Effectiveness Indicators – Quality

In the past issues, several efficiency indicators (such as AHT, ASA, Call volume and Cost per Calls) were discussed. At the time it was noted that most of the current contact centre operational indicators are focused around efficiency measurement as traditionally cost reduction has been the number one objective! In the last 15 years, however, more and more businesses are turning their attention to the overall results, in terms of the total effectiveness of the centre as it relates to the business objectives. In many centres – if not all – this new direction starts by focusing on quality and quality control, terms that had been used in manufacturing for many years but just recently incorporated into the contact centre vocabulary!

Cost of (low) Quality

When discussing the AHT(Average Handle Time), we did mention examples where by mishandling calls, a centre could reduce their AHT while ending up with increased call volumes and in effect negating the results of their efficiency efforts. The reason behind the increased call volumes can be traced back to lack of complete (satisfactory) resolution of the calls. If a customer does not receive full resolution to his or her satisfaction, the chances are that this customer will make a repeat call in order to gain that resolution which results in increased call volumes and the overall operating costs. This factor of repeat calls regarding the same issue or topic when defined as a percentage of all calls received is referred to as FCR or First Contact Resolution.

Is this the only impact of low quality? Unfortunately the answer is no!! There is a lot more to the lack of quality! In general those can be grouped into two major categories: Fulfillment and Customer Satisfaction (although fulfillment eventually impacts the customer satisfaction, issues related to fulfillment can be observed by the organization much more vividly and can be measured differently).

Error Rate

Think of a scenario when a customer purchases an item using the contact centre. If by any chance, the agent enters the wrong address, the item cannot be delivered. It probably is returned to the warehouse which requires additional space and handling efforts. After that, the shipping department must make certain inquiries in order to find the correct address and complete the transaction while the contact centre may be faced with an incoming call from the customer enquiring about the delivery of their purchase (which leads to another set of communications between the centre and the shipping department)!! All of this due to a simple error completing the order form. There are many similar examples for variety of organizations and situations.

Knowing this negative impact on the operation, many contact centres have created a set of standards and measurements dealing with this attribute. Error Rate, measures the ratio of the errors made over number of transaction (typically shown per 10s of thousands). Clearly the higher the error rate, the higher the cost and therefore the higher priority in fixing the problem. Improving the error rate can partially be achieved by using automated verification. For example making sure that street address matches the postal code, or all the digits for a credit card have been entered. On the other hand the contact handling process, as always, is in the hand of Representatives’ who can improve the ratio by ensuring their quality of their work. This can be measured by call quality listening and scoring, and be improved by coaching and training.

Call Quality

The second impact of lower quality is directly felt by customers and reflected in their overall satisfaction (keep in mind that there are other factors affecting the overall customer satisfaction). For example, customer may feel that he or she was rushed through the call, his or her spending was not appreciated or that Representative was rude. On the other side the contact centre management may feel that Representative did not follow the call handling procedure or perhaps broke certain policies and regulations or did not use the opportunity to up-sell and/or cross-sell!

In some respect Call Quality can be compared with product quality coming out of a manufacturing line as it is measured against certain pre-determined quality specifications. The difficulty, however, is to define and measure those specifications. While certain characteristics of a contact – such as Representative knowledge of products and services – can be defined, other (behavioral) aspects such as friendliness and empathy is hard to measure as they are defined by each individual customer! A call judged as friendly by one customer may be considered too rigid by a different customer while a third customer may consider the same call as unprofessional!!!

The solution to this dilemma revolves not only around the Representatives’ experience (in recognizing and responding appropriately to each contact) but also in focusing on the final outcome and the role of the centre as a link between customers and the organization. This role has progressively evolved from simply answering the calls to becoming the major factor in building customer relationship. A high quality call is not the one that blindly follows scripted actions and announcements but rather the one that enhances the relationship with the customer!

Quality Listening and Quality Score

Assuming that an organization knows what is important to its customers and how to enhance the relationship between the organization and its customers, how do we measure and report the associated call quality? The process starts with developing a Quality Document that clearly explains what are the desired outcomes for each contact type as well as how to achieve those outcomes. This quality document must follow the same steps that are outlined within the call handling process to ensure that customers have similar experiences dealing with the centre regardless of their issue or which agent they are talking to. The quality document must also provide various examples for each step in the process as well as a simple score that clearly links back the actions to building relationship with customers. For example, if a Representative activity damages the customer relationship, it must be scored as poor. If it does not damage the relationship but not enhancing it either, then it can be considered as satisfactory. Other grade of scores, such as Good and Excellent can be defined similarly for each individual action.

Based on such document and definitions, a quality Scoring form can easily be developed. The quality scoring form is then used within the quality listening process to measure and score individual calls and CSRs. Although the numbers and procedure for listening and scoring calls are varied from organization to organization, the single success factor is ongoing consistency. Quality listening cannot be a one time activity.

While individual quality reports for each agent can be included in their performance measurements and be used for coaching and training, at the centre level the results must be combined, analyzed and acted upon in order to increase the call quality (as a result increasing customer satisfaction and enhancing the relationship while reducing the overall operating costs). Including quality score as one of the KPI can signal the commitment of the management to increasing quality of calls.

This article was originally published in The Taylor Reach Group newsletter.