Is there such a thing as a quick fix when it comes to more effective performance management? Can one little change in attitude or procedure make a big difference in quality monitoring?
The answer is yes – and no.
Both performance management and quality monitoring require coordinated planning and execution throughout the contact center.
Performance management is something of a catch-all term that incorporates a wide range of management aspects, from planning to developing agent skills, to evaluating performance based on metrics and making adjustments accordingly. Doing so will be more successful with a detailed plan of action.
Likewise, creating an integrated quality monitoring program will take time and preparation, with particular focus on call recording, PCI compliance, quality scorecards and screen capturing.
No quick fixes there. However, once the foundation for both programs is established, small changes can indeed pay significant dividends toward the ultimate goal of ensuring consistent, high quality service that meets or surpasses expectations. Here are a few that may help your performance management and quality monitoring endeavors.
Praise from the top
How often does your upper management team review calls? Have them listen to a few every week, and then contact the agents that did a great job and let them know their work is appreciated.
Training doesn’t have to be boring
If training consists of the same procedures every week or month, agents will tune it out. Have trainers use varied methods to maintain a higher level of engagement.
Quality monitoring starts (before) day one
While agents are still in the induction phase, introduce the QM system and expectations in place, and make sure they are aware of the criteria.
Praise and reward systems can be beneficial (more on some of these later) but there is no substitute for immediate positive feedback following a customer’s praise. If an email or a phone call contains that praise, don’t wait to share it with the group.
This is obvious, but bears repeating. These programs require consistency, not just in how they are carried out by agents but how they are presented and maintained by supervisors.
Who watches the watchers?
Your coaches are entrusted with maximizing agent performance – but who is making sure that the coaches are doing their best? Their work must be regularly monitored as well.
Individual call monitoring is important, but occasional group meetings to review calls may also be beneficial.
Feedback won’t work unless it is clear and actionable. You can find out if this is the case by providing agents with feedback forms about coaches (they’ll love that anyway). Offer them a chance to confirm that they understand the assessment they received, and if the coach took their thoughts and opinions into consideration.
Encourage a general climate of professionalism, not only in how agents communicate with customers but how they communicate with managers, coaches and their fellow agents. Once this becomes second-nature, performance will inevitably improve.
Involve the QM team in agent recruitment
Your quality monitoring teams knows what to look for in outstanding agents. So why not involve them in the recruitment process?
Coaching and training sessions should not be dreaded by agents. If they are, something is wrong. Try starting each session with positive coaching – what the agent is doing well and how the call center is lucky to have them. Remind agents of the improvements they have already made. Then review areas where further improvement is possible and discuss ways to work together to get there.
Include customers in performance management
Agents play a role in performance management, but customers do as well. Take their feedback into account.
A lot of contact centers give out prizes to agents for consistent performance or specific moments of excellence. A free meal, a spa day, or a cash bonus works better than a trophy or a “job well done” certificate.
Encourage peer discussion
You know your agents already talk about their jobs and customers (and probably you as well) with each other. Set some time aside to allow them to get together and also talk about improving quality. Some very smart ideas may emerge from these sessions.
The big picture
When discussing performance management with agents, tell them about the center’s greater goals and over-arching customer service strategy. The more they understand the big picture, the more they might buy into the program.
Public or private coaching?
Some contact centers conduct coaching sessions in a closed office; others have these discussions out on the floor within earshot of other agents. There is no sure formula for which will be more effective at your contact center – so why not try both and see what happens?
Watch your language
Does anyone still use words like “demerits” or terms like “marked down” in coaching sessions? Use positive, supportive language instead.
Grade calls in sections
Break each call into different sections for review purposes, such as: call open, courtesy, technical skills and compliance, efficiency, and closing.
Don’t ignore the longer calls
Short calls are always desirable but not always possible. Sometimes you can learn more about agent performance, contact center issues and your QM strategy by reviewing longer calls.
It’s ok to ask for help
If an agent is having difficulty answering a customer’s questions, he or she might be hesitant to forward that call to a supervisor if it reflects badly on their performance. But if that is the best way to keep that customer relationship, make sure the agent knows that doing so is the right step.
Never stop improving
Did you achieve your quality goals? Great! Now, set new ones. Complacence is the enemy of every contact center.