Moving from a small business or “startup” mindset and stepping out into the possibility of rapid growth is a daunting experience for many small business owners. One day you’re successfully peddling your goods and services, adding clientele at a nice clip, and the next day you feel you’re losing control over the quality and consistency you aim to deliver each and every one of your customers. What's the deal?
Quality Assurance (QA) is a must
If you think Quality Assurance is a term reserved for major corporations, think again. Whether large or small, no company can possibly ensure positive customer service without first defining and measuring what it means. Consider the advantages of having a QA system:
- Keep tabs on agent effectiveness. Monitoring your agents is the only way to be sure they're delivering customer service that aligns with your company values and priorities. This includes recording calls and evaluating them periodically according to an objective set of criteria. If your CRM system does not already include call recording capability, one can easily be integrated. Be sure to monitor interactions that occur on all of your channels, not just the phone. You can use this data to conduct performance reviews for individuals or in small-group discussions with a frequency that will ensure positive outcomes.
- Offer incentives and bonuses for excellent customer care. Make sure your agent monitoring practices are used to reward rather than punish by using the results as a basis for bonuses or incentivizing top-notch customer care through a reward system.
- Identify and correct training shortfalls. When you develop your training materials or practices, it’s difficult to anticipate every situation your agents will encounter. Monitoring agent interactions with customers for quality can be a mirror that shines back any training necessities that have been thus far overlooked. This could help you develop a training procedure/module from scratch or improve what you already have.
- Coach and train on an ongoing basis. Use your QA data for individual agents to help them reach their full potential for providing high quality customer service. You can even integrate a coaching and monitoring system, such as Playvox, with your existing CRM system. Keeping an open dialogue with your agents about their strengths and areas for improvement can help to maintain an honest environment of mutual trust and engagement, resulting perhaps in better employee retention.
Whereas some companies struggle with how to begin measuring quality, others who have already implemented a system may wonder if it’s actually benefiting the company and its customers. There are several factors to consider when implementing or improving a QA program.
What are your standards of excellence?
To establish a QA system that is valuable to your company and its employees, you must begin with a clear definition of what your standards of excellence are. What do you ultimately want your customers to get out of their experiences with your company? These goals should take the form of broad statements that align with your company values.
For example: Every customer should feel valued as an individual.
How will you measure success?
Next, decide on the metrics which can best indicate your success toward these goals. Translating these metrics to KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for your service agents will give you a foundation for measuring and improving your customer service.
Create a scorecard using clear, objective, productive language that provides actionable insights for agents to improve. An example of an objective criterion for the aforementioned goal of customers feeling valued as individuals might be whether or not the agent asked for the customer’s name and used it at least once during the call.
Remember: Different channels require (slightly) different metrics.
Chances are, your customer care is being delivered through more than just the telephone. Chat, email, SMS, and social media interactions require slightly different skill sets and finesse than traditional phone-based service.
Language that sounds natural on the phone may sound stilted, or worse, rude, when expressed in text form. While your standards of excellence should remain consistent across all channels, measurement and assessment may vary by channel.
How frequently should you assess for quality?
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding how frequently to assess quality for individual agents, departments, or your overall customer service workforce.
You may wish to bring agents together for a weekly or monthly review session which remains relatively informal, though productive.
You may also wish to conduct quarterly and/or annual reviews of individual agents, especially as it relates to incentives or changes in pay. Regardless of your company size or approach to QA, monitoring with consistency is important for all stakeholders.
The satisfaction of your customers is the ultimate insurance plan for your bottom line. One bad service experience can turn a loyal devotee of your company into a vocal detractor to a captive audience of the social media masses.
When it comes to customer service, burying your head in the sand and hoping for the best is a recipe for mistakes that can shrink your customer base quickly and irrevocably. Don’t let the next customer service horror story told around a water cooler be about your company. Invest your time, energy, and money in assuring the quality of your customer service. Your customers — and your shareholders — will thank you.