A good quality assurance program is a must-have in any modern business. Your customer service is the face of your company, and the slightest failure risks being publicly broadcast on social media.
For B2B companies, 75% say that they depend on word-of-mouth, including social media, to choose their suppliers. This means that with a growingly connected audience, you can’t afford to fall behind on quality.
A quality assurance (QA) program is a promise to your customers that you will maintain certain standards in your products and services. If you don't have one already in place, now is the time to start building it.
When your company is small you might be able to get by on a passion for excellence, but, as you scale, that dedication needs to be imparted to staff members who don't have a personal investment in your vision.
Steps to creating a first class quality assurance program
The very first thing you should do – the ground zero from which to begin – is to ensure that your company leadership is united in support of the quality initiative. To create a culture of quality you need credibility with your staff when you talk about the importance of QA. A quality assurance program based on lip service and empty talk will go nowhere.
- What is the purpose of your quality agenda?
- Is to get an ISO certification? Is it to please your customers?
- Is it to make sure you don’t make any defective products?
Spend some time thinking about your end goals. With your aim in mind, start mapping out your plan.
1. Create standards
Step one in creating a quality assurance program from scratch involves deciding exactly what ‘good’ means. Look at accreditation standards and best practices for your industry and seek to fulfill them. Create clear, specific, measurable objectives that can be monitored and analyzed. What KPIs will you be looking at?
2. Solicit customer feedback
The best way to find out what your customers really want is to ask them. Consider sending out a short survey after every customer interaction requesting suggestions on how you could improve. If you have a customer forum on your website, open a thread for your customers to talk about how you’re doing and what actions they’d like to see you implement.
3. Write up policies and procedures
Once you have a definite idea of where you’re going, figure out how to arrive at your destination. Get everyone involved. Every team member might have something to contribute. Even if they don't, asking for their input is a good way to encourage engagement and ownership of the QA program.
Start with an overview and work your way down to the details. Think in terms of your upcoming QA training programs. Your new procedures need to get you from where you are now to where you want to be.
4. Institute a training program
Now that you've set your ideas down on paper it's time to try them out in the real world. Let everyone know about the standards they need to meet and the criteria by which you will be measuring them. Create tracking reports to monitor results and how well your team sticks to the program. Look at your KPIs for customer service, such as:
- Average resolution time
- First response time
- Average handling time
- Net promoter score
- Customer satisfaction
- Customer retention rate
Keep an eye on internal metrics as well. For instance, measuring employee engagement and cost savings will help give you an idea of how your QA program is affecting the company morale and financial picture.
5. Choose your quality assurance software
Selecting the right software will help you maintain your quality assurance program. It is possible to track your metrics on spreadsheets, but you'll end up spending a lot of unnecessary time and effort maintaining the spreadsheets instead of managing your QA program.
A good QA software program will let you access all your team members' interactions and evaluations from a central dashboard, which also integrates your training, coaching, and motivation programs. It should support scaling as your team's growth and allow you to quickly create graphs of your data, as well as generate reports featuring your choice of metrics. The software should merge seamlessly with your existing customer support and sales software.
It should keep confidential customer information secure. Depending on your industry, you might choose between a cloud-hosted software and use your own server.
6. Monitor calls and customer interactions
Now that you have all the pieces in place, create scorecards to measure your staff's performance. Think about how many interactions you want to monitor: All of them? A certain percentage, chosen randomly? Create criteria for call selection. For instance, calls on the far ends of the bell curve might have more to teach you about how to improve your service than normal, average calls:
- Calls that were very long
- Calls that went very well
- Calls that went very badly
- Calls dealing with complex issues requiring multiple interactions
- Calls from your most valuable customers
In general, it's a good idea to monitor the whole call, not just sections of it. It will give you a better idea of what your agent had to deal with and how to judge their performance.
7. Set up a quality committee
Your QA committee should be made up of staff from all departments. It’s their job to keep an eye on the QA program’s progress. How is everyone responding to the new procedures? Depending on the size of your company, you might want to hire a dedicated quality assurance professional to spearhead the committee.
In any case, it's a good idea to have one person take ultimate responsibility for keeping it on track, just for efficiency's sake. They can coordinate the committee's efforts and produce regular QA reports.
Once you have your quality assurance program up and running you can't rest on your laurels. A good QA program involves constant adjustments as you adapt to changing business demands. It’s a never-ending process that will bring great rewards to your company.
Are you looking to build your first QA program? What challenges have you encountered in your organization?