Quality monitoring and performance coaching are often misconstrued as synonyms. It’s an easy mistake to make, after all, both require listening to customer-facing calls and evaluating a rep’s skills and behaviors.
But there’s more to it than that. Quality assurance (QA) tends to focus on the micro-level details: How did the agent answer a specific question? Did they greet the customer by name and ask for a callback number? It’s typically a rigid scorecard, with answers being black-or-white, yes or no, 1,2, or 3. Performance coaching, on the other hand, focuses more on the macro-level: Does the agent demonstrate the appropriate skills and behaviors across all of their calls? Have they mastered our sales pitch? Are they developing their skillset over time?
While it can be argued that contact centers can get by with a quality assurance program, it really should work in tandem with a well-developed coaching initiative in the overall performance management strategy. By leveraging both, contact centers see higher customer satisfaction, agent engagement, and revenue.
Before we dive into how you should implement QA and performance coaching together, let’s cover the basics:
- What is Quality Assurance?
- Quality Assurance Scorecards
- Example Questions for QA Scorecards
- What is Performance Coaching?
- Coaching Scorecards
- Example Questions for Coaching Scorecards
- How Performance Coaching Complements QA
- Integrating Quality Assurance & Performance Coaching
What is Quality Assurance in a Contact Center?
Quality management is a function dedicated to evaluating customer interactions with contact center representatives to ensure they meet performance standards. Team leads or QA specialists will look at metrics such as average handling time (AHT), customer satisfaction scores, and hold times in addition to individual interactions.
When QA is reviewing conversations, reps are assessed on numerous parameters which range from the very objective—did the agent read the financial disclosure?—to the more subjective—was the agent friendly, courteous, and professional?
Quality monitoring can happen side-by-side with the agent, remotely during the conversation, or remotely using logs and call recordings.
Quality Assurance Scorecards
The gold standard for assessing customer interactions is by using a quality assurance scorecard. QA forms are standardized to evaluate if representatives follow your center’s protocols while offering the most appropriate solution for the customer’s needs. Grading may use a variety of scales and schemes such as yes/no, Likert scales, points, and pass/fail. Most scorecards contain areas for additional details, observations, and recommendations, but it’s not always mandated that those areas are filled out.
In some cases, quality assurance scorecards will be mapped to specific proficiencies reps need to exhibit to be promoted to the next level or call type. These areas may include language accuracy, reasoning skills, product knowledge, and customer rapport.
Example Questions for QA Scorecards
Scorecard questions need to be clearly phrased, so it’s easy to understand what skill or behavior is being evaluated. Each item should correlate to a quantifiable action during the customer interaction. Examples include:
- Was the rep positive and enthusiastic?
- Did they demonstrate active listening?
- Was additional assistance offered to the customer after the issue was resolved?
- Did the rep attempt to upsell additional services?
- Was the rep empathetic to the customer?
QA scorecards can involve as many items as necessary, but shorter is often better. When there are too many criteria being evaluated, it can be difficult for the rep to understand which skills or behaviors to focus on modifying. For many organizations, this can be mitigated by providing performance coaching for their call center representatives.
What is Performance Coaching?
In the contact center, performance coaching looks at a representative’s overall execution of skills and behaviors over some time alongside their performance against key metrics. These coaching sessions leverage evaluations from the quality management team alongside the manager’s recommendations for performance improvement.
Coaching should always involve two-way communication between the rep and their manager. Feedback should be specific and actionable so that reps can apply it during future interactions.
In some centers, performance coaching is used for disciplinary action rather than a pathway to continuous improvement. Team leads and managers must separate write-ups or punishment from coaching sessions. To further thwart a poor reputation of coaching, each session should provide the rep with some form of praise in the feedback. Meetings should always conclude with clearly set goals and an action plan to attain them.
Coaching scorecards are structured similarly to QA scorecards. Where things begin to diverge is what is rated and how it’s rated. For instance, a coaching scorecard may look closer at a rep’s ability to BANT qualify a lead. The rating scale might look like “novice, intermediate, mastery” and outline precisely what those terms would look like during a prospect conversation.
Example Questions for Coaching Scorecards
Coaching scorecards will be more subjective than those from QA, but the questions should be worded in a manner that removes personal bias. One of the hardest things to learn as a sales coach is eliminating “Well, I would have done it this way” from your vocabulary. Here are some examples of good coaching questions:
- How well did the rep handle the objection?
- Did the rep leverage pre-call research or customer data?
- How did the rep create relevance for the prospect?
- Did they use a relevant customer story?
Because they’re more subjective and often, in-depth than QA scorecards, coaching rubrics should be just 5-7 questions long. It makes feedback more digestible and removes the overwhelm of too many areas to focus on at once.
The beauty of quality monitoring is that a blended approach of QA and performance coaching provides the best return on investment.
How Performance Coaching Complements Quality Management
Coaching and QA programs share an ultimate goal: driving excellence in the customer experience. The key difference is that quality assurance tends to be the “Man in the High Castle” who hands down scorecards with little to no explanation of their grading. Reps have a handful of their calls assessed at random each month, and the resulting scores can drastically impact everything from scheduling to their paycheck.
By incorporating targeted coaching into your quality management program, contact center representatives gain a better understanding of what they can improve and different approaches for doing so. In some centers, QA can deliver the coaching, which will build a better working relationship between the teams.
Another benefit of using QA and performance coaching in tandem is removing some of the pain around discussing less-than-excellent performance. When the conversation empowers and equips reps to make a positive change, it is much more likely to make a real impact. QA offers useful information, but it doesn’t necessarily provide the human connection and mutual support needed for producing sustainable behavior change. Performance coaching, on the other hand, closes this gap, helping employees take the feedback from QA and use it as leverage to become better at their jobs.
Discover ExecVision’s Scorecards and learn how your team can leverage multiple scorecards for any call »
So, since QA and Performance Coaching work in tandem, how do you seamlessly incorporate both into your workplace?
Start With Training & Calibrating
By integrating the QA and coaching process into training, reps will know what to expect when it comes to evaluating their performance from day one. If you’re rolling out a new QA program or coaching initiative, train up those who will be providing feedback. Coaching skills are not innate—people often need a hand in learning how to deliver useful feedback that drives improvement.
Scorecards are a convenient way of communicating performance expectations. They also lay a framework for future coaching conversations and remind reps that learning, growing, and improving performance is the expectation at your company. This needs to be presented in a mutually beneficial way. QA and performance coaching help individuals develop and grow, and that is just as important as improving the bottom line. Your company is rooting for them to succeed, which is why performance management exists in the first place.
It’s also critical to continuously calibrate both coaches and reps on quality standards. Deviating from the official definition of ‘good’ can quickly happen. It’s important to regularly calibrate coaches and other team members to help them stay true best practices. Continuous calibration also eliminates the guesswork on the difference between a 2 and a 3, for example, and reinforces the right skills and behaviors that factor into success.
Develop a Coaching Culture
One of the best ways to ensure that performance coaching is embraced by employees is to build coaching into the culture of your workplace. This can be done by integrating performance coaching expectations into everything from the hiring process to training to ongoing professional development and promotions.
Make coaching a part of the norm by including it in communications and tying sessions to an individual’s goals. This is especially helpful for reps who want to become supervisors or move into other roles such as QA.
Reps need to understand that coaching is about more than the business for it to turn into a cultural pillar. Coaching is about helping them succeed, developing future leaders, and growing skills they need for career-long success.
Frame Quality Assurance and Performance Coaching as a Win-Win
Quality monitoring and performance management are a win for everyone. These functions improve the customer experience, solve problems, and turn frustrated clients into advocates for your company or product. QA and coaching are a win for your reps. As the quality of their service improves, they’ll resolve issues more quickly, close more sales, and enjoy their work more. There’s also the opportunity for career progression and growth as they build on their skillset. Coaching and QA are also a win for your company. Top-notch contact centers give their companies a distinct advantage over competitors, which is essential when all it takes is one bad interaction to turn a customer off of your brand. When you combine a fantastic product with excellent customer service, your company will see improvements in its bottom line.
Recognize and Celebrate Improved Performance
In addition to recognizing employee improvement during coaching sessions, publicly acknowledge and celebrate improved performance. This can be as simple as public recognition in front of a rep’s peers, bonuses, or other incentives. The point is to make recognition of improvement as much a part of your culture as coaching itself.
By integrating Quality Assurance and Performance Coaching into your management practices from the hiring process to the first day on the job and beyond, you’ll build a culture of coaching in your contact center, your team’s performance will improve, and profits will follow.