Call Center Quality
Call center quality often refers to the efficient operating of a call center business unit. For organizations that are more customer focused, call center quality refers to the levels of customer experience delivered.
Analytics predicted an Obama win, and it’s a Big Data lesson for all customer experience and contact center professionals.
Before the votes were cast, New York Times blogger Nate Silver predicted, with 90%+ confidence, that Obama would win the election. He did this while billions of dollars were spent on old methods of people calling me, people knocking on my door, and outbound IVRs calling me all day long. Seriously, I was beginning to think all of that money was spent on me. I am so glad this is over; I can get some productive time back. Whew! Continue reading “Obama Wins and a big data lesson for the customer experience” »
If Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were alive today, he would have written a story for Sherlock Holmes that would cause everybody in the world to rethink mystery calling for call center interactions.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote fifty-six short stories and four novels about Sherlock Holmes. The first was published in 1887. In my opinion, Sherlock Holmes was the first Crime Scene Investigator (CSI). His use of forensic skills and logical reasoning were on the revolutionary edge and were used to solve very difficult cases. Continue reading “Innovations in Mystery Calling would excite Sherlock Holmes” »
Being in the industry makes me hyper sensitive to call center service when I am a caller. I’d classify myself as a good customer because I try to set them up to be successful. I try to never raise my voice and I always remember that they are only as good the processes that are behind them. But there are times when there’s no choice but to feel the same pain that other customers feel.
Recently, the first call center agent I talked to seemed knowledgeable enough but the call got disconnected. Okay, but the first thing she asked me when we started the call was for my number in case we got disconnected so she could call me back. I waited 15 minutes but no call back. So I called back. I reached someone new this time. I started my story over with this new agent. After about 30 minutes he said he’d have to transfer me to his supervisor who had more experience. I had to start my story over a third time with the supervisor only to discover that my issue was complicated and would require that a case be opened.
You are probably thinking the same things that I did: Why didn’t they call me back when they made me feel like they would? Why did it take so many agents and so much of my time to figure out a plan? Why is the knowledge base so ineffective? What are they doing to address their poor first contact resolution rate? Continue reading “Your agents are only as good as the processes behind them; so what’s wrong with your processes?” »
In late May, the QATC (Quality Assurance, Training and Connection organization) published the results of their quarterly survey on critical quality assurance and training topics in call centers, focusing on quality monitoring call calibration practices. Having worked for a third-party call monitoring company for 8 ½ years, I found the survey results to be quite interesting (sometimes scary), but for very different reasons than highlighted in the QATC report.
1) Quality Monitoring Calibration requirements – According to the survey, 24% of respondents indicated that calibration participants were not required to review calls prior to the call calibration meeting. In these cases, it is a feel-good, group-think exercise and not a true call calibration session. Yikes! Assuming the Quality Assurance team in the call center does not grade every call by committee, such an exercise is ineffective at gauging the degree of disparity that exists within the current call monitoring process. And since disparity is not being measured, the effectiveness of call calibrations cannot be quantified. Result: Waste of time.
I recently had a small issue with Verizon that I wasn’t able to resolve on the web site. Not a big deal. But when clicked on ‘Contact Us’ and then ‘By Phone’, instead of giving me the phone number, I was met with a pop-up window that said: “We’re sorry…we are not able to process your request.” Great, if you are going to hide the number you need to cough it up when we follow the clicking path to get it! Is this a new call avoidance tactic that I missed? Now my small problem is bigger. Understandably miffed, I relayed this story to a co-worker who had just called Verizon a week prior and had a completely different experience. She said she got right through to a knowledgeable call center agent and after the billing issues were resolved was transferred to another live agent in service to get the phone line checked. She even said how surprised she was that a company so big had such good customer service, while I on the other hand, couldn’t even locate a number to call. Do you worry about the consistency of the customer service experience? Are you protecting your brand by having a uniform calibration process and parameters for evaluating service?
While collecting scores and customer comments for analysis as part of our External Quality Monitoring (EQM) managed services we uncover significantly more than ratings about contact center agents. See what I mean:
“I tried calling your service number and each time it rang once and disconnected me. Talk about poor customer satisfaction.”
“I usually get right to a contact center agent whenever I have service issues but this time when I called I was on hold for 30 minutes. I got so frustrated I finally hung up. What gives?”
“Every time I order from your company my package is delivered quickly but this time it took almost a month and it was damaged. I don’t know what’s going on with your customer service.”
“Last week I was told by Kevin that I would get a form in the mail to request my refund. I didn’t get the form so I called today and was told by Susanne that I am not eligible for a refund and she’s not sure why Kevin told me that I was.”
I primarily shop online and therefore get many packages delivered. My UPS deliveryman never makes eye-contact, never says hello; he just tosses me the package and has me sign. Conversely, whenever I get a package from FedEx, this cheery fellow smiles while he asks me how I’m doing, and tells me to have a nice day; once we even had a laugh about my crazy dog that started licking him uncontrollably. While in both cases I received my packages, my customer service experience is drastically different.
So let me ask you, based on my delivery customer experience, would you shop more at online retailers that use UPS or FedEx? Would you be more lenient when a package does not arrive as expected with UPS or FedEx? Would you wait longer to call the retailer’s call center to track the package when you know it’s UPS versus FedEx?
We talk often about the importance of positive service over the phone in the contact center, but quality face-to-face interactions can affect the calls you are receiving in your call center and your first contact resolution rates (FCR); even if your service providers/vendors are involved in the service experience.
An ebook titled Eliminating the Worst Call Center Practice: Quality Monitoring Calibration, is an extraordinary and unprecedented look into one of the most utilized processes in a call center. This ebook exposes a level of ignorance in the call center industry that is so wide-spread it will amaze you.When you read this ebook, you will see why the light bulbs go off in the heads of so many as they connect their struggles with quality monitoring call calibration and the flaws into their call calibration processes.This fact-based case study report is full of real-world insights into quality assurance and call monitoring calibration. Here is a question and answer review of what’s inside. Continue reading “Quality Monitoring Calibration the Worst Call Center Common Practice” »
How do we ensure that customer experience results are a profitable business process in the call center and elsewhere in the organization? To increase the value of the initiative, be certain that the research is done the right way, and not only done for the sake of surveying customers. Note that customer feedback results will be used by colleagues regardless of the number of caveats listed in the footnotes, so be diligent in providing valid and credible customer intelligence from your contact center. The consequences of a poor measurement program and inaccurate reporting can have profound and far-reaching effects on your credibility in the organization.
Put another way, are you guilty of survey malpractice by giving your company faulty information based on inadequate research methods and interpretations?
Malpractice is a harsh word — it directly implies professional malfeasance through negligence, ignorance or intent. Doctors and other professionals carry insurance for malpractice in the event that a patient or client perceives a lack of professional competence. For contact center professionals and other managers, there is no malpractice insurance to fall back on for acts of professional malfeasance, whether they’re intentional or not. Of course, it is much more likely that one would be fired than sued for bad acts, but that offers little comfort.
Never put yourself in a position where your competence can be called into question. That’s why so many call center managers are “skating on thin ice” when it comes to their customer satisfaction measurements: there are demonstrable failings with many of the typical practices used by call center managers. By definition, an ineffective measurement program generates errors from negligence, ignorance and/or intentional wrongdoing. You have a fiduciary responsibility to your company — and recommendations made based on erroneous customer data do, indeed, meet the definition of malpractice.
Measurement programs must meet certain scientific criteria to be statistically valid with an acceptable confidence level and level of precision or tolerated error. Without these considerations, you are guilty of survey malpractice. Defending your program with statements like, “it has always been done this way” or “we were told to do a survey” is not sufficient. Research guidelines adhered to in academia apply to the business world, as well. A deficient survey yields inaccurate data and results in invalid conclusions no matter who conducts it. Unnecessary pain and expense are the natural outgrowths of such errors of judgment.
To maximize the return on investment (ROI) for the EQM customer measurement program, and to ensure that the program has credibility, install the science before collecting the data. Make sure that the initial program setup is comprehensive. If there is no research expert on staff, then hire this out to a well-credentialed expert. The alternative is to train someone in the science around creating and interpreting the gap variable from a delayed measurement. Or better still; engage a qualified expert to design a program to measure customer satisfaction immediately after the contact center interaction.
Before assuming that survey malpractice does not or will not apply to your program, consider the following tell-tale signs of errors and biases, as they are critical to a good program.
1. Measuring too many things. Your survey of a five-minute call center service experience takes the customer 15 minutes to complete and includes 40 questions. While everyone in your organization has a need for customer intelligence, you should not be fielding only one survey to get all of the answers.
Should the call center be measuring satisfaction with the in-home repair service, the accounting and invoicing process, the latest marketing campaign, or the distribution network? Certainly input on these processes is necessary, but don’t try to get it all on a single survey.
2. Not measuring enough things. An overall satisfaction question and a question about agent courtesy do not make a valid survey. Without a robust set of measurement constructs, answers to questions will not be found. Three or four questions will not facilitate a change in a management process; nor will they enable effective agent coaching or be considered a valid measure to include in an incentive or performance plan.
3. Measuring questions with an unreliable scale. In school, everyone agreed on what tests scores meant: 95 was an A, 85 was a B, and 75 was a C. Everything in between has its own mark associated with it, as well. Yet, when it comes to service measurement, we tend to give customers limited responses. What do the categories excellent, good, fair and poor really mean? Offering limited response options does not permit robust analysis, and statistical analysis is often applied incorrectly. In addition, using a categorical scale or a scale that is too small (like many typical 5-point survey questions) is not adequate for the evaluation of service delivery.
4. Measuring the wrong things or the right things wrong. Surveys should not be designed to tell you what you want to hear, but rather what you need to hear. Constructs that are measured should have a purpose in the overall measurement plan. Each item should have a definitive plan for use within the evaluation process. The right things to measure will focus on several overall company measures that affect your center (or your center’s value statement to the organization), the agents and issue/problem resolution.
5. Asking for an evaluation after memory has degraded. When we think about time, 24 to 48 hours doesn’t seem that long. But when you’re measuring customer satisfaction with your service, it’s the difference between an accurate evaluation and a flawed one. Do you remember exactly how you felt after you called your telephone company about an issue? Could you accurately rate that particular experience 48 hours later, after other calls to the same company or other companies have been made? That’s what you’re asking your customers to do when you delay measurement. It opens the door to inaccurate reporting and compromised decision-making, and is also an unfair evaluation of your agents.
Conducting follow-up phone calls to gather feedback about the center’s performance is a common pitfall. While the research methodology certainly should have its place in the company’s research portfolio, it’s less effective than using point-of-service, real-time customer evaluations.
Mail and phone surveys are useful for research projects that are not tactical in nature, but rather focused on the general relationship, product feature, additional options, color, etc.
6. Wiggle room via correction factors. If you’re using correction factors to account for issues in the data or to placate agents or the management team, some aspect of the survey design is flawed. A common adjustment is to collect 11 survey evaluations per agent and delete everyone’s lowest score. However, with a valid measurement that includes numeric scores, as well as explanations for scores and a rigorous quality control process, adjustments in the final scores will not be necessary. Making excuses for the results or allowing holes to be poked in the effort diminishes and undermines the effectiveness of the program, and highlights an opening for survey malpractice claims.
7. Accuracy and credibility of service providers and product vendors. As with any technology or service, the user assumes responsibility for applying the correct tool, or applying the tool correctly.
There are plenty of home-grown or vendor-supplied tools to field a survey, but, again, if you do not apply the functionality correctly, you will be responsible for the error. Keep in mind that some service providers are only interested in selling you something that fits into their cookie-cutter approach, and it will not be customized to your specific requirements.
~ Dr. Jodie Monger, President
This post is part of the book, “Survey Pain Relief.” Why do some survey programs thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of success? In “Survey Pain Relief,” renowned research scientists Dr. Jodie Monger and Dr. Debra Perkins, tackle numerous plaguing questions. Inside, the doctors reveal the science and art of customer surveying and explain proven methods for creating successful customer satisfaction research programs.
“Survey Pain Relief” was written to remedy the $billions spent each year on survey programs that can be best described as survey malpractice. These programs are all too often accepted as valid by the unskilled and unknowing. Inside is your chance to gain knowledge and not be a victim of being lead by the blind. For more information http://www.surveypainrelief.com/
“Survey” Photo Credit: The University of York www.york.ac.uk/…/training/gtu/staff/cros.htm
In our debut issue of “Knuggets and Knuckleheads,” we thought it would be appropriate to start off on a positive (Knugget) note. It’s always nice to hear from happy customers regarding call center agent performance, and well, these folks are certainly happy. We collected these while conducting work for our call center clients with our EQM program that uses post-call surveys for data collection.
“I found him to be intelligent, quick on the up-take, very pleasant, agreeable and had a sense of humor. That’s rare among bankers.”
“Sharon was outstanding. She deserves some additional compensation. This is not one of her relatives. Thank you.”
“I was very impressed with the service that I got today over the phone. There is no way we will ever leave you unless somebody really, really screws something up bad.”
“The lady was polite, knowledgeable, quick, pleasant to deal with, and they should put her picture on some of the money.”