Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Simple, Effective and Affordable - what a QA system should be

This article is reprinted from Call Center World, and was written by Dan McGrail of Coordinated Systems, Inc.

Is it Simple, Effective and Affordable?

In deciding that a higher level of quality assurance (QA) would benefit an organization, the rule of thumb for the buying process should be simple, effective and affordable, and this rule should be used as the template throughout that process. The main purpose of quality assurance is to make sure agents are interacting properly with clients and in the manner of company expectations. The best way to do this is to monitor and record the interaction between the two. This interaction usually includes audio from the phones and screens from the workstation, which, when combined, is called an event. Getting this event into a QA system normally only requires a computer connection to the phone system and computer network. There is really no rocket science taking place here. After an event has been successfully recorded there are tasks to be performed, but there are also things that can complicate the process.

Listening to and scoring the event is what makes a QA system worth the investment. The knowledge gained as this information is collected, scored and reported on is what makes QA effective. Systems should be seamless to what they are replacing and enhance current capabilities with more efficiency. Again, this should be a simple process which allows easy access to events and user defined scoring worksheets combined with straightforward reporting on results. Complications usually arise when trying to figure out every minuscule wish beyond this process for the system to do. Mix that with offerings that are touted as the next great hyped buzz word of what some seller thinks is important, we find leads to overkill. Remember, the system has to be up and running to be effective. Overkill can slow down the implementation process. Overkill can make things frustrating and cumbersome. Overkill causes user frustration to set in as the hope of nirvana fades and the work loads increase. The last thing needed is overkill. The lesson learned is to stay the course on identified needs to get the job done and don’t get caught up in hype by keeping it simple.

Once a system is installed training is needed to familiarize users on how it works. This should be a simple interaction with the vendor that is accomplished in a very short amount of time. We figure less than a day. After this less than a day training, users should be listening to and scoring events. That is it! Within three days users should be proficient and productive and getting desired results. Reporting on those events will begin to show trends. One trend will be the ability to drill down into the strengths and weaknesses of the performance of agents. This is where monitoring and scoring is effective. Harvested events will reveal the information needed by the user for delivering content to the agent to insure positive interaction with customers. What will be revealed are strengths and weakness in product knowledge, as well as, presentation skills such as personality and emotional traits. Armed with this information training can be custom to each individual’s needs. Simply put, audio tells us product knowledge, presentation skills and emotional intelligence. Screens tell us product knowledge and internal system usage abilities. Scoring brings it all together for delivery to the agent for review. This is Simple and Effective.

After purchasing the system, and prior to user involvement, the system needs to be installed. This requires a connection to the phone system which involves the Telecom department, and a connection to the computer network which involves the IT department. Again, this should not be complicated work. The system should be developed with an open architecture using industry standard protocols. This task should be done within a few hours after the arrival of the equipment in house with input from a few personnel assigned to the project. Complete installation of the entire QA system should be finished in two days. This completed installation includes all connections to the telephone and company network, users trained in how it works, and successfully harvesting and scoring of events. The initial purchase cost of this system should be affordable, and yearly maintenance costs should be reasonable. The cost to run the system should be transparent in the human ability to interface with it and its effective delivery of desired results.


Experience has shown that most times the goal is not just about improvement of quality, but to free up time for the people that are responsible to monitor agents to get the intended results. What better way to do that then to put a system to work that will take care of the tedious, redundant and unrewarding tasks? A well designed call center QA system will accomplish this easily and meet the quality goals as well. Whether you want to random sample your agents through a predefined schedule or record every phone call. Digital technology is there today that can fulfill your QA requirements that are simple to implement, effective in delivering results, and affordable to purchase and maintain.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Easing employee fears about call recording and monitoring:

The other day we went to interview the call center manager for a major metropolitan newspaper. She turned out to be a champion for her vendor, Coordinated Systems, Inc., of East Hartford, CT, whose product, Virtual Observer 3.0, was used in their 50 person call center.

She raved about the ease of implementation of the call center recording solution, lack of technical support issues, and professionalism throughout the organization from initial sales inquiry to proposal to installation and several upgrades.

The thing that struck me the most was the internal campaign she put together to ease employees' fears about being monitored, the whole "big brother" paranoia. She threw a party that introduced Virtual Observer and demonstrated how it was going to help her team achieve world class call center status. It was a rousing success, and statistics have demonstrated great improvement.

During the event, she showed the employees that they weren't installing the agent monitoring software to catch them "playing solitaire", but instead to identify performance issues they might not even know they had.

Becoming a world class call center agent:

Capturing the baseline metrics prior to implementation is one of the most important steps in being able to gauge the effect that a software implementation has on performance. Each install may have custom requirements and statistics that need to be identified and used in the ongoing evaluations in order to create an atmosphere of continuous improvement.

Taking this a step further, sharing the metrics with the agents and allowing them to view their stats gives them a sense of accountability and reward that comes with improvement. An E-learning module will send statistics and evaluation notes directly to the agent's desktop, giving them invaluable tips, corrections and notes they can then use to become a world class call center agent.

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