Contact center quality assurance Header

Let’s face it. Customers are well aware that they deserve exceptional service—and if your business offers anything less...well, prepare to wave goodbye to their money.

Thing is, receiving poor service from a call center is an all-too-common complaint. (And tech-savvy customers aren’t shy about sharing their negative comments on social media.) Even call centers with a great customer support reputation can’t afford to be complacent.

So how can your call center optimize your efforts for customer satisfaction while committing to continuous monitoring, evaluation, and improvement? To determine how well you’re doing (and how happy your customers are), what I’ve found works best is a good quality assurance process.

Managing five call centers and more agents than I can count, I'm deep in the trenches of contact center management every day. And in this post, I’ll walk you through what’s involved in quality assurance, and specific ways in which you can use a contact center solution to put it into practice.

First, let’s have a quick refresher on what quality assurance is and what it looks like.

What is quality assurance—and why is it important in call centers or contact centers?

In general terms, quality assurance (or QA) is a method of making sure that an organization’s services (or products) are as excellent as possible. (Mainly by identifying and preventing potential problems.)

In a call center or contact center, QA is often used to highlight common customer issues and improve communication for a more consistent customer experience. That’s super important, because happy customers are the ones who spend money with you, stay loyal—and tell all their friends how great your company is.

Quality assurance is also a great way to reduce costs, because it helps you spot inefficiencies like agent downtime and unmanageable call volume. (Really helps with staffing!)

👉 Dialpad tip: Call centers should have a dedicated quality team (or person, if you’re small) to carry out the QA program. You can have the team in-house, led by managers or supervisors, or you might hire external QA specialists. Their job is to monitor the call center’s operations, gather and evaluate data, and use it to help agents boost their performance.

QA managers typically use methods like call monitoring, call scoring, and side-by-side coaching to assess agent performance, call quality, and adherence to standards. As well as examining specific key performance indicators (KPIs), another good thing that a QA team can do is look at qualitative customer feedback for further insights.

While some quantitative analysis is carried out by software, you still need that human element to evaluate customer interactions and nuances. (Good to know the machines haven’t replaced us just yet!)

Quality assurance is essential in running a successful call center. Next, let’s look at different QA methods and how to solidify your call center as a key asset for your business.

3 quality assurance methods

I’ll be honest—successful quality assurance requires a lot of hard work. The thought of collecting and analyzing all that data, then committing to ongoing improvement, can be a little overwhelming. So, it’s useful to have a starting point.

That’s where a call center QA framework can be handy. A framework basically acts as a guideline for your QA process and helps you set the criteria and metrics you’ll use to measure quality of service and monitor agent performance.

To create a framework, you need to decide on a few things:

  • what data do you want to measure,

  • how will you score and evaluate interactions, and

  • how will you act on the results? (You should also take your customer service and company-wide goals into account.)

There are many frameworks out there that you can use, but this is a good basic one to look at as a starting point:

quality assurance framework
Source: bsigroup.com/en-ID/Our-services/Training-courses/operational-excellence-training/

Let’s start at the base with operations.

Operational

An operational framework is where most call centers begin their QA program. It’s the simplest framework to create, and helps you start measuring QA as one of your day-to-day processes.

Generally, managers perform evaluations on a monthly basis, with the aim of meeting a quota of scores. In this type of framework, the findings are used mainly to identify agents whose performance could use a little work.

The downside is that an operational framework only scratches the surface of QA. Call centers often don’t have the time or resources to carry out in-depth data analysis. What does this mean for you?

Well, an operational framework is a good foundation—but call centers can really start to turn metrics into actions by evolving to the next stage...

Tactical

The next stage is the tactical framework, which uses monthly or yearly trending data to help QA teams adapt to specific variables of the QA process. This mid-level solution is all about tactical self-awareness, with a focus on growth and scalability.

It aims to find the underlying causes of poor customer service, like blocked workflows and knowledge gaps, and to reduce employee turnover (and improve client retention) by investing in better training.That means it’s not just about how well individuals are doing. Instead, it looks at the team and its workflows.

I find that if you’re going more tactical, it helps to have a unified dashboard that shows you real-time data and lets call center agents score their own interactions. For example, Dialpad’s easy-to-use dashboard shows me real-time metrics from all my call centers, and really helps me make quick decisions.

I especially like the heatmaps that show how our answer times are trending. If I see that we’re taking way too long to pick up the phones, then I might staff differently for certain time periods or look at how we can improve our training:

heatmap of average speed to answer in dialpad contact center

Strategic

The highest stage of evolution in QA is the strategic framework. Instead of dealing with daily, monthly, or even yearly objectives, this one’s aimed at achieving long-term, company-wide goals.

With a top-down approach and a focus on actionable behaviors, this framework is useful if you want to improve your Net Promoter Score (NPS), understand the impact of customer service on sales, and use quality assurance as a differentiator to drive customer loyalty.

The strategic framework also encourages QA teams to develop a culture of mutual understanding and respect—listening to agents’ feedback and giving them the skills to do their job without micromanaging them.

Most companies work their way up to this stage gradually, as it’s important to get the operational and tactical parts right first—don’t run before you can walk!

The benefits of quality assurance

When done well, a call center quality assurance program has many advantages. As well as increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and boosting revenue through customer retention, it helps you create an environment where both managers and agents are happy in their work.

Let’s take a look at some of the main benefits QA can have for your contact center.

Customer engagement and retention

Ever felt like throwing your phone across the room after being placed on hold again by a call center robot? And you probably complained about that company to at least one friend, right? We never want our customers to feel that way.

It’s pretty obvious that customer frustration is not good for business, and the quality of your agent interactions can be make-or-break here. In fact, here are the most common ways to tank your customer service:

customer service problems that annoy people most
Source: medium.com/point72-ventures/building-the-better-call-center-with-polyai-aeacc17a101

If your contact center quality assurance program is effective, then your agents should be equipped to provide customers with consistently positive experiences. (Key word: consistently!)

Customers should feel like your company cares about their needs—or at the very least, can competently solve them, and without wasting their time—which will inspire brand loyalty (and more profits).

For quality assurance, a few things you can do include creating guidelines for interactions, whether they take place over the phone, email or social media. By standardizing things like greetings and positive phrases, you can create a more supportive and reassuring brand identity that can be a buffer for your team (which is useful when unavoidable negative things happen, like outages).

A good contact center solution can help you create more of these positive interactions. For example, Dialpad Contact Center’s call routing feature is super useful for my team because when we see calls coming in from tricky customers, we can use skills-based routing to automatically send these calls to our best and most experienced agents first:

skills based call routing options in dialpad contact center

You’d be surprised at how this can do wonders for cutting hold times!

Employee experience

Call centers have a notoriously high staff turnover, so it pays to use QA programs to create positive experiences for your employees as well as callers. If you empower your team with the right management and the right tools, they’ll be more productive and happier at work—which keeps your customers happier too.

Quality assurance, when it’s done right, helps you to build an environment of cooperation and trust, where employees are actively engaged through regular training programs and coaching sessions.

👉 Dialpad tip: Call recordings are essential not only for evaluating call center performance, but also for future training sessions. This is a big one for me as we often revisit our onboarding and training materials.

I try to provide regular, constructive feedback as often as I can, and we’re always looking at ways to improve our training materials for the team.

This way, your agents are given the chance to understand why they’re measured the way that they are.

A good QA manager should explain the purpose of a process instead of just telling the team what to do. For example, agents may not love having their calls recorded—which is fair! So, how can we, as managers, show that monitoring improves the call center for everyone (and helps us protect our teams from things like abusive customers)?

This is another area where Dialpad’s Voice Intelligence (Vi) shines—we can set profanities as keyword triggers in our real-time call transcriptions. That means that even if I’m managing 20 or 30 agents in my call center, I can easily track if and when customers are swearing at my agents during any of these calls in real time (and afterward in post-call summaries too) and jump in to help when needed:

profanity moments transcribed in dialpad contact center

Productivity and development

As well as boosting productivity through employee satisfaction, QA programs have many other applications for streamlining call center workflows. Because quality assurance uses metrics to evaluate performance, it’s easy to identify areas where we can improve productivity and efficiency.

QA encourages continuous development, and that includes ongoing training even for high-performing agents. Typically, we look at KPIs (or key performance indicators) like first-call resolution (FCR) and average handling time (AHT) to see which agents need extra help.

On the agents’ side, they can maximize their productivity by using scripts as needed. This can help to keep conversations on track and reach a resolution in the optimum time. They also ensure consistency and compliance. (Just make sure to review your scripts frequently, and always allow room for the agent to use their initiative.)

Your QA process can—and should!—be integrated into your broader call center solution. There are many coaching and data analysis tools that are built right into Dialpad Contact Center, for example. We get everything in one app, including features that help with productivity like smart call routing.

👉 Dialpad tip: Unlike most other solutions, ours is built right into the unified communications platform—we can take customer calls and also message and video call each other without switching between different windows and tabs.

Data collection and analysis

This is a crucial element of quality assurance and a huge benefit for your business. Analyzing the data helps me pinpoint the improvements that could make life easier for both my customers and agents. A good QA team needs good data.

You don’t have to be particularly tech-savvy either. Make sure to choose a platform that enables automation of data collection and analysis. (Meaning you don’t have to spend time listening to call after call after call—I don’t have time for that!)

You need a simple way to get clear and actionable insights into customer interactions. Can you see when you’re over- or understaffed at a glance? Can you tell if customer calls are trending positively or negatively over the last week or month or quarter? This is all information that your contact center should make available, right at your fingertips.

👉 Dialpad tip: Dialpad’s speech analytics and sentiment analysis (recognizing key words and phrases in voice interactions) in particular give us great insights. For instance, it lets us know if there are certain issues that are causing problems for multiple customers, which we can then flag to other teams:

real time sentiment analytics in dialpad contact center

6 best practices for call center QA

Now that we’ve looked at some of the advantages of a good quality assurance system; now let’s look at some of the best ways to make it happen.

1. Share knowledge as a team

As we mentioned earlier, QA provides lots of opportunities for the whole team to get involved— from planning to evaluations and improvements. Agent collaboration is a key part of making QA run smoothly… if you involve them in your process!

Collaborative teams can learn from each other, not only because everyone brings a different skill set to the table, but also because everyone takes different customer calls and fields wildly different questions every day. As a manager, you need to find a way to gather all this knowledge and make it accessible to everyone so that you can all learn from each other as quickly as you can.

My team does this with Real-time Assist (RTA) cards. After we analyze call recordings and data, we may find that there are patterns. Maybe there’s a tricky question that customers ask about certain products (or if you’re in sales, certain objections that keep coming up). We can create RTA cards to help agents answer these questions:

real time assist card in dialpad

For example, I can create an RTA card with notes on how to talk about pricing, and set it to pop up automatically whenever a customer says “price” or “pricing” on a call). If the agent doesn’t need the tips, they can just close the card and carry on with their conversation. But it’s there to help if they need it.

If you work in a large organization or one with a dispersed workforce, it’s even more important for your agents to feel like they’re supported. A good contact center management tool has made that possible for us.

👉 Dialpad tip: Remember, an effective call center quality assurance program takes agent feedback into account, so make sure you listen to your team, take action on their suggestions if they’re good, and tell them when their contributions have led to a positive change.

2. Have one person who’s accountable for managing the QA process

QA managers and evaluators have their work cut out for them, keeping an eye on the performance of so many agents as well as directing workflow operations. If you can, it’s best to hire someone with experience in call center QA best practices and getting the best out of their team.

You can be involved in performance management, of course, by monitoring calls or arranging follow-up coaching sessions, or side-by-side coaching to assess an agent’s performance in real time. But you can’t do it all. (I know I can’t, because I manage five call centers!)

Make sure you have the right tools that allow you (or whoever’s accountable) to do things like see how agents handle a live call and read call transcriptions on your own time.

One feature in Dialpad that’s really helpful is the ability to create a “call library”—we call it a playlist—of good or bad calls for training purposes. Have some recorded calls that would be good for your agents to learn from? Add them to the playlist!

creating a call recording playlist in dialpad app

You should always recognize and reward agents when they’ve done a good job. Another way to foster agent engagement and loyalty is to use gamification, creating challenges and activities for a fun way to achieve key goals.

3. Evaluate consistently

This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many call center managers don’t do this.

Make time to evaluate your team. They deserve to know how they’re performing, and your boss will want to know as well.

Calibration sessions (basically, getting everyone onto the same page) will help you see whether the evaluators are scoring interactions by the same standards. Ideally, call centers should calibrate at least one call every week—and even more regularly when you introduce a new evaluation form.

It’s also vital to evaluate as many interactions as possible to get a good overview of call center performance. Even the same agent can perform at different levels on different days, so continuous measurement is the only way to make a fair and accurate assessment.

There are a number of ways you can monitor interactions, from simply listening in, to fully automated solutions.

Some call centers use random sample monitoring, where supervisors examine an arbitrary selection of calls or interactions. This method will sometimes reveal areas for improvement or examples of best practice, but it’s hit-and-miss—it’s not going to show you the overall state of your contact center.

👉 Dialpad tip: Targeted monitoring is a more insightful technique, as it focuses on specific conversations. You might choose to monitor interactions with high-value customers, or agents following up with customers who complained or gave negative feedback.

The targeted approach provides quality assurance analysts with more relevant information, and also helps you spot agents who are particularly successful or those who might need some extra coaching.

Another option is to use analytics-driven quality monitoring in your QA program. This type of quality management uses automation more heavily, and it’s what we do here. (Yay speech and text analytics!)

Because automated monitoring can evaluate and categorize all of your interactions for you, you get a more accurate overview of performance—it gives me more time to spend on actual targeted coaching and helps me see key trends more quickly too.

Make sure your call center solution offers a range of ways to support quality monitoring. Dialpad Contact Center, for example, lets me see at a glance what our hold queue looks like, how many agents are available, how many live calls are in progress, and more:

seeing all live calls in progress in dialpad contact center

👉 Dialpad tip: In a contact center with omnichannel communications (across social media channels, emails, and calls, and so on), you need full visibility into the quality of all interactions—not just phone calls. Here, you might find it helpful to create different evaluation forms for each channel, as each one might have specific standards and requirements.

To keep your agents engaged, let them evaluate their own interactions and compare the scores with those of the evaluator. They should also have the means to dispute an evaluation or score, so that you can have a more collaborative discussion on improvement.

Again, having accessible data is helpful here. If your agents can all see a dashboard that displays QA scores and evaluations, it’ll encourage accountability and empower them to self-correct (provided you made good hiring choices):

call center leaderboard in dialpad contact center

4. Provide regular feedback

I mentioned the importance of receiving and acting on employee feedback earlier, but what about the feedback you give to your agents?

One pitfall is mixed messages: this is a common one if you’re not mindful of consciously providing feedback at all times, and it can lead to inconsistent performance—and if you praise or criticize one agent more than another for the same thing, you’ll end up with a disgruntled team.

As well as good feedback, employees need to hear constructive criticism. Finding fault is easy, but it’s harder to critique while helping them see the way to improve. If you have less experienced QA specialists and supervisors, you should provide training to help them communicate areas for improvement in a supportive and encouraging way.

Instead of reproaching agents when they make a mistake, collaborate with them to figure out a productive way forward. By using QA scores as part of agents’ appraisals, you can show them tangible markers of performance (and it gives you a baseline for communicating quality assurance to the rest of the company).

5. Have clear criteria and scorecards

The criteria you use to measure call center quality is just as important as the evaluations and feedback. As well as examining KPIs, you’ll want to assess how agents deal with irate callers, and comply with regulations such as the Do Not Call (DNC) registry.

Make sure you provide documentation that explains the criteria for each interaction, so that agents know exactly what is expected of them. Many call centers find it useful to create a Quality Standards Definition Document (QSDD), outlining the information that needs to be evaluated.

But it’s important to remember that different types of calls should be measured against different criteria—for instance, a sales call (learn more about sales call reporting) is not the same as a technical support call. Different channels will also involve different metrics for measuring the effectiveness of interactions:

how to build standards for a call center
Source: etechgs.com/blog/call-center-quality-monitoring-scorecard/


You need a scorecard system that reflects this variation and accurately represents each agent’s performance against measurable benchmarks. Agents and managers should work together to develop benchmarking, so that everyone understands what the scorecard includes and why it matters.

6. Schedule proactively

There are two aspects of QA scheduling in a call center. The first is about developing a schedule for the overall QA program, to determine when tasks like evaluations and calibrations are due to be carried out.

We’ve already mentioned that these tasks should take place on a regular basis, so that you’re monitoring as many interactions as possible and making sure they’re judged by consistent standards. (It helps if evaluations are carried out shortly after an interaction, so that the details are still fresh.)

The other part of scheduling is about making sure that agents adhere to their assigned schedules. Schedule adherence is usually defined as a percentage of the working day when an agent is available for calls, and plays an important part in overall performance.

As with other metrics, you need to establish a benchmark figure to assess schedule adherence. You can’t expect agents to be taking or making calls every minute of the day, so a 100 percent rate is unrealistic.

But low adherence rates can lead to inefficiency and wasted resources, as well as a drop in customer service. Most managers try to tackle this by just not providing breaks and setting unrealistically high requirements (e.g. “you need to take 250 calls today.”)

Yes, it’s important to stick to the schedule, but your agents are also human. Can you look at the data and patterns, and schedule proactively instead of waiting for call volumes to spike and leaving your agents scrambling?

That is your responsibility as a call center supervisor—and it’s where our skills (or lack thereof) will really show. It’s easy to just schedule everyone and not give breaks so that you never miss a call. But it’s not always the right thing to do.

Call center quality assurance: the key that will unlock your business

It should be clear by now that quality assurance is vitally important for the success of your call center. Developing and delivering a robust QA program will take some hard work, but it will be worth it when the data reveals all the things you’re already doing right, plus all the ways you can improve.

A quick recap: make sure your call center goals are closely aligned to those of the company, and that everyone’s clear about the criteria you want to measure. Monitoring and evaluating the right metrics will keep you on the right path, while automation can save time and provide deeper insights.

Empower your agents on the front line with supportive management and the best tools, and keep them informed and engaged at every stage of the process. Foster a collaborative environment where happy agents are eager to make every customer interaction a success.

Finally, it’s important to choose a versatile contact center solution that enables you to build quality assurance into your business from the start—with all the tools you need to analyze data, automate workflows, collaborate with team members and communicate with customers.

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