Calibration as an integral component of transactional monitoring.
Posted Nov 1, 2005
The obvious sometimes escapes us, doesn't it? Who better than our customers to let us know how effective our internal process is at providing the level of quality service that generates growth? Yet, in most cases, contact center management efforts, while including customer satisfaction, focus primarily on monitoring internal performance without any consistent way of linking performance scores to customer satisfaction (CSAT). Without this necessary connection, performance is basically measured for performance sake, with little possibility of generating data useful for improving ROI.
The important thing isn't having coaches and supervisors reporting that your agents are doing things right. What is important is that your customer satisfaction level accurately reflects their performance.
What transforms a contact center geared toward managing ACD-oriented metrics into a contact center with a commitment to delivering high quality and customer driven service? Research indicates that customers expect agents to exhibit active listening, empathy, professionalism, and other basic customer service skills. Each of these attributes is important. Organizations that are effective at understanding and modifying agent performance when necessary will be able to drive customer satisfaction. An essential component of this capability is high levels of consistency across the entire population of coaches, team leads, and QA staff, all of whom provide feedback and coaching to agents.
Most organizations have implemented some type of quality monitoring (QM) program. If you were involved in the selection process, you are aware there is no shortage of available programs. Most QM programs address the need to measure transactional activities, but do not provide the tools to determine the impact QM programs have on customer satisfaction.
QM, once defined primarily in terms of soft skill performance, has expanded to include any number of components such as efficiency and revenue attained. As a result, most of the tools and "solutions" are designed to assist management in monitoring this broadened array of metrics. The goal, of course, is to provide information and data that can be used to improve performance without sacrificing a high level of CSAT.
The theory is sound. Unless your monitoring methodology generates data that links with and corroborates your CSAT data, it fails in its purpose. In practice, however, most monitoring systems do not produce data capable of driving positive results. They lack calibration. As with any measurement tool, unless it is properly calibrated, the data it yields is generally inaccurate, misleading, and, as a result, meaningless. Without a way of assuring consistency in the monitoring process, you end up comparing apples to oranges.
For example, you find that your assessment and audit scores differ significantly depending on who is conducting the audit. Your agents complain that some supervisors are "tougher" than others. Without the implementation of well-defined criteria, every person approaches QM differently. You're accumulating information, but does it speak directly to objectives? Is your quality monitoring telling you one thing, while your CSAT data indicates something different? Does the information you receive equip you to improve performance while driving customer satisfaction?
Why is calibration so important? Because QM is conducted by people, there is inherent variation in the areas of accuracy, reproducibility, and repeatability. The lower the variation, the more meaningful the final scores or data used to measure both the process and the staff becomes.
Unless everyone is on the same page in the monitoring process, the usefulness of the data generated will be severely limited. Consistency between auditors is an indispensable first step toward ensuring monitoring results that effectively drive customer satisfaction. Data collected through transaction monitoring typically has little data integrity because auditors are not calibrated. To deliver an ROI that supports the heavy investment in QM made by most firms, the next generation of QA tools needs to provide more than a check-box activity. The best of these tools will supply management with reliable data that relates directly to CSAT objectives. Using tools and a methodology that allow for a consistent calibration system is the key to driving customer satisfaction levels.
The question becomes not whether or not you are monitoring, but does the information your monitoring system generates track with your CSAT data? As you review and evaluate your calibration methodology, introducing assessments that accurately reflect your CSAT objectives can produce quality assurance scores backed up by customer satisfaction information. As a result you will realize genuine QA credibility that provides the basis for authentic operational improvement and improved, sustainable CSAT.
It is important to seek out solutions that ensure an effective, consistent monitoring process focused on measurement of items directly related to CSAT. Applications should be evaluated based on their ability to measure value-add activity to improve performance. Through calibration process implementation, solutions should provide objectively measured consistency among all staff that score calls, emails, chat, or other agent-provisioned activities. This will equip management with an objective calibration measure, which is the basis for process improvement. By objectively measuring the consistency of auditors, reducing variation among them, and identifying people and process variation, transactional activity data will become more reliable for use in process improvement.
As a result, the process will gain efficiencies from the resources being used. Solutions that are successful in incorporating calibration as an integral component of transactional monitoring will provide contact center QM with the missing link between performance and customer satisfaction. They will empower management to make intelligent, supportable decisions based on data that tracks with and impacts overall CSAT objectives. The result should be a more clearly defined return on their QM investment and a discernible positive impact on overall ROI.
About the Author
Alton Martin is the CEO and cofounder of Customer Operations Performance Center (COPC). His work with leading edge firms like Microsoft, American Express, Dell, EDS, and General Motors, has raised the bar for achieving Contact Center Excellence. Martin's commitment to performance improvement strategies is integral to the COPC operational improvement methodology and the COPC-2000(TM) Standard that dramatically impacts customer touch transactions. Visit COPC.
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