This article was contributed by the wonderful Jeremy Watkin.
Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR. He has more than 18 years of experience as a customer service, customer experience, and contact center professional. He’s also the co-founder and regular contributor on Customer Service Life. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.
Creating a quality form for your customer service team can be a scary task. Questions abound. How many items should it hold? What questions matter most? Which ones don’t? What type of scoring method should we use? The list goes on and on, and these are all great questions. But before we address them, let’s back up a bit and first discuss the “why” of quality assurance and talk about why this shouldn’t be a scary task at all.
Understanding your brand
At FCR, one of my favorite activities is discussing quality and customer experience with new clients that come on board. It would be easy to jump into that meeting and start coming up with questions for a quality form and assigning point values and such, but I prefer to start with a couple questions to get to know them better.
What do you call your customers? While some companies just refer to them as customers, others go with members, users, patients, guests, pet parents, etc. There’s no right answer here, but intentionality around these names can make a difference in how customers are perceived. And consistency in the way we address our customers matters.
What’s your customer service philosophy or mission? This prompt is intended to get to the heart of what’s most important about each customer interaction. I want to learn about the company culture and how they treat their customers. I often hear things like, “If something goes wrong, we go above and beyond to make it right for the customer” or “We aim for quality over quantity when we interact with our customers, taking the time to get it right the first time.” I’ve heard a full spectrum of responses here and it’s heavily dependent on the product or service and type of work we’re doing.
What does a high quality interaction look like for your brand? This is similar to the previous point, but slightly different, and every company will have a different answer. Some will say that they want agents to speak with customers as if they’re already friends – this kind of casual rapport is what it takes for an interaction to be high quality in their eyes. Others still will say that a quality interaction is when an agent digs deeper to find the question behind the question. There will be lots of overlap in what companies care about, but the order in which brands prioritize these things varies widely.
Only when we have answers to these questions can we begin thinking about our quality forms and the essential elements to great customer interaction. For those of you from a traditional contact center background, you’ve likely seen quality forms with twenty to thirty items. After you’ve established what you value most, you’ll find that many of those items are irrelevant. Every item on your quality form should in some way help you achieve your mission. If it doesn’t, get rid of it.
A basic framework for a quality assurance form
If you took the time to strip your customer interactions down to the bare essentials, what would be left? When I ask this question, I’m talking about those items that, if we don’t get them right, the result is negative consequences for our customers and our business. When we strip it all away, here’s what’s left:
Accuracy - Customers must receive accurate information. That’s why they contact support. If they don’t, they may call back or they may just cancel their service. Calling back means an unnecessary spike in call volume. Not calling back means we lose customers and revenue. Wrong or incomplete answers render customer service efforts entirely pointless. Accuracy also includes adhering to important policies and procedures. Think of procedures like taking good account notes so a customer doesn’t have to rehash their issue if they call back.
Security - At a minimum, security means properly authenticating customers before disclosing or changing information on their account. Depending on the industry, you’ll often hear acronyms like PII, PCI, and HIPAA, and failure to comply with these regulations, breeches security and trust with customers and results in significant legal problems for the company.
Connection - I’m talking about the essential people skills required to make a connection with the customer that shows them we understand what’s going on, that we’re taking ownership of their issues, and that we have the ability to effectively communicate a message to them.
So are you saying my quality form only needs three items on it?
Maybe. I’ve definitely seen it done that way. My rule of thumb for what else to add to a quality form is:
Add to the quality form anything that you want to track so you can coach, train, and monitor improvement over time.
If you aren’t tracking it, you won’t be able to recognize trends and manage to them. At best, you’ll coach agents on a bunch of one-off issues but never see the greater impact of that coaching.
Should my quality forms vary by support channel?
While I’d argue that the three basic ingredients above apply to ALL customer interactions, the level of complexity will vary for email, chat, phone, social media, text (SMS), etc. For example, greeting a customer might look like “Hi Customer!” over email while over the phone it might encompass the first minute or two of the interaction.
You may find that the criteria for different support channels looks very similar. It’s a good practice to take the time to create a definitions guide that spells out what each item on the form looks like for each support channel. At the end of the day, you might also find that certain things just don’t apply to certain channels or can be consolidated, and that’s OK too.
The right tool matters
As you’re building out a quality program you can definitely use spreadsheets but you risk a couple things. First, you might get what you pay for — which isn’t a whole lot. Second, you quickly realize the need for highly technical staff, well-versed in complex Excel formulas. This can be hard to sustain — and frankly after surveying the quality software scene, you’ll quickly realize there are tools out there at a reasonable price that do all of this for you.
Here are some of the benefits of a great quality tool:
Effortlessly create forms and calibrations. A quality tool removes the requirement for technical knowledge and creates a centralized place for regularly monitoring the performance of your team. Once the form is created and in use, it’s important to regularly calibrate as a team to make sure everyone is grading the same way. The tool facilitates that entire process with ease.
Track agent progress and target coaching and training. With a great quality tool you can expect reporting that will show performance from the team level down to the agent level. My personal favorite report is a breakdown of how we’re performing on each item of the quality form so we can identify the areas agents struggle with most.
Tie quality to other KPIs. What metrics matter most in your organization? We consistently find that customer satisfaction is really important — so much so that we’ve begun asking teams to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and rate whether or not they’d be satisfied with the support that was provided. If you haven’t done it, compare your quality scores to your customer satisfaction scores. If quality is high and customer satisfaction is low, it might be time to reevaluate your quality process.
Stay on top of the tickets that need to be graded. A big challenge for support teams, especially as your operation scales, is to remember who needs to be monitored, when, and how many. A quality tool ideally integrates with your existing support tools, randomly selecting tickets to grade to ensure that you consistently monitor a representative sample of your total interactions.
I know this may sound like a lot but my hope is that this makes the process of setting up your quality program a bit less daunting. Start with what’s most important on every customer interaction and then build a set of quality criteria that helps you achieve your mission. Once you’ve established that, get yourself a quality tool, like MaestroQA, that can house the entire process. Not scary at all, is it?