• Sharon Oatway

Designing a QA Scorecard for Contact Centers

Updated: Jan 21



What is a Quality Assurance Scorecard?


Whether you are embarking on a new contact center quality program or looking to raise-the-bar in your existing program, it all starts with defining your expectations – what is it you expect of your agents? You will know if an agent is performing well by evaluating their interactions against these expectations. It is the foundation upon which high performance is built.


Within the contact center environment, these expectations are captured in a Quality Assurance Scorecard which contains the criteria by which every interaction will be measured – whether it be a call, email, live chat, video chat or back-office interaction. These are often referred to as "Standards" or “Standards of Excellence”. When you look at all these Standards holistically they should reflect the kind of customer experience you want to deliver.


Having the Right Perspective


Before you begin to build your QA Scorecard, it’s important to make sure you have the right perspective. That means understanding your company’s brand and the customers you serve. So, for example, if your brand promises to be “easy to do business with” then the criteria you use to measure each interaction should reflect that. Or if your brand promises to “help customers with the right advice” then the criteria should contain elements related to that.


What is a Behavior-Based QA Standard?


There are two types of performance Standards to consider: behavior and results. As managers, we tend to concern ourselves only with results. However, when we encourage the right behavior -- and that behavior is sustained over a period of time -- results will also follow more consistently. Behavior-based standards are those which focus on a specific thing a person is expected to do or say.



2 Pitfalls to Avoid When Designing Standards


(1) Using your own perceptions as a basis for defining Standards in the QA Scorecard..


Personal judgments, subjective evaluations, and biases can also result in assumptions about what should and should not be a Standard. This often leads to negative outcomes. That’s why it is important to design your Standards around what is reasonably required to deliver the kind of customer experience you want efficiently and consistently. When in doubt, always try to look at things from the customer's point-of-view.


(2) Setting Standards that are outside of the agent's control.


Contact center agents are often the bearers of bad news and can’t always deliver an experience that meets the customer’s expectations. For example, if your goal is to ensure that 100% of customers would recommend your business to others, an agent can control how they respond to a customer’s request (e.g. tone of voice, empathy, questioning, etc.) but they cannot control other areas of the business, policies and procedures, management or external suppliers to ensure that the customer is fully satisfied. It is unfair, therefore, to measure their performance and success based on a Standard that is not totally within their control.


Building Your QA Scorecard


1. Understand the Flow


Every interaction will have a beginning, middle, and end. It helps to map out what a call may involve, and the skills needed at each point along the journey. For example, a Call Center QA Scorecard or Live Chat QA Scorecard may include:

Beginning

· Welcoming greeting

· Asking for and using the customer’s name

· Account verification

· Understanding the reason for the call

Middle

· Getting to the root of the issue through questioning

· Recapping to ensure understanding

· Expressing empathy

· Taking ownership

· Providing accurate information

· Managing dead air or lengthy holds

Ending

· Confirming you have answered all the questions

· Leaving the customer feeling valued

Throughout

· Being courteous

· Adjusting voice to customer’s needs


An Email QA Scorecard should include many of the same Standards, however, they would be stated differently:

Beginning

· Welcoming greeting

· Restating the reason for their inquiry

Middle

· Expressing empathy

· Providing accurate information

Ending

· Answering all the questions contained in the email

· Offering to answer any further questions

· Leaving the customer feeling valued

Throughout

· Being courteous

· Good spelling, grammar, and punctuation


TIP! It makes sense to put your Standards in an order that aligns with a typical interaction flow. As QA Analysts listen to the call and/or read the email/chat you don’t want them having to jump all over the QA Scorecard.

2. Define the Standards


Now that you have identified in general terms what behaviors drive good customer experiences in your organization, it will be important to define what it ‘sounds’ or ‘looks’ like. For example, a Welcoming Greeting may sound like: “Thank you for calling ABC Customer Service. This is Sharon. How may I help you today?”


Now break it down. What are the characteristics of this Standard? What makes this a ‘welcoming’ greeting welcoming? For example, for a greeting to be welcoming, at a minimum it would have to:

  • Happen promptly (no dead air before answered)

  • Be energetic and upbeat

  • Be clear and easy for the customer to understand

  • Include the department name (if not already provided on an IVR) along with the agent’s name

  • Include an offer to help

TIP! If you have trouble defining a Standard, it may help to think about what an inhospitable greeting would sound like or what an agent's behavior would be if they were unprofessional..


Once you have a detailed description of all your Standards, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Collectively, do the Standards contained in the QA Scorecard reflect the kind of experience you want to achieve?

  • Do the Standards reflect your company’s brand?

  • Are the Standards behavior-based?

If all this seems a little overwhelming or you value an experienced, third party perspective, get in touch. VereQuest can help you design a QA Scorecard that will drive improved performance.

3. Prioritize the Standards


Not all Standards are equal when it comes to delivering the best customer experience. Some Standards simply matter more than others. With that in mind, it is important to weight each Standard as having higher or lower importance to delivering great customer experiences. The higher the rating, the more critical the requirement for coaching.


Depending on the QA system you use, you can assign points or %. In the example below, the Standards have been weighted based on their relative importance to the outcome of the interaction. Remember, everything is important, but some things are more important than others.

As you go through this exercise, think about how an absence of these Standards would impact the overall customer experience.
  • Welcoming Greeting = 5

  • Obtain/Use the Customer’s Name = 2

  • Verify Account Information = 8

  • Ask Curious Questions = 10

  • Express Empathy = 15

  • Take Ownership = 15

  • Manage Dead Air/Holds = 5

  • Demonstrate Courtesy/Professionalism = 10

  • Provide Accurate Information/Advice = 20

  • Personalize Closing = 10

  • TOTAL POSSIBLE SCORE = 100

A couple of important things to note:

  • Some of your Standards may be mandatory, compliance-related behaviors that must be present in each interaction. They are critically important and so see Auto-Fail below.

  • If there are Standards that your agents perform consistently well on (e.g. a Welcoming Greeting) then, although you know that a great opening helps to build a positive interaction from the get-go, you may want to weight this Standard lower in favor of another equally important Standard that you want to reinforce and work on.

The most effective way to achieve positive outcomes quickly is to ensure that agents know which behavior(s) contribute most significantly and which have a lesser impact. Weighting the Standards help to do that.


4. Test Your QA Scorecard


Now that you have defined your Standards and weighted them, it’s time to test out the scoring. Listen to a variety of strong/poor calls and evaluate them against the criteria. If the agent does not demonstrate the behaviors as you’ve described them, deduct the points/weighting from the total possible.

As you go through this exercise you will want to tweak your weighting and add more detail to your definition of each Standard.


At this point, you may want to involve others in the design of your QA Scorecard to provide their perspective and feedback -- like training, frontline coaches and agents.

Managing the Exceptions


What is Auto-Fail?


There will be times when a Standard is so important that a failure to demonstrate it has increased consequences. Compliance-related Standards often fall into this category or unprofessional behavior. Check to make sure your QA system accommodates this. The way the VQ Online™ QA system handles it is that an AUTO-FAIL comes into place. When an Auto-Fail is used, this evaluation would be assigned a zero and would dramatically affect the agent’s overall average.


When is a Standard Not Applicable?


There will be times when a Standard simply does not apply to an interaction. For example, if the customer is irate and has just spent the last 5 minutes with an agent trying to resolve a problem, it would not be appropriate to cross-sell a new service. Or, in the above example, if the caller was transferred in and had already been authenticated, then authentication may be N/A.


Choosing the Right QA System for your Needs


It’s not impossible to do QA on a spreadsheet – but it is challenging! First and foremost, it is difficult to get a sense of how an agent or team is performing beyond a single interaction. For coaching to be effective, it is important to watch the trends.

There are a number of simple QA systems available (VereQuest has VQ Online™) that can help take care of some of the arduous QA reporting needs.

There are a host of other benefits of a specialized contact center QA system. For a no-obligation demonstration of VQ Online™ , get in touch!

If you have more than 25 agents, the task of simply keeping track of which agent needs to be evaluated, when, and how many, can be an administrative nightmare. Agents who are on vacation, out of the office, or are on a specialized queue can wreak havoc with your scheduling. Check out VQ Online™ Quota Management System for a solution to this scheduling challenge.


What are the barriers to QA success?


Although we hope that all agents are performing up to our expectations, we often find that agents do not meet the Standards because:

  • the Standards are known and understood by management, but not communicated to the agents

  • the Standards are not understood by either the coach or the agent even though they exist

  • the Standards are understood intellectually but the agent is having difficulty putting them into practice in a live environment

  • there are conflicting or opposing Standards (e.g. as agents try to meet one Standard, they discover that there is another Standard that will compete or even prevent this first one from being met)

  • the agent(s) does not possess all the necessary or required skills

  • the agent(s) does not possess the necessary tools or work conditions to perform to the Standard

  • the agent(s) does not want to make the necessary effort

It is your job to remove these barriers for your agents.


TIP! Once you have defined your Standards be sure to align the specific skills required with the training provided. It will be unproductive and unfair to evaluate an agent against expectations that they have yet to be trained on. Need help closing your training gaps? Check out VereQuest's Check-Up eLearning for Contact Centers.

When to communicate the Standards in the QA Scorecard?


All the details contained in your QA Scorecard -- including the detailed definitions and best practices -- should be front and center at all times. However, you should always share and explain the QA Scorecard when:

  • hiring new staff

  • an agent first begins the job

  • there are significant job changes

  • there are significant changes in the Standards

  • beginning a new appraisal period

  • during a performance improvement discussion

  • during times of growth in which job responsibilities are increasing

People need goals to direct them towards specific outcomes. When people reach those outcomes, they have achieved success. In order to improve the likelihood of people reaching their goals, goals must be continually visible. People must also know that the goals can be defined and that they can be measured. When goals can be measured, there can be universal agreement (and celebration) when they are achieved.


Question: How do we get agents to take responsibility for their own performance improvement and personal development?


Answer: Agents need to understand what is expected of them. When they understand the standards against which they are evaluated, they will be empowered to work more efficiently and productively.


When to Consider Outsourcing Your QA?

Most organizations start to think about outsourcing their QA when they want to redeploy QA Analysts' expertise into other parts of the organization like management, coaching or training. Depending on your organization, the list of added-value benefits for Outsourced QA is exhaustive, however, these are the top 10 benefits companies who outsource their contact center QA realize: the

  1. Access to Quality Assurance expertise and best practices

  2. Independent third party point-of-view and perspective that is closer to that of customers

  3. Greater cost efficiencies (based on type of contract)

  4. Access to specialized contact center QA systems that provide online, real-time results and consolidation of contact center QA efforts across all channels

  5. Greater customer insight to spot opportunities for improved customer experience, operational efficiencies, self-serve, etc.

  6. (VereQuest) Real-time insight into the customer's experience … most valuable when you can’t survey customers directly

  7. Improved agent performance (Sales, Churn, NPS, etc.)

  8. Quality Assurance continuity during periods of high volume and/or contact center disruption

  9. Less management time required

  10. Better utilization of valuable internal resources

For more information about outsourcing your Contact Center QA, get in touch with us at VereQuest and check out other QA-related resources.


Sharon Oatway is President & Chief Experience Officer of VereQuest. Sharon is a Customer Service, Sales, and Marketing professional with more than three decades of hands-on experience elevating the overall customer experience along with multi-channel contact center performance. Sharon and her team at VereQuest have listened to/read and analyzed several million customer interactions for some of North America’s leading brands. As a result, Sharon is a recognized thought-leader in what it takes to build and sustain great customer experiences.


Established in 2002, VereQuest provides organizations with a wide range of customer experience services including a robust contact center quality monitoring offering. Working with businesses throughout North America, VereQuest provides a unique perspective on a complex, ever-changing customer environment.


Get in touch at info@verequest.com.