Four ways to expand quality monitoring in the customer service contact center
Illustration by Blake Thompson
Challenges and Priorities Survey

I have always been a big proponent of quality monitoring (QM) programs. It’s the best process we have to determine how well agents are following the training and coaching they have been provided. And if you have ever wondered how effective a QM program is, just hold a focus group and ask agents why they follow certain practices (like asking for permission to place a caller on hold, for example). The universal answer is that they do not want to “get dinged” if the call gets monitored. While that may not be the most uplifting way to shape behavior, it is no doubt effective (let’s just make sure we balance it with some positive recognition when we hear great things during monitoring).

The impact that a well-designed QM program has on call-handling processes is reason enough to go through the effort and expense of recording calls, grading them and holding coaching sessions. With a little effort, though, we can get even more out of our investment. These extra benefits pack a strong punch on their own, and realizing them requires only a small amount of additional effort. Here are four ways that you can extend the value of your QM program.

1. Improving Contact Data

I know, you have a CRM system and you have your agents track the reasons for every call. But there are 472 reason codes, and the agents only use the 11 that are easy to find. Since they only get “dinged” if they don’t enter a code, little thought is given to this final step of call handling.

Of course, knowing why people call is incredibly important. You need good data, and the chances that you can get all 357 agents using all 472 reason codes correctly for the 26,593 contacts that are handled daily are slim and none. Actually, you can forget slim—it’s just none.

But what about those six people who monitor calls as their main job responsibility? They are detail-oriented top performers who are not constantly feeling pressure to get calls out of the queue. They have both the skill and time to code calls correctly. And even though they only do a sample of calls, it is enough to generate high confidence levels that their data is accurate. And while they are documenting call reasons, do yourself a favor and have them record whether or not the call truly met the standard for first-call resolution.

2. Extending the Customer’s Voice

Once a call is monitored and the coaching takes place, the recording starts gathering dust. Yet some of those calls have important information that other people in your organization should hear. Was there an exceptional amount of dead air that the agent had to fill because computer response times were so slow? The IT leadership team should hear what that sounds like. Was there a complaint about the design of one of your products? The product development team would find that call very useful. Did some marketing material confuse the customer? The marketing director should hear that directly from the customer, not as a piece of data embedded in some rarely viewed report.

At the end of each monitored call, you can tag the recording with at least one descriptor. Doing so makes it far easier to match calls with the people who need to hear them. A marketing director is not going to sit and listen to a bunch of calls with the hope that one or two might yield something of importance to his or her area. If, however, that same director gets an email once a month with a link to the recordings of interest, you have successfully put the customer in the room with the marketing department. And the customer can be very persuasive.

3. Staying Aligned with the Customer

Many of the behaviors you look for when monitoring are pretty obvious. Of course the agent needs to listen well, speak clearly and provide accurate information. You don’t need input from customers to know these items are important. But how important are they? And what about other behaviors, like providing proactive offers? This might be critical to some call centers, while it is viewed as an annoyance to customers of another organization.

Understanding what is important, and how important it is, is the domain of your customer satisfaction survey. A well-designed survey program will provide you with all of this information. Once you know it, though, you need to act on it. That is where the monitoring program comes in. The actions you monitor for, and the rating scale you use, should be determined in great part by feedback provided by the customer.

The best way to keep the monitoring program and the customer satisfaction program aligned is to use the same calls for both surveying and monitoring. When the monitored calls represent the population sample for surveyed calls (or vice versa), you will be able to see how closely aligned your evaluations are to the same evaluation provided by the customer. If your monitoring scores are consistently higher than the ratings given by your customers, you know it is time to recalibrate the QM program.

4. Improving the Toolbox

When we monitor, we are continually asking ourselves, “What could the agent have done differently to improve this contact?” That’s such a great question we should add another: “How could the tools have operated differently to help the agent improve the contact?”

This type of approach is a reverse analysis that draws a direct line between a call-handling problem and a shortfall in the technology. An example would be an agent who followed an older procedure, rather than the update finalized this morning. Yes, the agent should have logged into the knowledge management system earlier, and then would have seen the update. A better solution, though, would be a knowledge management system that pushes the update to all agents and requires their review before handling any more contacts.

If such an improvement only reduces one error once a month, then it is likely not worth the cost. But if it would eliminate 10% of all errors, then the payback changes dramatically. Identifying these opportunities during monitoring will quickly provide input on the value of various improvements to the toolbox.

Forethought and Effort Bring a High Return in Value

Coaching agents on monitored calls is such a valuable activity that we sometimes do not think beyond this when we look at our QM programs. With just a bit more forethought and effort, though, we can get significantly more value from our call recordings. The payback is better decisions, more effective tools, and ultimately happier customers. It’s an ROI that is hard to resist.