Third Party Quality Monitoring
All call and contact centers operate in high pressure environment. The calls won’t wait. Centers constantly find themselves struggling to get everything done: meet the service level, adhere to the schedule, update the forecast, complete the agent training, deliver on the mission statement etc. Perhaps, it is not surprising that more than 41% of respondents to last years ICCM Monitoring Study III indicated that they did not have enough time to provide effective monitoring and feedback. So what is a call center to do when they know there is great value in an effective quality monitoring program, but they don’t have the time to deliver one?
More and more organizations are outsourcing this activity to third party firms that complete the monitoring and provide valuable feedback that the supervisors can use to coach their agents.
The most common complaint from supervisors is that they do not have enough time to complete their daily duties. Report production, staff scheduling and meetings all require immediate attention and cannot be delayed and deferred Often the only task that can be delayed is the monitoring of the agents. When something has to give, this is often it.
To many the first thought when they hear of outsourcing quality monitoring is “how can outsource quality, it’s too important”. For a growing number of organizations this question however becomes, “quality is too important not to outsource it”. Many organizations spend 80% of their quality monitoring process time, finding, listening and scoring agent calls and only 20% of their time actually coaching the agent. Added to the multiplicity of other tasks the supervisors complete each day this is a significant investment of time; one that further distances them from their primary job role of improving the performance of the agents on their team.
Outsourcing the collection, preparation and execution of quality monitoring can significantly improve the supervisors’ ability to spend more time coaching their agents. To be valuable however the external quality monitoring must deliver high quality, detailed and actionable monitors. Further the monitors must yield results that meet or exceeds the organizations quality program standards and goals.
Companies today are increasingly employing third party quality agencies. The reasons for doing so can be many and varied: center growth outstripping the ability to monitor, temporary, seasonal or cyclic volumes can make maintaining monitoring standards virtually impossible to achieve internally, inadequate technology that cannot support the growth in calls, agents or volumes, the desire to have supervisors spend more time with the agents, the objectivity of a third party perspective and reduced costs are just some of these.
To be effective an external quality monitoring program must align very closely to the organization’s quality program. They must deliver in the following areas:
Effective calibration is critical for the success of an external quality program. The calls being evaluated must produce the same scores regardless of whether the assessment was completed internally or externally. Assessments should not vary by the individual completing them. This level of consistency can only be achieved by investing time and effort at the beginning of the process to jointly score and assess calls with the external partner. This include the supervisors or other staff who have historically completed the monitoring. By reviewing calls, scoring them and discussing why the calls were scored as they were, works to eliminate the variances between individual scores. Once a level of consistency has been achieved, the outsource quality firm is able to begin to assess and score calls. The process of calibration should be revisited on at least a quarterly basis to ensure that the organizations remain in step.
There is dubious value agreeing that a call was a 17 out of 25 if there are no action items, areas for improvement or detail that can make the call the basis for coaching and learning. The feedback must provide coaching points and next steps. When this process works well the supervisor is able to review the call, the quality monitor, add a few questions or comments and is able to complete an effective coaching session with the agent. To include actionable coaching suggestions based upon the call monitored requires that the people completing the quality monitors possess a deep understanding of the clients’ quality program, as well as quality management principles in general.
By its very nature third party quality monitoring is more objective than that done internally. The supervisors each know their staff; will have history, opinions and feelings regarding their staff, both good and bad. In many cases some of these preconceived ideas can impact upon the monitoring they conduct. Consistently agents have said that they would rather be monitored and scored by someone independent, who doesn’t know them and where they will not be pre-judged. Third party firms maintain this objectivity. They cannot allow the staff completing the monitors to become too close to the people they are monitoring. This is why it is rare to see quality monitoring agents having direct contact or joint review sessions with the agents and their supervisors.
Over time you can see an improvement in agent skills and capabilities due to training and coaching activities. The third party quality firms must demonstrate this as well. They need to have processes in place to chart and measure individual agent performance and their progress over time. Supervisors and their managers need to know this information, the assessments and associated reporting are a good forum for measuring and managing this information.
In order for any outsourcing relationship to be successful the process must be easy and convenient. Website access, recorded calls with easy playback, links to previous scores, time sequenced reporting and regular calibration sessions all create an environment that is often easier and more user friendly than was the case when the process was completed internally.
Very few call centers receive the same volume of calls day in, day out month in month out. Most have seasonal peaks and valleys. A significant portion needs to scale up and scale down agents over time. A third party quality firm must have the ability to match your firms’ growth and cycles to be effective. More agents mean more monitoring, a new product or service could equate to additional monitors per agent for a period of time. To maintain the validity of the quality process they must be able to scale quickly and effectively.
The rise of outsourced quality monitoring signals another demonstration that specialization can yield huge benefits for organizations that don’t the resources, technology or inclination to do the work themselves. Many of the companies who are employing outsourced quality tell of how they have improved the effectiveness of their quality programs and gained too many value added benefits to ever go back.
Is outsourced quality monitoring for you? Take this test:
1. What percentage of your supervisors’ time is spent on paperwork and other tasks that do not directly impact agent quality?
a) More than 75%,
b) More than 50%,
c) More than 25%,
d) Less than 25%,
2. How much time do your supervisors actually spend each week coaching each their staff?
a) Less than 10 minutes per week,
b) Less than 15 minutes per week,
c) Less than 30 minutes per week,
d) More than 30 minutes per week,
3. In the past six months have you ever had a month where the number of monitors per month required by the Quality standard wasn’t met?
4. In the past year have you ever had to reduce the call monitoring standards or suspend the program due to the call volume or staff increases?
5. Have you ever had an agent complain that they think they received an unfair score due to their personal relationship with their supervisor?
6. Has your growth outpaced your technology and caused you to be unable to monitor as many calls as you would like to?
If you answered ‘a’ to four or more of these questions then run, don’t walk to your manager and discuss examining outsourcing your quality monitoring to improve your overall quality program.
If you answered ‘a’ to three or more of these questions then you should look at how outsourced quality monitoring could assist your organization to get back on track.
If you answered ‘a’ to two or fewer of these questions then you may still wish to look at outsourcing your quality, but first should take a good look at other issues, roles and responsibilities within your center and the quality standards you have set.
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