5 Essential Tips for Developing a Quality Program


5 Essential Tips for Developing a Quality Program
Illustration by Paul Aleman for Pipeline

There is an old Japanese proverb that says: “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” When consulting companies on their quality assurance programs, I often find that this proverb rings true. I commonly will find a great vision without a plan, or a great plan that doesn’t relate back to the original vision.

This article will provide your company with 5 essential tips for developing both a vision and a plan for your contact center’s quality assurance program.

Tip #1: Establish the Purpose of Your Program

The first question I like to ask clients about their quality assurance program is: “Why do you need a quality assurance program?” There’s a simple answer. A successful QA program will have a measurably positive impact on your organization.

The second question is: “What will your quality assurance program do?” Without a defined purpose, it’s unclear what you’re measuring. By defining your program’s purpose, you’ll have a metric for success. Here are few things to consider when defining the purpose of your quality program:

  • In what ways will the program help coach and develop your staff to better meet the needs of your customers?
  • How will the quality assurance program align and drive forward the goals and vision of your organization?

If you have a quality assurance program in place, I would encourage you to think through these questions. Better yet, ask your staff to answer these questions. You’ll quickly see the level of alignment on the QA program and its purpose.

Tip #2: What Do Your Customers Want?

Customer experience is top of mind in most industries, but only rarely are quality programs part of measuring this critical KPI. Although QA is not the be-all and end-all for measuring customer experience, it is an important piece of the puzzle. Let’s talk about how to create effective quality standards.

I often find that organizations set quality guidelines solely on the perspectives of a select group of high performers. While this approach may help you understand some internal processes of your organization, it ignores the critical question—what do your customers want? Are you currently identifying your customers’ expectations? After all, isn’t this the point of quality assurance?

The following are a couple of approaches organizations can use to truly understand what their customers prefer when it comes to a contact center experience:

  • Post-call surveys. A survey conducted at the end of a call provides fresh and valuable information. You’ll learn how a customer felt about their treatment and whether their issue was resolved. By collecting this information, you can better understand the expectations your customers have when contacting your organization. This data will help you integrate those expectations into your quality assurance program.
  • Customer surveys. A simple customer service survey is the best way to learn about what customers expect from their experience with your organization. Besides providing you with important and actionable information, it also demonstrates to the customer that you care about what they think.

Both post-call and traditional customer surveys add value in two ways:

  1. By creating a baseline. When you know what customers currently think of your organization and their experience, you can measure against this metric.
  2. To set or realign goals. Surveys reveal how people want to be treated and what they expect when contacting your organization. This is critical to include in your quality program as it represents the experience your customers wish to have.

Tip #3: Don’t Measure Just to Measure

Your quality assurance program should not be “just another metric” for your organization. A well-designed and well-maintained quality program can add tremendous value, but only if it pulls in information that then drives new behaviors or processes.

I always encourage clients to spend a considerable amount of time thinking through their quality program. Examine how it connects to and supports your organizational goals, vision and your customers’ experiences. Each question on your quality form should be directed back to these concepts.

Tip #4: Be Flexible

The contact center industry is changing… and so are people’s expectations of a contact center experience. More people prefer—or insist on—talking to a “real human” rather than an automated menu or even a person who is reading off a script. There is a great deal of available research and commentary on what customers think about scripted contact centers. I encourage you to seek out these studies and see if your organization is following the best practices for your industry.

We are in the age of personalized experiences. More and more, people expect to have a choice about how they communicate with companies and brands. Keep this in mind when creating your quality program. Organizations that have rigid ideas about what they think their customers want may be missing opportunities. The “one-size-fits-all” model no longer applies to customer quality, if it ever did.

This can be tough for organizations to understand and challenging to implement. Change management tactics may be useful to help reset an organization-focused culture. My advice is start instilling a customer-centric mindset in your quality team. Teach them how to assess a customer’s experience from the customer’s perspective. Help them determine if your organization is providing service in accordance with your vision and goals.

Tip #5: Maintain the Program

Quality assurance is a collaborative and iterative process. As such, it is critical for all staff to be on the same page when it comes to scoring, program vision and goals. Keeping everyone on the same page is not only going to keep your program consistent, but create opportunities for sharing ideas and information. This leads to process improvement.

The most frequent recommendation I make to companies that are looking to build a strong QA program is to implement call calibrations. In a call calibration, all quality stakeholders (often supervisors, quality teams,and training teams) evaluate a call independently and then come together to discuss. Participants should share their reasoning and thoughts about how they graded a specific call and how it applies to the quality form. I recommend monthly calibration meetings, at least. For this powerful process to succeed, everyone involved needs to be accountable and commit to their role in the calibration.

Calibrations allow your organization to:

  • Develop a common understanding of the quality programs goals and vision.
  • Address any differences in scoring.
  • Act on any processes that need revisiting or further developing.
  • Align on coaching and development strategies.

Key Takeaways

  1. Define a clear purpose for your quality program and understand its value and role in improving your organization.
  2. Carefully consider what defines a good customer experience. Do your customers have a say in what it is they are looking for? Post-call surveys and customer surveys will help to uncover this information.
  3. Your quality assurance program should relate back to your organization’s goals and vision. It should not be just be another metric to track and forget.
  4. Remember that people are unique and expect unique treatment. Try to keep your approach to quality more open-minded and less rigid. Listen to your customers. You may be surprised by what they think qualifies as a good customer experience.
  5. Maintain a successful QA program with frequent internal call calibration meetings. I recommend scheduling these at least once a month for the greatest benefit.