Call center quality monitoring Header

Call centers routinely remind callers that their call will be recorded and used later for training purposes. It’s probably fair to say that most callers don’t give the matter much thought, but call quality monitoring is an increasingly important part of what call centers do.

You’ve probably had your fair share of negative customer service experiences. You no doubt know already what a frustrating feeling it can be when you’re stuck on hold for what feels like hours on end. (Or when a call agent makes you jump through hoops just to get a simple problem addressed.)

As someone who’s worked for years in contact centers, I’ve been on both sides of this feeling.

And if your customers are feeling like this, they may not be yours for long.

Call centers that make effective use of call quality monitoring are likely to find a corresponding improvement in customer satisfaction levels. Those that don’t? They’re likely to find themselves losing customers to their more attentive competitors instead.

So, let’s look at how to do call quality monitoring well in much closer detail. We’ll start with a quick refresh on what call center quality and quality monitoring really mean, before examining some key steps you can take today to start boosting your call center’s performance:

What is call center quality? What does it look like?

Call center quality probably seems pretty self-explanatory—it’s about measuring and tracking the quality and effectiveness of your customer calls. This can give you a plethora of valuable insights into your customer service standards, and alert you quickly to potential problems and shortcomings in your call centers before they get serious.

But there’s another question that needs to be answered here: What makes a good phone call? A high first-call resolution rate is good, but it’s definitely not the sole indicator of call quality. Others include:

  • More qualitative things like a warm tone of voice or a calm, reassuring demeanor

  • Rapport between agents and callers (which inspires customer engagement)

  • Effective questioning by your agents

  • Appropriate language, with minimal jargon where possible

  • Good active listening skills—i.e., listening to what customers are actually saying

  • Short wait times

  • Low average handle times (AHT)

If you’re a call center manager who’s assessing the quality of your customer interactions and agent performance, these are some of the considerations to keep in mind at all times.

👉 Dialpad tip: Don’t forget to regularly remind your call center agents of what’s expected of them. It’s a simple step that many people miss, but it’s crucial for keeping everyone on the same page. (Especially if you’re managing multiple call center teams, like me!)

Okay, then what is call quality monitoring, exactly?

For most people, this seems self-explanatory: they’d take the criteria we’ve just listed and revisit their call recordings to see whether they stack up. And this is where the pitfall is.

Call quality monitoring involves much more than just checking off a few boxes.

It requires things like in-depth, qualitative analysis of how contact center agents and customers have interacted with one another in the past.

It may require you, as a manager, to be able to see how 10 or 20 customer calls are going—at the same time. And to know when (and how!) to jump in when needed.

There’s a lot more that goes into this than just assessing whether or not a call—and the agent’s handling of it—measures up.

But if you can do call center quality assurance, well, the rewards are huge. For me, it provides a much clearer picture of how my agents are engaging with customers, and just as importantly, where we can improve our training and documentation for new hires.

Call quality monitoring and its impact on the customer experience

You’ve probably heard and read a lot about customer experience. And I think it’s worth reflecting here on how call quality monitoring relates to customer experience.

Why does customer experience matter so much? Well, probably because so much power lies in the hands of modern-day consumers. With so many options at their fingertips, it’s easier than it’s ever been for consumers to take their money elsewhere—and they’re not afraid to do it.

According to research from PwC, customer experience is a prominent factor in nearly three-quarters of purchasing decisions. Respondents to the survey also said that they’d be willing to pay a price premium averaging 16% for a good customer experience.

And interestingly, nearly two-thirds—63%—said they’d be willing to share extra information with a business that provided them with a positive customer experience. Considering how big of an issue privacy is becoming, I’d say that’s huge.

Fun fact: No matter how much people talk about “surprise” and “delight,” most customers just want the basics from you. Efficiency and convenience. Just get the job done:

what customers want in a customer experience statistics
Source: pwc.com/us/en/advisory-services/publications/consumer-intelligence-series/pwc-consumer-intelligence-series-customer-experience.pdf

Which is exactly why call center quality monitoring is so important.

So, as far as call centers go, if we can provide customers with a hassle-free experience, the benefits are truly substantial.

And call quality monitoring, by helping our call centers maintain not just good, but excellent, standards, can play a crucial role in fostering lasting customer loyalty—and measurably better business outcomes.

How I use Dialpad to improve the call center customer experience

My call center teams and I use Dialpad Contact Center every day to deliver excellent customer service. Not only does it allow me to route callers to the right reps as quickly as possible with the skills-based routing option:

skills based routing in dialpad contact center

It also helps my agents give the best answers every time with our Real-time Assist (RTA) cards:

real time assist card in Dialpad

Dialpad’s Voice Intelligence (Vi) picks up when certain keywords are spoken on a call, and will pop up an RTA card with tips on that subject to help the agent. (It really comes in handy when those tricky questions come up!)

We don’t need special hardware, and I can use the call center analytics tools to monitor agent activity in real time, including everything from call volume to hold queue metrics. Even though my agents are working from home, we can still provide a smooth customer experience.

👉 Dialpad tip: Dialpad’s call center features are built right into the same app as our unified communications as a service (UCaaS) platform, which we use to call, video call, and message each other as we work. Other call center solutions usually offer third-party contact center platforms that don’t integrate nicely together, which means agents have to work in separate windows and tabs.

Call quality monitoring as an agent training tool

As well as being important to the customer experience, call quality monitoring is also valuable as a tool for agent training and coaching sessions. How agents are trained really matters; agents who are confident in handling customer queries (not all of which will be politely expressed) are great assets.

Call quality monitoring produces actionable insights which you can use both to train new recruits and retrain other agents. You can look at how agents have handled calls with customers to see how well those calls went. It may be that individual agents are falling short in certain areas, or there may be problems running across the team.

In these cases, call centers can use call quality monitoring to devise training strategies that allow them to address these problems, and boost service standards. Customer expectations have changed a lot in a short space of time—call centers must adapt to meet these rising expectations and demands.

Call center monitoring provides a finely detailed picture of agent behaviors, allowing you to assess whether or where these might need to be refined. This is because call center software allows call centers to record and monitor 100% of calls, rather than just selecting a couple per agent per week. This provides a much deeper level of understanding.

7 best practices for effective quality monitoring

Okay. We’ve talked about call quality and outlined some ways you might monitor it, but now, let’s dig deeper into actual best practices you can put into place.

Here are a few ways to create a quality monitoring process that works for your business.

1. Build the right team first

First and foremost, make sure that you have the right quality assurance team in place. As this team will be responsible for establishing your quality monitoring process, its members must have a thorough understanding and appreciation of your ethos. They must be totally committed to delivering the highest standards of customer service.

Your team, then, will usually consist of contact center managers, supervisors, and your most capable and experienced call agents. Everyone should have a deep understanding of your customer experience objectives, as well as a clear idea of how they can help to deliver on them.

2. Set your quality standards and KPIs

Of course, it’s nice to have a QA team in place, but even the strongest QA team will struggle to achieve much if it doesn’t have clear metrics and goals to work towards. Set unambiguous quality standards and key performance indicators (KPIs) which your team can use as benchmarks.

These quality standards and KPIs will make it much easier for your QA team to determine just how your agents are performing, and it will enable them to highlight any particular shortcomings that might need working on.

Quality standards

In choosing which call quality standards you want to use as yardsticks, you should make sure they cover both customer satisfaction and employee engagement. (The latter has a significant impact on the former!) Here are some key quality standards to consider using:

  • Customer sentiment and satisfaction

  • Effectiveness at problem solving

  • Agent attitude and tone of voice

  • Overall brand experience

  • Overall competency

You should apply these quality standards when measuring all kinds of customer interactions, including via email, social media, text messages, and so on. The more channels your customers use to contact you, the more channels you have to monitor so that you can optimize all outcomes and make sure that good standards of customer service are consistently upheld across the board.

KPIs

In thinking about which KPIs to use when measuring quality scores, it’s perhaps best to separate them into two categories—business KPIs and customer KPIs. So, your QA team should be paying particularly close attention to the following:

Business KPIs
  • Employee engagement: If your employees feel demoralized and disengaged, this is inevitably going to translate into poorer customer service. You must keep a watchful eye on employee engagement to ensure that your team is motivated and positive.

  • Customer satisfaction: How satisfied are your customers after a call? Have their problems been resolved and any uncertainties cleared up? Keeping customers happy is, after all, the name of the game.

  • Employee productivity: Customer service teams can handle a lot of calls in a single day, and they must maintain a high level of productivity in order to deal with them properly. You should keep a close eye on agent productivity:

    call analytics in dialpad contact center

Customer KPIs
  • Average handle time: How long does it take your agents, on average, to handle a call? This is known as average handle time, or AHT. However, this metric shouldn’t be used in isolation—a short call isn’t necessarily a good one, as some issues might not be resolved—but should be looked at alongside customer satisfaction.

  • First-call resolution: This is a particularly important yardstick, as high rates of first-call resolution are generally good for customers. This is because their issues are resolved in a single interaction, rather than over repeated calls. Customers whose issues are resolved first time are likely to report higher levels of satisfaction.

  • Agent flexibility: Flexibility is a valuable quality for call agents to have. This is not only because they have to deal with high volumes of calls, but also because customers’ personalities and moods can vary wildly between them. Agents need to be able to handle this, and to be prepared for it.

How I optimize call center performance with Dialpad’s call analytics

Whatever KPIs and metrics you choose to track, you need to be able to act on the data you gather. Dialpad’s call analytics tool provides rich and detailed information, packed with insights that I can use to make continuous improvements to my call centers. As a manager, call analytics are an essential as you sharpen your call center’s performance and bolster those key KPIs.

Dialpad presents this information in a helpful, straightforward, and user-friendly way, with a simple analytics dashboard presenting information from across my entire call center. This means I can see straight away if customer service takes an unexpected dip. The heat maps, for example, show me how quickly we’re answering calls (and if I need to adjust my staffing):

heatmap of average speed to answer in dialpad contact center

3. Use scorecards and evaluate rigorously

A call quality scorecard can be a very useful tool when grading both phone calls and other agent-customer interactions. It lets you grade calls according to a list of relevant criteria, and can help you get quickly to the root cause of any problematic patterns that might emerge.

It’s relatively simple to put a scorecard together for evaluation purposes. It’s best to take a collaborative approach, so encourage your QA team to reach out to agents for their thoughts on what should go into your scorecard. Empower agents to play a proactive role; you’ll then find that they have more buy-in and are much more likely to engage positively.

So, when considering which benchmarks to include on your scorecard, you should think in particular about these:

  • Opening conversations: Does the agent open the call correctly in line with general company procedure? Is their tone of voice appropriate? Do they convey helpfulness and a willingness to listen to the customer at the other end of the line?

  • Identifying problems: Customer issues are far likelier to be resolved quicker if the agent can cut to the quick and identify the relevant problems without delay.

  • Listening to customers: Some agents may have a tendency to run ahead of what the customer is actually saying, and assume their problem is something which it actually isn’t. How well does the agent actually listen to the customer?

  • Providing solutions: How far do agents go to provide potential solutions for customers and their issues? There may be various options available; it’s worth tracking just how far the agent is prepared to explore these.

  • Closing the call: Agents should confirm that all customer issues have been resolved before ending the call, just in case there’s something else that needs addressing. Also, agents should note key details of the call while they’re still fresh in the memory. How accurate and detailed are these records?

4. The more under-resourced you are, the more you should look at technology as a helper

I oversee five contact centers—and more agents than I can count on both my fingers and toes. If I didn’t have technology, I wouldn’t be able to do it.

There are so many technology tools that can help with call quality management. Use them! Call recording tools are particularly important, as they allow call centers to record customer calls for later evaluation (and also for compliance purposes).

What I love about our quality monitoring tools is that they use artificial intelligence (AI) to make my job of monitoring real-time agent productivity much easier. Dialpad has built-in analytics-enabled quality monitoring, which includes speech analytics (are customers mentioning keywords like competitor names?) and sentiment analysis. (Are customers saying really positive things or negative things about us?)

sentiment analysis in dialpad's voice intelligence

How I dig deeper with Dialpad speech analytics

Dialpad’s speech analytics and all these other fancy-sounding tools are powered by our unique Voice Intelligence (Vi) technology, which helps everyone in my call center make sense of all the conversations that agents have with customers. We can identify important words and phrases to deduce how well the call went, and all of this is accessible to the team if we need it.

Again, this gives me the data I need to coach my team better—and at scale!—with those handy Real-time Assist cards:

editing a real time assist card in dialpad

5. Communicate your findings regularly

When you’re looking through the data you’ve gathered in your dashboards and call transcriptions, it’s essential that you communicate these findings to your team! It’s essential to keep everyone on the same page and adhering closely to the KPIs and quality standards that have been set.

This information tells not only you, but also your call agents, what they’re doing well and equally importantly, where there are gaps. And even when there are gaps, it’s not necessarily the agents’ fault. Maybe it’s a training and development issue.

As a call center manager, it’s important to be able to communicate without blame. We work in a high-pressure, stressful environment, and I know my agents are doing their best.

6. Have a plan for process and employee improvement

Once your quality assessments have been completed, it’s time to put them to work. The quality monitoring process—and the information gathered—are a powerful training tool. I cannot overstate that enough.

We have a huge focus on training and continuous improvement on the team, and this step is crucial for us.

How will you develop appropriate methods for putting your insights into practice? How will you translate the findings on your agents’ scorecards into training and coaching programs? How will you address persistent patterns that crop up throughout your team, rather than among individuals? Your plan should cover all these questions (and more)!

👉 Dialpad tip: Sometimes, you’ll need to take mitigating circumstances into account. For instance, your call center’s average handle time and wait time might have increased. Consider the wider context—perhaps you’ve launched a new product that requires more customer service. Again, don’t default to blaming agents for circumstances that might be beyond their control.

7. Have a call center compliance strategy

Compliance is essential for call centers that want to stay within the boundaries of the relevant rules and regulations in their area. Every state has different laws, and if you aren’t compliant, you just might find yourself on the receiving end of heavy fines—and potentially some other punishments as well.

So, call center compliance really is a serious business. The exact nature of that compliance will vary between jurisdictions and industries—if you work at an insurance call center, you might be subject to particularly stringent compliance requirements, for example. But some rules apply generally, such as informing customers that their calls are being recorded.

Key roles in quality monitoring: managers, agents, and executive management

Now that we’ve got a more detailed understanding of why call quality management matters, let’s take a closer look at the role of individual people in the process.

Managers, call agents, and executive management all have important parts to play, and ideally, they’ll be working together harmoniously if they’re to get the most out of quality monitoring.

An effective and efficient quality monitoring process can make a huge, positive difference to the way call centers operate—but only if everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Managers

Call center managers are usually tasked with the responsibility of directly overseeing the call review process and making sure the relevant insights gained from it are acted upon. Managers are also, of course, busy people, with lots of demands on their time.

A good manager or supervisor has to determine and monitor relevant performance benchmarks and metrics for both individual agents and teams as a whole. For example, I use the insights gleaned from our call quality monitoring to set training programs and create “playlists” of noteworthy calls for my agents:

creating a call recording playlist in dialpad app

👉 Dialpad tip: Dialpad facilitates better quality management for my call centers by automatically capturing and summarizing agent interactions, which requires less effort on the part of my managers to review call recordings and identify opportunities. It also stores all historical data in the cloud, allowing us to easily search through old records.

Agents

Agents are often talked about as the subjects of call quality monitoring, but they actually gain more from the process if they’re encouraged to play a more active role. If you give your agents access to their performance data, they can see for themselves where they need to improve. This can be a powerful motivating tool.

Your call center might even create some friendly competition by setting up league tables, and giving agents extra incentives for reaching certain benchmarks. Agents who are able to look in detail at their own performance and that of their colleagues will have a clearer idea of where they stand. This isn’t for every call center though, as it can create more stress for agents. Gauge your team first!

For example, Dialpad Contact Center’s call and screen recording tool helps make it easier for my agents to review how their calls went and make note of things they should keep in mind the next time a similar question comes up:

listening to call recordings in dialpad app

That way, they never have to worry about losing important customer information. They can listen to the recordings from any device using the Dialpad app. Plus, all our call center features are in the same unified communications app that agents use to video call and message with their teammates. It’s a way more streamlined and productive way to work.

Executive management

While their role is more indirect, executives have a vital role to play in ensuring that call quality monitoring processes match the wider objectives of the business. They oversee the development of business operations and the setting of appropriate targets—which trickle down to your contact center goals.

(And sometimes they have the final say in whether to invest in certain call center software, so their input is essential!)

Long story short, execs must be kept in the loop, and you need to be able to demonstrate to them that your quality monitoring process is delivering real value to the company. Depending on the size of your team, even your managers lower down the chain should be able to prove, with the right metrics and benchmarks, that their quality recommendations for future budgets are backed by solid data.

Take your call center quality monitoring to the next level

A robust call center quality monitoring process could have a number of significant upsides for your business. It can allow you to highlight problems across teams and with individual agents, which then enables you to develop strategies to address those problems. It can help streamline and improve the entire customer service process.

What’s crucial, above all, is that your quality monitoring data doesn’t just sit on a database, and get forgotten about. You must translate it into action. In this way, you can drive up standards of customer service, as well as lightening the load on your agents. That’s how to really make call quality monitoring work for everyone involved.

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