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Are you considering how to launch a quality program?

February 26 - Starting a quality initiative may seem like a daunting task but there are few approaches to introducing quality initiatives that help turn attention to organizational objectives and begin the work of modifying behavior to match customer service goals. Start with you! Build credibility among the target audience by using long calls and high hold times to identify the call types that require leadership action to improve resources and or training. Listening workshops. Grant CSRs the opportunity to hear themselves.  This is a common strategy for improving performance; however, targeted listening has a much greater impact.  Time is the greatest challenge to this initiative but it is by far the most productive approach to engaging CSRs positively in the quality initiative. Example: Select 2 Calls per CSR based on call times of 8-10 minutes or hold instances of 3 or more.  Provide the CSR with a simplified quality form [...]


Moving away from “Fix and Forget” leadership.

February 19 - Last week’s tip outlined the qualities of a “Fix and Forget” leader, which included these characteristics: Spending all (or most) of their time on maintaining the status quo. Viewing the work of a leader as being in conflict with their own work. Choosing short-term fixes over long-term solutions. Failing to reflect on past decisions. Only checking in with team members when there is a problem. If, instead of being a “Fix and Forget” type of leader, you want to be known as someone who really wants to grow their team and achieve better results, think and take action like a gardener.  Some tips to make this transition: Talk to your plants.  In my leadership training sessions I like posing the question, “Does it really help to talk to your plants?” I typically get at least one person who offers that it does because you are offering your plants [...]


Is “Fix and Forget” the way you lead?

February 12 -  Have you thought (or said) any of these statements in the past 30 days? I thought we had that problem handled. When will I have time to focus on what I need to get done? I should have seen this coming. WOW! That came out of nowhere. I can’t believe we are having to deal with this again. All people ever bring me are problems. If you said yes to at least three of these statements, you might be in danger of becoming a “Fix and Forget” type of leader. Characteristics of such a leader are: Spending all (or most) of their time on maintaining the status quo. Time resources are strained and it’s easier to go from crisis to crisis to fill their day. They fail to carve out time to look toward the future and determine how to best lead their team into it. Viewing the work [...]


Ideas for training, coaching, and quality assurance. 

February 5 -  We love getting tips from you!  Here are some ideas for training, coaching, and quality assurance that were submitted recently. Give away promotional items with your company brand on them as prizes to increase participation in training sessions. You’ll be awarding the employee for participation and increasing brand awareness. Have quarterly themed celebrations for your department. Recognize the top producers in a PowerPoint presentation with their picture and feature them in your organization’s employee newsletter. Employees love to see their pictures! Play quality calls that meet all areas being measured in department meetings to assure employees understand the expectations. Remind employees of expectations and give examples of your expectations in monthly/quarterly meetings. Have the employees role play. We’re a financial institution so we give scenarios to the employees.  The role playing is done in front of the entire department. For example, we’ll have one role play the part [...]


Keeping agent morale high with a limited budget.

January 29 - We are always looking for ways in to boost employee morale on a limited budget.  With some creativity, there are many ways in which we can acknowledge fantastic work by our representatives that cost little to no money.  We had a session that addressed this issue at the 2017 QATC Annual Conference, and here are some of the tips we shared: Use a blank wall to spotlight representatives with great quality scores or customer feedback on a Wall of Fame! Include pictures of the representatives and their accomplishment such as 100% quality for the month or customer quotes. Have the shift preference bid process include quality scores. Those with higher scores have first pick at the best shifts. Institute a “traveling” outstanding team quality trophy! Order a big trophy and have it “travel” each month to the team that had the overall highest quality score.  Have a team [...]


Tips on Data and Numbers – Opportunity, Creation and Sharing. (Part 3)

January 22 - This is the final tip in a series related to Data and Numbers.  Last week, we talked about the Creation of a report or presentation, and this week, we will discuss Sharing the information you have created. Sharing is the next step.   Prep for your final presentation by sharing it with a colleague and get their feedback.  Did they get the message you are trying to convey?  If not, ask questions and make modifications and find a new sampler to review the newest version and repeat. When we create presentations, we tend to create them based on our perspectives and understandings.  When you share with others, their perspectives help to remove the blinders and align you with creating a more rounded out final message. Okay – final presentation ready?   You are ready to go and present to your originating requestor and company. You’ve verified with the requestor what [...]


Tips on Data and Numbers – Opportunity, Creation and Sharing.  (Part 2)

 January 15 -  This series of tips are related to Data and Numbers.  Last week, we talked about the Opportunity to present Data and Numbers.  This week, we will discuss Creation. The Creation of a report or presentation sharing data and numbers requires that you reflect about what you are going to share, where the attention of result should be, and understand what will be done once the reviewers see the presented information. When faced with creating your presentation, I would share that there are three considerations: Your presentation is like a clean sheet of paper and you get to create the design. This is great if you are a creative person and love the ability to control the message.   Create a focal point versus getting lost in a detailed spreadsheet. Instead of having a crazy detailed Excel spreadsheet (that has so much data – but no one can read [...]


Tips on Data and Numbers – Opportunity, Creation and Sharing.  (Part 1)

 January 8 -  I’d like to share some tips and tricks related to Data and Numbers from a session I presented at the QATC Annual Conference and a recent QATC web seminar.  Please join me for the next couple of weeks as I share information on Opportunity, Creation, and Sharing of Data and Numbers. Opportunity – yippee, you are being asked to share and/or present data! Okay, so what is the first step?  It is to take a step back, meet with your business leaders, and find out exactly what numbers/data they need.  You might be surprised to find that trends could be more important than current data or vice versa.    Interests change, and the supporting data should supply what is needed to make good business decisions addressing current problems/excellence as well as the long-term issues.  For example, if a major crisis is being handled, checking to determine if agents [...]


Create a Quality Assurance Design Document (QADD).

January 2 - All quality assurance teams should have a Quality Assurance Design Document (QADD).  This is where each question listed on your QA form is documented, including the scoring possibility for each question and the expectations for each question. When creating the document make sure to obtain feedback from agents, trainers, and leadership.  Be specific in your communication -- the QADD should be easy for all members of the team to understand.  Once completed, have an all-staff meeting to discuss and address any concerns.  For larger organizations you may need to have team or department meetings. Make sure everyone has access to the QADD for future reference and plan an annual review to update business process as needed.  As you move forward, always take the necessary time to obtain the team’s feedback when completing annual updates. Note:  This week's tip is provided by QATC Board Member Angela Crozier of MPHI. [...]


Skill vs. queue – and you.

December 26 - Contact Centers are not staffed in a vacuum. There is a bit of Math, Science, Art, and maybe a little voodoo involved. J The more math and science, the less voodoo. Workforce teams everywhere can produce staffing and capacity plans. However, not all are successful, in part because staffing isn’t just about volume, arrival, and AHT. It’s also about what people do, how the work gets to them, and what work can reasonably be done by one person – or skill-based routing. Trainers have a large part to play in successful staffing and routing. A trainer sees skill-based routing is literally that – moving work or calls to the people who have the ability to handle them. Before the first Erlang calculation is run, the life cycle of an agent should be fully mapped. The agent lifecycle begins at hire, continues into training, then nesting, and finally production.  [...]


SME may not equal trainer without some training.

December 18 - Have you ever thought about using a group of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to expedite training? But are you worried that this may not be the best way to do this? If you answered yes to both, it’s understandable. Subject Matter Expert (SME) literally means one who is expert in a certain area. It does not mean one can teach or train that skill. Training is a unique skill set unto itself. However, in call centers promotions are often given to agents to positions such as Team Leads, Trainers, Analysts, Coaches, and Supervisors. There is one truth though -- just because an agent can take calls, that does not mean they will automatically make a good trainer or lead or analyst. But if an agent has high quality scores, good caller satisfaction, and strong first contact resolution, likely they know the job, and the subject well. This agent [...]


Reclaim your routines by making them easier to do.

December 11 - We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. -Will Durant (Although frequently credited to Aristotle) Read any number of books on how to be successful, and at some point, the author will mention the impact some habit or routine had on their upward professional or personal trajectory. Lots of books have even been written on the topic of routines, and my personal favorite is The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen. Over the years I've found that a key to making a routine stick is that it has to be easy. I know my intrinsic desire to improve should be compelling me to push through all the barriers (and it does help), but what keeps me going is if I can engage in it without having to work so hard to make it happen. If you're struggling with getting a routine to remain [...]


Making the match: hiring the right staff.

December 4 - If you’re been searching for one single thing you can do to improve training success, staff retention, call quality, and overall performance of your staff, there is a single solution that will significantly improve all these other areas. Simply make the right hiring decisions on the front end and everything else is impacted in a positive way. One of the first steps is to outline all the roles, responsibilities, and job tasks associated with the open positions. Be careful that you don’t just copy a generic job description and use this to guide your search. Nobody likes writing job descriptions, but it’s worth some effort to think through the job tasks and work breakdown to realistically describe the job to others. In addition to job tasks, you’ll want to outline the competencies required for the job, either at the point of hiring or within a certain period after [...]


Model good listening behaviors.

November 20 - One of the simplest things to do in motivating staff to perform is to demonstrate in an active way that you care about them. The best way to do this is to spend time with each person just listening. If your team members feel heard, understood, and valued, they will work harder to produce better results and make you proud. One of the keys to providing great customer service is to listen carefully to what the customer needs. You can teach frontline staff how to do this by simply being a role model and a good listener yourself during your interactions with them.  Be aware of common listening problems and take care you don’t make these common listening mistakes. The Interrupter. This person finishes other people’s sentences or breaks in to share thoughts before the other person is finished. If you do this, your employees will lose patience [...]


The “PGFC” of customer service.

November 20 - Last week’s tip focused on identifying the “why” of performance problems before coaching begins.  The tip included information about agents perhaps not performing because they might feel pressured to meet handle time numbers. “It is natural to assume that if someone has not performed and followed through on a call-handling technique that they must need more training. However, the person may actually know how to do the technique, but is being influenced by pressure to meet handle time numbers and therefore skipping through some of the call steps. It’s crucial to identify the reason for the gap before beginning the coaching process.” I hear this a lot on calls as I listen to agents. Some agents have his/her own pace and they simply may seem like they are rushing the call and missing minor targets on the form. I would suggest that you encourage the agents to “Pace” [...]


Identify the “why” of performance problems.

November 13 -  Coaching is all about helping someone improve performance and when done right, it’s an experience frontline staff will welcome and appreciate. However, for many call center supervisors, coaching is simply a meaningless presentation of numbers or pointing out of errors with no positive roadmap for improvement. It’s much like the basketball coach who points out that the last three shots were missed and that the team needs to score ten points in the next three minutes to win the game. Telling someone that handle time is too high and they need to work on call control does not constitute an effective coaching session. Before coaching, supervisors need to pinpoint the reason that someone has a performance gap. For example, if an agent has failed to ask additional discovery questions in order to recommend the best solution for a caller, the supervisor has to figure out why the agent [...]


Forget about “one size fits all” motivation programs.

November 6 -  The hard thing about motivational promotions is that no matter how great or exciting the program is, it’s not going to motivate everybody.  Creating a successful motivation program is not a “one size fits all” project. What excites Bob may actually irritate Sally. What makes Rachel want to give that extra effort may push Alex out the door. Everybody is motivated by something and it’s each supervisor’s job to figure out what the motivators are for each person. There are generally six categories of motivators: Social bonds (guidance, support, time, attention, encouragement) Recognition (acknowledgement of desirable behaviors) Rewards (tangible rewards, trophies, cool stuff) Development opportunities (career advancement, training, new skills) Teamwork (feeling part of team, networking, social activities) Fun (pleasurable activities in the workplace) Frank may just need lots of handholding and supervisor attention and will treasure simple recognition for work well done. Susan may prefer not to [...]


Weave customer service fundamentals throughout your training program.

 October 30 -  Customer service basics should be woven throughout your training classes as well as into everyday training and coaching in the center.  Frontline staff usually find this training as much more enjoyable than the system training, so it will be a welcome part of the day.  And they’ll appreciate learning something that’s pertinent not just to the current job, but also a valuable life skill. This customer service training is best delivered in small portions rather than crammed into one intense session.  Make sure it’s interspersed throughout your product and system training and refer to it often so it becomes a constant element and part of the training culture. Customer service fundamentals should include the following topic areas: Customer service fundamentals Help each person understand the important role they play in serving as the “voice of the company” to the customer.  Customers these days sometimes have limited in-person contact [...]


Avoid “good…but” coaching.

October 23 -  The best way to encourage staff to repeat customer-pleasing behaviors is to catch them doing something right and rewarding those behaviors as soon as possible. However, since many supervisors are pressed for time and looking for ways to make the most of coaching time, it’s tempting to recognize the good behaviors, but also take time to clean up any performance problems. An important rule of “on the spot” coaching is to keep it simple. If you’ve heard someone do something great for the customer on the phone, praise that behavior as soon as you can. And try to make it all about the positive feedback. Let the person bask in the glow of recognition without any other corrections. Sometimes the good behavior is pointed out, but then glowing words are following by a “but…” statement that serves as a verbal eraser for the initial praise. If you’ve heard [...]


Verint Launches Industry’s Most Modern, Flexible and Open Suite for Enterprise Workforce Optimization

New Version Delivers Revolutionary Enhancements to Mobile Apps, Omnichannel Recording Platform and Embedded Real-Time Analytics MELVILLE, N.Y., October 10, 2017 — Verint® Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: VRNT) unveiled today the industry’s most modern solution for empowering the workforce and enhancing performance. With contemporary mobile apps that fit the way today’s employees prefer to engage, it breaks new ground for organizations striving to improve the most dominant driver of positive customer experiences: positive employee engagement. The new Verint Workforce Optimization™ (WFO) delivers key feature enhancements across the suite of applications. It integrates secure mobile access into WFO applications, enabling employees and managers to get work done from anywhere, anytime. It also expands automatic call distributor (ACD) neutrality—supporting all leading on-premises and cloud ACD suppliers—with an open application programming interface (API) library. Additionally, the suite now offers wide-ranging enhancements that enable organizations to interact with customers across many different channels—including a consolidated platform for [...]


Incorporate adult learning techniques in your training.

October 16 -  Whether trainees are learning customer service skills, product knowledge, or how to navigate the system, it’s important to develop a training program that addresses the learning styles of all types of individuals.  There are three different learning and communications styles and it’s important to incorporate each one into your training program so each person can participate in the way they learn best. The three learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.  Visual learners need to see content on paper and/or on screen. They process information by sight and will be ones that learn best by note-taking and reading information.  Auditory learners need to hear the information in order to process it and will not benefit from reading the material as much as hearing someone tell about the subject.  Kinesthetic learners don’t really process the information unless they’ve been able to get “hands on” with the information and practice [...]


Creating passion for the job from your team members (part 2).

October 2 - Last week’s tip started the conversation about how to help your employees find the work they love to do.  Here are three examples of how an employee’s passion was put to work in the call center: One employee had taken classes on desktop publishing.  Her supervisor suggested she put those skills to use and create a team newsletter.  The newsletter was a big success and became a regular monthly publication.  Another agent that had an interest in photography offered to take pictures around the center and the newsletter added photos of team events and awards and served as a nice keepsake.  Other teams joined in and the newsletter spread to be a call center-wide project, with many different agents sharing their talents and skills at poetry, cartoons, and interviews. One call center had a problem with scheduling for weekend coverage.  The supervisor noted that several of the staff [...]


Creating passion for the job from your team members.

September 25 -  Think about ways you can help employees find the work they love to do. It may not be easy, but it you can partner with your employees to find something they’re passionate about in the work they’re doing, you’ll have a much better chance of keeping talented staff. Helping employees find passion in their work means finding something they like to do in their work role.  The other option is to bring something they love to do to the workplace.  When people are doing what they love to do, they are at their best.  If you can create a link between people’s passions and their jobs, you’ll have happier employees that will perform better and stay with you longer. Ask employees what they love to do at work and away from work.  Use their answers to think creatively about how you might put their passions to work. In [...]


Five things growing leaders need to do this fall.

September 18 - The Autumn Equinox, which is the official start of fall in the Northern Hemisphere, is Friday September 22nd. While this season looks different depending on where you live, there is a general shift in thought and behavior. We tend to breathe a sigh of relief about making it this far into the year, get a little more reflective, and have a stronger determination to make these three months before the big holiday season effective for us professionally and personally. If you're a leader who believes you should be always, I think there are several things you should be doing to ensure that you don't lose one minute in this current "growing season" to get the results you want for yourself and your team. This includes opportunities to: Celebrate the harvest. Take time to remind your people of the outcomes of their hard work so far this year. Reflect on [...]


Looking at the cost of staff turnover.

September 11 - There are many costs associated with call center staff turnover.  Some of these are direct, measurable costs to your organization, while others are indirect costs that may not be so obvious. Some of the direct costs associated with turnover include the following: Recruiting costs Hiring costs Training costs Supervision costs Unproductive paid time Overtime costs Another hard cost of turnover can be the revenues lost if not enough people are in place to handle the call workload.  If you are a revenue-generating call center, such as a catalog or reservations center, then there is significant lost revenue associated with lost calls. In addition to the direct costs, you should also consider the harder to measure, but just as important costs or customer dissatisfaction, damaged reputation, lost skills and knowledge, and low morale.  When these costs are factored in too, the costs simply skyrocket. It is important that your [...]


Determining effective rewards for good performance.

September 4 - It is important not just to recognize desirable performance, but to reward it in some way so that it will be repeated.  Designing and administering an effective reward program is critical to your call center employees’ ongoing performance improvement. Rewards fall into two categories:  1) natural reinforcers, such as thanks for customers or the internal satisfaction of solving a problem; or 2)  “created” reinforcement, which is made up of social reinforcers and tangible reinforcers.  Simple words of appreciation are samples of social reinforcers, while other reinforcers are tangible items that are given to the employee as a reward for desired behavior. A tangible reward should be unique and relevant to each employee, so that is viewed as a positive consequence, rather than neutral or negative.  You will want to ask each employee what would be viewed as a positive, neutral, or negative consequence – don’t assume that just [...]


Elements of a coaching session.

August 28 - What happens in a coaching session depends on the development stage of the employee.  Some of your newer employees will be in learning phase and the coaching time spent with them will mostly address “don’t know” or “can’t” issues where they need to be informed about expectations or perhaps receive some training on how to perform a certain task. Intermediate level employees will have passed through the initial learning curve and know how to do most things.  They will also most likely be aware of what is expected of them.  These employees will need help fine-tuning their performance and can be rewarded for things they’re doing well. Once an employee has reached the expert level, it is rare that performance issues fall into a “don’t know” or “can’t” category.  When performance problems exist at this stage, they generally belong in the “won’t” category.  At this point, proper consequences [...]


How do you assess ongoing training requirements?

August 21 - Training for the agent shouldn’t stop after the new-hire training is completed.  Training is an ongoing evolutionary process.  The goal of your call center’s training program is to provide training for the skills necessary to perform the job, plus training for the skills necessary to enhance ongoing performance. In developing your ongoing training program, it is useful to define what employees need to know and be able to do at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, and 120 days.  For each of these timeframes, a checklist can be developed that outlines critical knowledge of skills so training gaps and performance issues can be identified. Some typical questions you might ask at each of these stages are: What additional things does the agent need to know? What policies and procedures could affect job performance? What behaviors should be reinforced? What specific tasks can be assigned to allow for growth? [...]


Why attend the QATC Annual Conference?

August 14 There are a lot of great conferences around, but there is only one that is designed specifically for quality assurance and training professionals in the contact center.  We would love for you to join us for this amazing event, which is set for Sept. 19-21 at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel.  Here are just a few of the many reasons to attend the QATC Annual Conference: 1. Relevancy to your position. There are a lot of call center conferences out there, but it is hard to find extensive content on training or quality assurance there. QATC surrounds you with people who are doing exactly what you’re doing! 2. High caliber conference content in a small community atmosphere. QATC is not a "mega-conference" where you feel overwhelmed and disconnected. The quality of the speakers is second to none, and the size of the conference makes it easy to connect with all [...]


Feedback is a gift.

August 7 - Engaging with employees to provide continuous feedback to grow and develop is the essence of call center success and individual performance improvement.  In fact, we often refer to feedback as a gift to present the expectations to repeat the positive and change the negative.  The “packaging” in which we offer feedback may look different, but simple tactics can reshape the ways you coach agents to achieve desired outcomes. Focus coaching sessions on a few key behaviors; highlight strengths and create an environment for agents to uncover their opportunities.  Avoid tackling every opportunity in one feedback session. Know your employees both personally and professionally.  Understand what motivates agents to do their best and find individualized ways to show appreciation for strong performance. Coach often and impromptu; don’t fall into the habit of formalized coaching sessions as the only path to offering agent feedback. Grow together with your agent by driving conversations [...]


How the phone is answered is an important first impression.

July 31 - When was the last time you called your business? I recently spoke at a conference. After the speech, the client gave me a gift: the list of everyone in the audience with their contact information. She suggested I pick up the phone and let everyone know they should hire me to speak at their next meeting. (Now, that’s a nice gift!) So, a week later our team picked up the phones and started “smiling and dialing.” We connected with a good number of the people who responded positively to our calls, but that’s not what this is about. It’s about how a company’s phones are answered – and you can probably guess, this is more rant than rave. The number of companies that messed up their first impression was ridiculously high. About a third of the way into the calls I realized we should have done a formal [...]


Verint’s Industry-Leading Knowledge Management Now Available for Companies of All Sizes

New Cloud-Based, Enterprise-Class Knowledge Solution Advances Employee Engagement, Information Access and Consistency Across Customer Service Channels MELVILLE, N.Y., July 19, 2017 —Verint® Systems Inc.(Nasdaq: VRNT)today announced its new Knowledge Management Professional™ solution for organizations that span 90 to 90,000 users.The software is designed to quickly and easily get the right information to customers and employees at the right time, and help ensure the consistent delivery of that knowledge through shared intelligence across customer channels and touchpoints. Every interaction between a company and customer is an information exchange—whether it’s a customer looking for information on a company’s website or a branch manager helping a couple prepare paperwork for a first home loan. Key to those interactions is access to timely, accurate information across the customer’s channel of choice. Many organizations today, however, face challenges fulfilling simple customer requirements—and their employees can get bogged down by an overwhelming amount of information housed in [...]


Do you need a coach, a consultant, a mentor, or a sponsor?

July 24 -  In a conversation a few years ago I heard someone say they needed to find a sponsor. My simple mind immediately thought they meant they wanted someone to support them through some type of addiction recovery program. Thankfully, they continued talking, and I soon understood they were looking for someone to be a "champion" for them at their company. Just as I was confused about a sponsor, lots of people get confused when talking about coaching, consulting, and mentoring. Each of them is critical to our personal and professional growth. Knowing which one to seek out, however, depends on your specific need. Here's an (oversimplified) breakdown: Coach Description: Structured sessions where a coach works with an individual over a set duration of time. Key Role of Coach: Support, focus, inspire, and provoke the dialogue Focus: Improvement on specific work/life issues Key Feature: Coaches help individuals figure out what [...]


Plan and document coaching sessions. 

July 17 -  A good coaching session should be planned and documented.  Here are some ideas for making this process go smoothly: Make sure there is a planned approach. Review calls and data before the session. Start by acknowledging the successful elements of calls you have previously reviewed. Playing a representative call for the agent to hear is desirable as well. Ask the agent what they feel they would like assistance with based on the call they just heard or just in general. Select no more than three items to coach on and offer a plan of attack for the agent in writing. This is great material for your managers and you to refer back to over time. Consider these sessions as a building block for the agent's success. Look for incremental improvements and continually set the standard higher. Make sure you end the session on a positive note. For future [...]


Employee rewards are not “one size fits all.”

  July 10 -  It’s important not just to recognize outstanding performance, but to reward it in a meaningful way to each employee. Rewards fall into the area of social reinforcement (the recognition discussed above) and tangible reinforcement.  In call centers today, this tangible reinforcement takes the form of gift cards, movie tickets, trips, electronics, and many other items. The key to building an effective reward program is to have rewards that are viewed as desirable and valuable by each employee. Reward programs are not “one size fits all” in terms of perceived value. While one person may be thrilled with tickets to a theatre or sporting event, another would much prefer housecleaning services or a catalog certificate.  Some might perceive lunch with the company Vice President a powerful reward, while others may see this as an intimidating negative experience. In selecting the reward options for your team members, careful consideration [...]


9 tips for improving your Quality Management program.  

 July 3 -  Quality management and coaching are paramount to driving improvement in the contact center, but what's the best approach? To score or not to score? What's the most effective way to involve agents in the process? These are just a few of the questions #ICMIchat participants answered. Below are their nine quick tips! Emphasize feedback and conversation and de-emphasize scores. Let agents have a hand in creating the quality standards and have be part of the review process. Include agents in the QA calibration sessions. Solicit their feedback and allow them to challenge scores (within reason). Make agents a part of the quality improvement strategies and projects. This directly involves them in the process and its success. Anyone can achieve a number. Actually changing behavior is a whole other ball game. Focus on coaching for improvement. Don’t forget to include positive reinforcement in addition to the coaching opportunities. Require [...]


Fun and creative contest and reward ideas.

June 26 - As we travel to call centers around the world, we love to hear (and see) the creative and fun contests and reward ideas that motivate agents.  Here are a couple of ideas that you could try in your center. We visited a center on a day when they were doing "minute to win it" contests. They'd simply watched the TV show and copied many of the ideas as well as made up some of their own. We observed an apple stacking contest and it was great fun. This works well as a fun break and is a nice activity since you only have a minute to complete the task -- and we all know there's not much time in between calls and during breaks. A cute reward program we have seen is based on each agent having a picture of a dog posted in their cube. Everyone in [...]


It takes WILL as well as SKILL and KNOWLEDGE.

June 12 - In attending a professional training seminar recently, I learned that the critical success factors in selling are like a pyramid.  At the base of the pyramid is WILL. The characteristics of WILL are: persistence, resilience, positive attitude, being a team player, confidence, and the motivation behind what you are doing.  In a nutshell, how hard do I want to work on a particular project, task, job, or training? It is the level of determination I possess. The second part of the pyramid is KNOWLEDGE: the product or technical information we have, our customers, the market we serve, those we are in competition with, and the selling processes.  Over time all of this can be taught, learned, and even mastered. The other side of the pyramid is SKILL: our tone, rapport, presence, relating, questioning, listening, positioning, and checking. Having superior skills is not only necessary, but it is very [...]


Always have a Plan B!

June 5 - During training, check your audience and make sure they are following you. If not, be prepared to put a spin on your presentation to move your group. For example, your Plan B could be a game to get the class participating and lift the load from textbook dialogue. Make the game fun and exciting, like the game called Round Robin. In this game, everyone sits in a circle and is asked a question on the topic you’re teaching. The trainer only has 60 seconds to go through a topic. Depending on time, you can keep playing the game with different topics until you see the class is comfortable with the material.  If your participants don’t know the answer, help them by asking questions that begin with the 5 W’s and 1 H (who, what, when ,where, why, and how). By switching to Plan B, whatever that might be, [...]


Consider bartering with your vendors when budgets are tight.

  May 22 - Tight budget limiting your opportunities for a needed upgrade or added feature?  Consider a barter arrangement with your vendors.  Be a reference, create a glowing video, provide something your company does as a trade. Vendors are always looking for someone who will provide a quote for their marketing materials or serve as a host to visitors who are considering buying their system who want to see it in a live operation.  These cost you little but are of major value to the vendors.  For a major trade item, consider doing a video for the vendor that can be used in their marketing process.  This will take some time and effort on your part, but the exchange may be quite worthwhile. You can also trade for services that you provide in the marketplace that the vendor or their staff would find useful.  The buyer doesn’t see a hit to their [...]


Boredom-busting ideas to improve agent retention.

May 15 - If doing the same thing 50-75 times a day sounds intellectually stimulating, stop reading.  Still there? Since many of you may have begun your career as contact center agents, you probably know how monotonous the job can be. As a manager, there are many things you likely already schedule to break up the agent’s day periodically. Things like training and team meetings along with activities like special projects. (Whether they actually happen or not is a different story.) But what else can agents do in between calls that don’t have to occur at a specific time? Consider putting together a list like the one below to build variety into your agents’ days. Happy agents make happy customers, so read on for ideas to end up with both: Development. How satisfied can you be if the customer knows more than you do by the time they make it through [...]


Perform regular assessments of call center training requirements.

May 8 - Training for the agent shouldn’t stop after the new hire orientation and initial training period is completed. Training is an ongoing evolutionary process. The goal of your call center’s ongoing training program is to provide training for the skills necessary to perform the job, plus training for the skills necessary to enhance ongoing performance. In developing your ongoing training program, it is useful to define what employees need to know and be able to do at defined job anniversaries. Common milestones are at 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, and 120 days. For each of these timeframes, a checklist should be developed that outlines critical knowledge and skills so training gaps and performance issues can be identified. Some typical questions you might ask at each of these stages are: What additional things does the agent need to know? What policies and procedures could affect job performance? What behaviors [...]


Quality Games: Handling each call with quality service.

May 1 - To successfully engage your call center representatives, one must find creative ways to capture their interest and make them a part of the solution.  One way to do this is through fun learning breaks that allow agents to play the role of a quality analyst. The game below is a great way to center your quality goals on enhancing understanding of why quality is important and develop a willingness to embrace the results your company wants to achieve. So here’s one way. Game Objectives:   In this activity, participants review quality attributes that are critical to their sales or customer service role, assess their understanding of each skill, and learn to accurately define and apply call quality with excellence on every call. This activity helps the new or current employee understand the assets possessed by top-notch sales and customer service representatives.  It also gives the representative an opportunity to [...]


Providing missed item data for coaches.

April 24 -  Scoring agent calls is only one part of the quality assurance equation. The second part is giving coaches and managers useful data. The point of QA must always be kept in mind; yes, the score is an indication of quality, but one reason quality is measured is to identify areas where improvement can be made. But what type of shape should this data take to assist in this role? The data should take on two different shapes. The first is to address each individual agent. What items on the form did each individual agent miss—particularly if the same item was missed by the same agent multiple times. By shaping the data for each individual agent, we highlight areas for coaching and improvement giving coaches a targeted approach. The second form the data should take is for the contact center as a whole. Here we want to identify what items in the contact [...]


The value of daily QA mini-calibrations.

April 17 -  In the publishing industry, change is the constant. The shift from stores to online, paper to digital, and the systems and processes needed to facilitate these changes, means our phone reps are constantly dealing with new situations, issues, and questions. As a result, our QA forms and procedures are never set in place for longer than a few months before we discover new wrinkles in our customer service experience which must be reflected in the way we score calls. This means scoring assumptions and interpretations must be changing even more frequently than the form or standards can reflect. Since those assumptions are born out of time spent scoring and listening to calls, it is crucial for QA Analysts to create a means to review a few scored calls each day. On our team, each month, one analyst who primarily scores inbound calls will take responsibility for one outbound call per rep. The outbound [...]


Introducing a new QA form gradually.

April 10 -  Creating or revising a quality assurance scoring form is no easy task. Once the form and standards are complete, the real work begins—learning as a calibration team to score the items consistently and teaching the agents on the phone the new expectations. Old habits die hard, particularly if these old habits were not counted off previously. On the other hand, being counted off repeatedly could lead not to a change of habits, but instead a spirit of indifference to the entire QA process. One potential way to help overcome these hurdles is the gradual rollout of a new or revised form. This not only allows the calibration team more practice on some items before agents are being scored on them, but also gives the agents on the phone fewer potential habits to change at once. This approach is strengthened further if the agents are given an opportunity to learn the new [...]


Five things to change about how you lead.

April 3 - The new leader's power to influence will not come from their position or title but from their ability to articulate a vision that connects with the workforce. -- Michelle Pallas  What makes leadership so different today? Is it technology? Multiple generations? Globalization? Or maybe just the pace of business and life in general? I think the answer to all of them is "Yes!" While some skills needed by leaders are timeless, I think there are some attitudes or actions leaders must take that represent a departure from what has been done in the past. If you're struggling to find your footing as a leader or manager, here are five potential changes I believe will help you achieve greater success: Quit trying to have all the answers.  The old "command and control" days are long gone. Information is immediately accessible to anyone. Your strength as a leader today lies [...]


The Perfect Pair of Shoes.

March 27 - When looking for the perfect shoes, you want to find a pair that fit your taste, style and foot size. If the sales clerk at the shoe store tries to sell you a pair that you don't like or a pair that are too small, you're going to leave the store empty handed. When attempting to make a sale, you need to uncover what is important to the customer. If you don’t focus on benefits that are relevant to the customer's needs/concerns, you will end the call empty handed. Based on the information gathered from probing questions, you must use product knowledge to sell them the perfect pair of shoes! Four quick tips for the perfect fit: Customize suggestions for the customer Keep the strategy consistent at all times Be sure product suggestions are relevant to the customer Evaluate and adopt your strategy by discovering what works best [...]


How to conduct a calibration session.

March 13 -  Last week’s tip started our conversation on calibration with a discussion on why calibration is important and the benefits of calibration.  This week we will look at some how to conduct a calibration session. The following basic steps are prerequisites to consistent calibration: Every employee responsible for monitoring and scoring contacts should have an excellent working knowledge of the contact center’s services. Those doing the monitoring must understand how the standards are administered. Those doing the monitoring should be given formal training in the program, as well as relevant documentation on criteria and definitions. The following describes some tips for a successful calibration session: Schedule at least one hour of uninterruptible time. Choose a facilitator. The role of the facilitator is to direct discussions, take notes and keep the team focused. Observe a contact and have all participants use your monitoring form to make notes and score the [...]


Why does calibration matter?

March 6 - Call calibration is necessary to ensure consistency and fairness in the monitoring process. Calibration provides the opportunity to test the process and confirm that consistent standards are applied to each monitored contact. When high levels of calibration are achieved, it will not matter who did the monitoring and scoring; the outcome will be the same. For a monitoring process to succeed, it is essential to integrate calibration into the planning, implementation and ongoing maintenance of your monitoring program. When you and your team are successfully calibrated, you can enjoy a number of benefits.  Successful calibration does the following: Provides consistency Reduces the likelihood of agents questioning fairness Continuously develops and assesses monitoring criteria Eliminates perceived biases by ensuring consistent application of standards and scoring Allows the coaching process to focus on recognizing achievements and identifying opportunities for improvement, instead of whether a particular score is accurate It’s important [...]


Learn what’s sticking.

February  27 - End every training session by asking each person to say something that they don’t want to forget by tomorrow – something new that they learned or a key takeaway that they had. Allow a dedicated amount of time for this closure and be sure to complement their feedback and reiterate key points of their statement. The responses will help you as the trainer identify what stuck and stood out from your session.  In addition, the CSR’s will often build off each other’s comments and engage in beneficial dialogue around the day’s topic. Remember – you want your training to be a sticky as possible, so the more avenues you use to drive your point home – the better! Note:  This week's tip is provided by brought to you by ICMI Contact Center Expo & Conference, set for May 22-25, 2017 in Orlando, FL. 


Agent pushback – things to consider when addressing disputed assessments.

February 6 - Do you agree with everything someone tells you about yourself? If so, then I would like to meet you and tell you how indiscriminately generous you are and how willing you are to share your wealth with complete strangers -- like me! While the illustration is extreme, please consider the underlying truth: we are selective about the feedback we receive and believe. Our acceptance, or rejection for that matter, is largely dependent on our awareness of the issue, the source of the feedback, and our personal acuity concerning the same. Dynamic and engaging quality programs provide a place for individuals to conscientiously and professionally address these three elements of the feedback. Just as quality feedback should be delivered in a timely manner, a venue for questions and disputes should be structured with the same time of timely follow-through. For example, if quality feedback is assured within a 30-day [...]


Engage your QA team in the training process.

January 23 -    Engage your QA Team in your new hire training process from the very start.  The call review process should be the right hand of training.   Call reviews ensure newly trained staff are retaining the training provided, using resources correctly, and aids in developing skill sets necessary to be successful.  By implementing quality assurance training during the training process you begin to develop authentic relationships between staff, trainers, and quality assurance teams.   Make sure employees understand the expectations, importance of call reviews, and how the quality assurance process will ultimately aid their professional development.   Note:  This week's tip is provided by QATC Board Member Angela Crozier of MPHI.  She can be reached at acrozier@mphi.org. 


QA processes that bring out the best in agents.

January 16 -   It is important that the Quality Assurance department have processes in place that bring out the best in agents from the time they start training.   In our organization, QA is given a slot for the training of new hires and the QA training is usually the last on the schedule before the new hires are deployed to the production floor.   From the first day of deployment, a team of Quality Assurance Executives, together with Learning and development Executives (trainers), do remote monitoring on these agents whiles team leaders do the side-by-side and real-time monitoring. At the end of every shift, the group of QA and L&D executives meets with these agents to review their recorded calls. Calls of each agent is randomly selected and reviewed and feedback given. Various scenarios are reviewed during these sessions and agent are coached on how to better handle customers and those [...]