“This call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes.”
If only the general public knew the work that went on behind the scenes of those words! As a QA manager or specialist, you spend hours listening to call recordings, grading agents, and maintaining standards for your industry and organization.
But your job is so much more than recordings and scores. Its impact is crucial to the success of the call center, the satisfaction of your customers, and the performance of your agents.
Given the importance of your role, it makes sense to do everything you can to optimize your work. Below are some best practices for call center quality management that’ll help you perform at your best.
What Is Call Center Quality Management?
Call center quality management, also known as quality assurance, monitors, reviews, and improves every interaction between call center agents and customers.
QA specialists listen to call recordings and grade the interaction based on a set of criteria, including but not limited to industry policies, legal standards, and client requirements. The goal is to maintain compliance and consistency and ensure that the client is happy with the service your agents provide.
Why Is Call Center Quality Management Important?
Improves customer satisfaction
Call center quality management is all about analyzing what’s working, and what isn’t, in the hopes of improving the customer experience. When you do QA right, you’ll see your customer satisfaction metrics improve.
Helps with agent career development
QA managers are often tasked with coaching call center agents. In one-on-ones, you can review calls with your agent, identify their strengths, and create a plan for improving upon their weaknesses.
On top of that, QA helps you identify your star agents, which comes in handy when deciding whom to promote to management positions.
Ensures compliance with industry standards and laws
QA specialists are in charge of ensuring that the call center maintains compliance with the rules and regulations of your industry and jurisdiction. Things like HIPAA and GDPR may need to be taken into consideration in every agent-customer interaction. Failure to ensure compliance can have legal consequences for your call center.
Especially as your call center scales, maintaining consistency will be a challenge. Your job as QA means you’re in charge of creating and maintaining a set of standards to ensure a consistently good customer experience, no matter how large your team grows.
By monitoring calls, QA finds inefficiencies, too, and helps cut those down so your agents can improve their workflow, decrease AHT, and increase productivity.
Quality Assurance Tools at Your Disposal
The following tools will all be available in the proper call center management software.
- Call monitoring allows you to listen in on live calls without being heard.
- Call whispering lets you talk to the agent during a live call without the customer hearing. This is useful for providing advice and guidance to save an agent who needs a little help at the moment.
- Call barging allows you to speak during a live call so that both the agent and customer can hear you. Use this sparingly, only in cases where it’s the best way to salvage a call that’s gone wrong.
- Call recording is a must in call center quality management. The right call center software will do this for you.
- Agent scripts ensure consistent and accurate information is communicated to every caller.
- Post-call surveys give you meaningful data on the quality of a call because it’s directly from the mouth of the customer.
- Speech analytics is a burgeoning field in quality assurance. It uses AI to listen for certain words and phrases (programmed by you). It can assist you in doing your job, since you won’t have to listen to every second of every call.
15 Call Center Quality Management Best Practices
1. Use a noise-cancelling app to improve call quality
Whether working from home or in an office, background noise can derail a customer service call. Thankfully, there’s an easy fix: Install a noise-cancelling app like Krisp. It takes just a minute to do so, and once it’s turned on, Krisp will automatically detect and eliminate noises that shouldn’t be there, such as traffic, keyboard clicks, and barking dogs.
Noise-cancelling software ensures the best audio quality for every call your agents take.
2. Invest in the right QA software
While every call center needs the right call center management software, every QA needs the right QA software to optimize your work. The right software depends on your needs, but here are some features that you might find useful:
- Create custom scorecards
- Define and measure KPIs
- Use speech and text analytics
- Access performance data
- Provide rewards to agents
3. Create a good scorecard
The scorecard is the measuring stick for your agents, so it needs to be clear, effective, and consistent. Typical call center QA scorecards have Yes/No questions along with a scale (such as from 1-5) so you can provide an actual “grade.”
What metrics should the scorecard include?
- Average Handle Time (AHT): This is a standard metric for call centers, but it comes with a caveat: Sometimes providing quality service takes time, and agents who don’t rush the caller end up getting dinged for AHT when the quality of service was excellent.
- Compliance: Depending on the industry, your call center must follow a set of rules and regulations to remain compliant. It’s essential that your agents abide by these standards to avoid negative consequences.
- Accuracy: Is the agent providing accurate information to the caller?
- Professionalism: Does the agent greet the customer in a friendly manner? Do they keep calm even when the customer seems frantic or frustrated? These are the things to consider when grading professionalism.
- Communication skills: Does the agent practice active listening? Are they clear in their instructions? Effective communication skills are key to call center quality management.
4. Don’t skip calibration sessions
You calibrate a device to ensure that it’s measuring accurately and consistently every time. That’s why QA holds calibration sessions. You can do this once a week or once a month, but the goal is to verify consistency—meaning that if three different QAs score the same call, those scores should be the same (or pretty darn close). If they’re not, something is off in the way you grade, and that needs to be addressed.
5. Ensure agents know what’s expected of them
In the same vein of calibration, make sure agents know what’s expected of them. Having a miscalibrated scorecard is one way to confuse them (because they can never get the right score), but there are other things that are confusing. Here are some quality management mistakes to avoid:
- Not having a defined way of grading calls
- Not making your grading process transparent
- Not providing clear or meaningful feedback
- Changing the way you grade without notice to the agents
6. Know procedures and policies like the back of your hand
Your job in QA is to ensure procedures and policies—within your organization, industry, state, and country—are followed. That, of course, means you need to know what the procedures and policies are.
It’s also crucial to stay up-to-date on these, as they can change. Attending regular trainings can keep you abreast of any changes in laws and regulations that might affect your trade.
7. Provide coaching to your call center agents
Contrary to popular belief, QA doesn’t just sit behind their desk finding things wrong with call recordings. A major part of your job is to coach your agents. Take the time to sit down with each agent, one-on-one, regularly. You can review one of their call recordings together and note where they did well and where they could improve. Create a plan with them, and check in on their progress. This helps with their career development and builds rapport with them as well.
8. Pay attention to patterns
You’ll be listening to calls almost all day, every day, which means you’re likely to pick up on patterns of mistakes. Consider writing up a document of common errors and solutions for agents to work on.
9. Do something fun to break up the monotony of listening to call recordings.
In QA, you’ll be listening to a lot of call recordings; there’s no avoiding it. To break up the monotony, you might find it useful to handwrite notes, go for a walk, doodle, or rake a little desk Zen garden.
10. Don’t sacrifice customer service quality for better QA metrics
As a QA specialist, you’re under pressure to please multiple stakeholders—upper management, call agents, the client, and customers. Unfortunately, sometimes those stakeholders’ desires are at odds with each other.
For instance, agents feel the pressure to keep call times short, but often, quality customer service requires time and patience. Don’t get so hung up on AHT that you pressure your agents to rush callers, ruining the customer experience.
11. Get good at giving critical feedback
A significant portion of your job involves pointing out areas of improvement, and not everyone takes critical feedback well. The key is knowing the fine line between inspiring someone to do better and discouraging someone from doing their job.
- Practice empathy. Empathy is more than just feeling what someone else feels; it’s an openness to the other person’s perspective, a desire to learn more about what their experience is. So if you notice that an otherwise competent agent keeps scoring low on their scripts, it’s worth asking them why they feel it’s necessary to veer from the script. You might find that the scripts are ineffective or redundant or that the agent is trying to be more human by personalizing each interaction.
- Contextualize the criticism. Telling someone they did something wrong is demotivating; telling them why what they did isn’t helpful and what they can do instead is much more likely to elicit a good response. Provide as much context as you can to make the critical feedback make sense for the agent. Instead of saying, “You need to stick to the script,” it’s more helpful to say, “We developed these scripts after many weeks of discussion and testing, so we trust that these are the most effective words to use on your calls. When you stray from the script, it makes it difficult for us to ensure a consistent customer experience. If I’m missing something, though, I’d be open to hearing your feedback.”
- Rely on relationship building. Your words carry more weight when the agent knows you care about them. Everything you do outside of the scorecard matters. Coaching and words of appreciation will show your agents that they’re more than a grade. So when it comes time to deliver negative feedback, they’ll know you’re doing it because you care.
12. Include concrete examples with your feedback
Sending off QA emails with vague negative feedback or low scores isn’t very helpful. If you want to see an agent improve their chat personalization, for instance, send them a stellar chat transcript so they can have a concrete example of what “better personalization” really means.
13. Don’t forget to praise and reward your agents
QA gets a reputation for being Negative Nellies who nitpick and point out everything wrong. Sure, a major part of your job is to spot errors so they can be corrected. But spotting excellence so it can be rewarded is important too! It’s a huge component of employee motivation; without it, you’ll end up demotivating your agents to the point they do a worse job.
Instead, find ways to reward agents for doing things right. For example, Playvox has an option where you can reward agents with Karma points, which they can then use to redeem gifts in your online store. playvox.com/lp/call-center-quality-assurance/
14. Work the phones sometimes
Call center agents respect the feedback of others who have been in the trenches with them. A lot of times, QA positions are promoted from within, which means you may be grading the calls of the people you used to work alongside.
If, however, that’s not the case, it can be hard for you to know what it’s really like to be a call center agent—which makes practicing empathy hard to do.
Simple solution? Take a customer call every now and then (if it’s allowed). Some call centers actually require QA to take calls during particularly busy periods. But if yours doesn’t, it’s worth checking if you can. This will provide you with the necessary perspective that will help inform your policy decisions and grading.
15. Stay up to date with the latest rules and regulations
It’s your job responsibility to maintain compliance for your call center—even as rules and regulations change. Be sure to keep up with the news, renew any necessary certifications, and regularly participate in trainings. For example, if you work in a call center that handles sensitive health information, you may be asked to take an annual HIPAA training.
Call Center Quality Management Relies on You
It can be a tedious and thankless job, but call center quality management matters. Without it, your agents wouldn’t know how to improve, your customers wouldn’t receive top-quality service, and your call center wouldn’t be able to hit targets and maintain compliance.
By following the best practices outlined in this article, you can do an excellent job, and in turn, ensure that your agents do their best too.