Quality Management should not be seen as a tick box exercise, but rather as a CX value driver
By definition, Quality Management (QM) ensures that an organisation’s product or service is consistently managed against a standard that assures the organisation of meeting customer expectations. In the contact centre industry, many organisations today are treating QM like a tick box exercise, due to the fact that they are not focusing in on all the components of QM – namely Quality Control (QC) and Quality Assurance (QA) – and how these are intended to work together to provide valuable insights that inform the organisation’s process compliance, improvements, strategies and customer experience; beyond ensuring quality is maintained.
What is Quality Control?
QC can be defined as a process to check that quality of a product or service is maintained by conducting testing and removing any ‘defects’ from the process. In the contact centre environment this would mean an assessment of a sample of interactions with customers to ensure the agents are interacting in the expected manner against a pre-defined set of standards, such as conducting security checks, use of the customer’s name, and using specific key words related to the product or service they are talking about.
For example, in the financial services industry, where there are various types of training that contact centre agents can undergo, an agent who has not undergone the necessary FAIS regulatory examinations might be trained support a customer with information on a product, but may not offer any financial advice. Should a ‘defect’ be picked up in the way the agent handled the call, the agent is provided with feedback, might receive further training and coaching, or might even be disciplined – depending on the severity of the error. As technology advances, many organisations are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) solutions as part of their QC approach, using speech analytics to highlight certain words, phrases and sentiments that are used by either the agent or the customer during the call, allowing for a larger sample.
Essentially, the aim of QC is to identify the number of errors, report the error rate and provide feedback to the person who made the error. This is often referred to as ‘tick box quality control’ because it seeks to provide simple feedback on activities conducted by contact centre agents and turn the results into an agent score. This score is reactive as it is essentially looking back on interactions that have already taken place. While this might work well in a manufacturing environment, for example, the contact centre and customer interactions require consideration of several other attributes in order to provide real value to the organisation in question.
What is Quality Assurance?
QA focuses on providing assurance feedback that the required customer experience standards will be achieved. It is therefore a continuous process aimed at identifying performance variations and changes in customer expectations, using this identified data to provide valuable insights to the organisation.
Essentially, QA is aimed at ensuring the same standard of service is being applied to all customer interactions. For example, in the insurance industry, when a sale is made through the contact centre, the organisation must verify that each sale has been made correctly. Rather than just ticking off a list of words that needed to be used during the call, QA provides a deep dive into ensuring that customer experience (CX) standards were met during the call, all processes were working effectively and the organisation’s technology was properly leveraged to ensure the sale was an easy experience for the customer – and can also provide insights that might make future sales even easier in future, as customer expectations continue to shift.
Achieving business value through QM
It is our belief that effective QM is a combination of QC and QA. The Cortex offering provided by Merchants is focused on ensuring we provide QM services that are aligned to your customer expectations, using valid sampling methodology and setting our criteria and standards to provide assurance that the service delivery is free of defects and assures you that you are meeting your customer’s needs and expectations.
As a final example, during our work with an insurance client we found that the client had trained all agents to complete an end-of-call support service that added additional time to handle the interaction. Through our investigations, we found that the service added no additional value to the client or the customer, and therefore advised the client to do away with the process. By eliminating this seemingly small detail from each call, the client was able to reduce average handling time and improve overall CX. Within the framework of an ordinary QC assessment, the results would’ve given a false sense of success based on agent compliance rather than customer satisfaction.
Too many organisations today are highly reliant on listening to a sample of their calls and scoring these across quality control criteria, which only achieves an overall score per agent, which can be used as part of a performance measurement tool; rather than using both components of QM, including the QA component which can also provide important insights, to be used to inform business models and processes, support training and recruitment of staff.QM is a value driver and needs to be seen and prioritised as such by organisations operating within the modern business environment.