect with people at all levels inside and outside of your company via phone, chat, email, or face to face. Whether dealing with a customer, an agent, a manager, or a senior vice-president, the analyst will be required to listen intently, demonstrate understanding, and participate in the generation of solutions. They will be called upon to give challenging feedback and will be expected to adjust their approach and methodology as the situation warrants, in order to gain commitment to the appropriate path forward.
Perhaps the attribute that has the greatest impact on communication skills is that of empathy; the ability to place oneself in another’s position and experience an event from within their frame of reference. QA analysts will be called upon to understand and appreciate the point of view of not only your customers but of your agents as well. In fact, they will often find themselves functioning as the bridge between the two. An analyst will be obliged to recognize disappointing service from the customer’s perspective, and at the same time will be uniquely positioned to understand the agent’s response to the same interaction. In many cases, the analyst may have performed the agent role in the past, and so has valuable insight to the agent’s choices or reactions. By empathetically recognizing the positions of both parties, the analyst is well-situated to find the path to the solution that best satisfies customer and agent alike. The customer will feel heard and well-served, and though the agent may be obliged to admit that they under-performed in this specific instance, they will also feel understood. By honoring the agent’s perspective, an empathetic QA analyst can increase the likelihood of the agent’s buy-in to a different approach the next time.
8. Genuine Curiosity
As an exceptional communicator, an effective QA analyst is genuinely curious. They have an irrepressible desire to understand, to know why. They independently research issues they witness your agents addressing on various channels. They employ effective questioning techniques, striving to uncover the detail they need to shed light on a trend, to explain a discrepancy, or fully appreciate context. And because they are genuinely curious, they are good listeners. They want to know the answers to the questions they ask, so they pay attention to the answers they receive. Their focused listening skills mean that they are often the first to identify best practices which can then be leveraged by your entire call center.
9. Positive Outlook
While the same can be said of all the employees your company wishes to hire, it is particularly important that your QA analyst have a positive attitude. Yes, it’s nice to be around up-beat people, but you are looking for more than that from your QA team. Your QA analysts are most effective when they leverage the bright spots of what they witness. They should be constantly on the look-out for what your agents are doing well and ask them for more of it. Problems should be framed as opportunities to improve, and solutions should be celebrated with the agents. A truly effective QA analyst positions themselves as an ally of your agents. In the analyst, the agents find a partner committed to supporting them and helping them succeed. The analyst’s positive mindset is the key to a virtuous cycle: the analyst reinforces and challenges the agent; the agent feels supported and makes the required effort; the analyst rewards the agent for their success; the agent associates QA with improvement rather than punishment and looks forward to further input from the QA department. This aspirational experience of quality assurance will make your call center an enjoyable work environment and contribute to a culture where goals are attainable, and targets are met.
10. Excellent Coaching Skills
Many of the attributes and traits outlined above are integral elements of strong coaching skills. Coaching is the vital link in allowing constructive feedback to be implemented as transformed behavior on the floor of your call center. By using recordings or transcripts of actual customer interactions, analysts will have the evidence they need to support their observations, suggestions, and praise. Whether working side-by-side with managers or on their own, the analyst should be adept at aligning the skills of your contact center agents with the needs of your customers, call center, and company.
Extensive experience roleplaying is an asset here. As it is preferable for your agents to practice on your employees rather than your customer, the analyst can roleplay a realistic customer service interaction as a realistic customer. If the agent is heading in the wrong direction, the analyst can stop the roleplay, offer suggestions, and then take the agent through as many ‘re-do’s as they need to master the skill in question.
While the skills of choosing whom to coach and what to coach on are incredibly important, they count for very little if the call quality analyst is unable to engender buy-in and gain the agent’s commitment to change. Fortunately, you, as the employer, have a role to play in setting your analysts and agents up for success in this regard.
What Your QA Analyst Expects from You – A QA Culture
A QA culture is something so essential it is often overlooked — just as we might overlook the air we breathe.
The biggest trap in quality assurance is becoming a “Gotcha” QA culture. Human nature is such that it is easy to detect (and point out) flaws. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, a constant barrage of negative feedback can be not only frustrating but confidence- and spirit-crushing. If agents only hear about what they’ve done wrong, they become conditioned to dislike QA. They will feel that the QA department’s role is not to make the business better, but to make the agent’s life more difficult and uncomfortable. Consequently, agents will avoid the QA department, they will resent their attention, and they will eventually actively push back against QA recommendations. When QA is met with such resistance, not only does it become very difficult to do, but buy-in becomes next to impossible.
It is your responsibility as an employer to take an objective look at your company and determine whether you have fostered a Supportive QA culture or a “gotcha” QA culture. Hiring an outstanding QA analyst may be a step in the right direction… but inserting them into a Gotcha QA environment is like asking an Olympic Sprinter to run the hundred-meter dash while carrying a duffel bag. No one can perform with all that baggage. Your call center QA analyst is not a silver bullet. They cannot turn things around on their own. That said, when they are part of a culture that has committed to growth and improvement across all lines of business and within all levels of an organization, your QA analyst can be the catalyst for transformative change.
To set your QA analysts up for success, you must establish a coaching culture. Constructive feedback needs to be pervasive in your workplace. It is important to note that this does not mean that you are restricted to giving only compliments and spreading nothing but good news. There are times when formative feedback is appropriate and necessary. Some of this feedback will be difficult to impart or receive, and in the interest of addressing problems efficiently, it needs to be given transparently and directly. However, if feedback of all kinds has been normalized in your work culture, your employees will be accustomed to getting the information they need when they need it. If your agents are constantly being told what they are doing well, direct criticism will be received in the context that your company supports them and is invested in their growth.
Your QA department is a tremendous resource of information concerning how your business is doing and how well your call center is functioning. In order to utilize your QA staff effectively, be sure to involve them in discussions and meetings at both the management and team level. Not only will you be reaping the rewards of their insights, but you will be modeling to your workforce that your employees’ input and contributions are valued and respected.
Finding a capable call center QA analyst may seem like a tall order, but the 10 attributes and qualities outlined above will provide a guideline of what to look for and some tips on how to recognize it when you see it. With this key position filled, your Contact Center Quality Assurance program can become the constructive catalyst for growth that brings about the transformative customer satisfaction and employee engagement that your business needs to succeed. n
Sharon Oatway is the President & Chief Experience Officer of VereQuest. VereQuest’s goal is to help organizations keep the promises they make to customers and employees alike. Our third-party, quality monitoring service pairs VereQuest’s highly-skilled Customer Insight Specialists with our proprietary quality monitoring technology VQ Online™. For more information, www.verequest.com.