lost art asking questions
Illustration by Scott Hamilton

How do your customers really feel about the experience they had with an agent? Incorporating customer feedback into a quality program can help to improve both employee performance and the customer experience.

At Engage 2015—The Verint Systems Global Customer Conference in Las Vegas last month, an operations leader at a major health maintenance organization discussed how the contact center revamped its QM program to do just that.

The contact center’s previous program relied on a 22-point checklist, which the quality team used to monitor and rate agents. The problem: Agents could meet all of the criteria in the checklist and receive high scores, yet the experience for the customer was still “rote.”

According to the HMO’s senior director of operations quality, “We were treating every customer and every agent exactly the same way. We expected every agent to deliver quality exactly the same way to every single customer regardless of who the customer is. We were not driving the experience; we were just answering the questions to get them off the phone.”

The redesigned program groups quality metrics into four key areas: customer feedback, compliance, accuracy, and policy & procedure. The quality team monitors agents for specific compliance, accuracy and policy & procedure elements that should take place on every call, and marks them as “yes” they occurred or “no” they did not. The agent’s customer feedback score is determined through customer surveys.

The customer feedback survey focuses on six behaviors, which include things like positive language, whether the rep used the time on the call efficiently, and the rep’s confidence on the call. Customers are asked to rank agents’ performance on a 1-to-5 scale. The center initially used a 1-to-10 rating scale but found that the longer scale was actually skewing results. After following up with customers who provided low ratings, the operations team discovered that customers felt that the scale was too long to listen to, so they ended up just hitting “1” to get through the questions. The team switched to a 1-to-5 scale, which is easier for customers to listen to, understand and repeat. Survey results improved significantly, and “there was much less noise in the results,” the director said.

The new program also revised the quality team’s role. Previously, the team monitored and rated agents, and then coached staff on the areas that the quality team determined to be a skill deficiency. The new role calls for quality team members to listen for “verbatims” to share with agents. The director describes verbatims as, “words that the agent said or used that drove a conversation down a certain path,” and words that a customer said that should have prompted the agent to take a different action to change the experience.

Practical Tips for Call CentersPractical pointer: When rolling out a new program in the contact center, keep in mind that agent buy-in is critical to its success. Including frontline staff on project development teams is one of the best approaches to ensure their support, but what if you’re in an environment where that is not feasible? The HMO’s union environment restricted employees from participating in the program development, so the director needed to find another way to include the frontline’s input. In the final stage of development, she asked the project team to develop a list of FAQs about the program. Team members were instructed to “think like an agent” and come up with questions that agents might ask about the program. The list was an eye-opener that allowed the development team to go back and make several critical changes before delivering the program to the staff and senior leadership.

To read the full feature with additional insights from Engage 2015, download the article here.