The essential guide to customer service quality assurance

Why customer service quality assurance matters 

Customer service teams are under mounting pressure as customer expectations continue to rise and economic headwinds make for a more cautious consumer. In this hyper-competitive environment, consumers want their problems resolved quickly and efficiently, with minimal effort.

But, too often, customers experience poor quality service.

In the so-called “Switching Economy,” this poor customer service has two critical consequences for companies:

First, it leads to high customer churn, which is up to 25 times more expensive than the cost of retaining a customer.

Second, businesses miss out on opportunities to improve their reputation and, as a result, their sales. Customer support agents are, increasingly, customers’ first and only point of contact. As such, customer service has become a critical commercial lever for companies.

Quality assurance (QA) is the process of taking a sample of interactions (conversations) and reviewing them to check the overall quality of the service delivered. You can check for many different things, but the ultimate goal of quality assurance is to improve people, processes, and the customer experience.

How does customer service QA benefit my company?

By implementing quality assurance at your company, you ensure that your team is providing consistent and excellent customer care, while running efficiently.

In fact, it’s an integral part of building and running a modern customer support organization. But why?

1. Dissatisfied customers are expensive: In fact, businesses lose more than

$75 billion a year thanks to poor customer service.

2. Every message counts: Customer support is no longer just about solving customer issues. The support that is given to customers prior to purchase is equally as important as solving a post-purchase problem. 

3. The voice of the business: In the majority of digital-first businesses, customer support is the only place where customers can interact with your brand in a more personal way. Two customers that ask the same question shouldn’t get two different answers – your brand must have the same, unwavering, voice whenever a customer contacts you.

4. Treat your people well: Many agents are thirsty for feedback and want to know how to improve. This is especially true for team members who are earlier on in their careers – they’re keen to know how they are performing so that they can grow.

So, by enabling QA in your service organization, you can: 

1. Reduce customer churn: by improving the effectiveness of each interaction, you make customers happier – and happy customers stay. Remember, it’s 5-25x more expensive to sign a new customer than to keep an existing one!

2. Improve customer acquisition: the modern customer holds word of mouth in high regard. 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising.

3. Unify the voice of your brand: When you unify your communications, you strengthen your brand. Your customers will also appreciate that, no matter how or when they contact you, they get consistent answers.

4. Improve agent satisfaction: Happier teams mean more engagement at work, and reduced turnover in a line of business where this is commonplace.

How does customer service QA benefit my customer service department?

Before we jump in, let’s take a quick look at the PDCA framework:

Plan, Do, Act, Check customer service quality assurance framework.

Plan 

Prepare for a new product launch or an expected peak in seasonality by implementing a new process, creating new documentation, etc.

Do

Deal with the added contact volume with what you’ve put in place.

Check 

How did you perform? What worked / didn’t work? Where could you have improved?

Act

Use that information to update processes and documentation and give better feedback to your agents.

Quality assurance, by its very nature, is the “Check” part of the process – that’s obvious! However, when done properly, QA fuels the “Act” part of the process, too.

The goal should not just be to check conversations, but to use QA as an opportunity to learn something and to gain a concrete insight into an aspect of your customer service operations. Here are the two most common ways in which QA is used to improve a support team:

1. Help your people grow (introducing the famous Feedback Loop)

You are most likely familiar with this already, but let’s do a quick refresher: 

A Feedback Loop ensures agents get regular feedback about their work. Half of it is checking to see if your agents are doing a good job; the other half is helping them to become even better by showing them where they can improve. This involves reviewing conversations, leaving comments, checking QA score data, and hosting 1:1s.

It’s important for:

Employee satisfaction: By giving your team valuable, skill-building feedback they will feel more seen and more satisfied with their role.

Employee engagement: A QA process gives agents the opportunity to speak about their work in the form of 1:1s. Giving them constructive feedback and opportunities to be more involved in the process (for example, using peer-to-peer reviews), gives them the chance to grow.

Employee retention: When agents are more satisfied and more engaged with their work, then they are less likely to leave. This has huge benefits for company culture as well as the balance sheet (saving budget on hiring, training, and transferring knowledge).

Whilst building a Feedback Loop is the most common use of a QA solution, the most efficient teams use it to put in place a Comprehension Loop. More on this in the next section!

2. Understanding and improving (the Comprehension Loop)

Quality assurance can also be used to reveal insights that won’t be immediately apparent when looking at your metrics. Imagine, you identify a problem when checking your KPls, but you can’t quite see where the issue is stemming from.

💡Example: Your Average Handling Time increases, all of a sudden, above its normal range, and the reason is neither clear nor obvious. You will need to do somedigging—QA tells you why something is happening so you can fix it.

The Comprehension Loop is about conducting reviews to understand the effectiveness of your support team in any area you desire. Conducting targeted reviews will give you a unique insight into processes, documentation, training, and more.

For example, it’s great for establishing internal and customer-facing best practices. You may have the documentation to support your agents in their work, but how do you make sure that it’s being used or if it’s helping? How do you know that your training is working? How do you know if you have all the necessary processes and tools in place to address customer requests following a new product launch?

Feedback & Comprehension Loops

QA helps you to:

  • Improve individual performance: Provide helpful feedback that improves the work of your agents and helps them to grow professionally.
  • Improve team & organization performance: Find wider issues by looking at your data holistically.
  • Monitor operations and catch problems: Run checks on existing processes to catch a problem at its source before it does any damage.
  • Understand and improve: Solve and identify specific problems by identifying the “why” when the data presents no immediate solution to the problem.

It’s important to know when to put these two loops into action, and whether they are continuous or one-offs. This table breaks it down:

Customer service quality assurance feedback loop & comprehension loop differences.

Feedback Loop

Individual performance

This is the part of QA that you are probably most familiar with. Essentially, doing spot checks of your support agents and their conversations with customers to assess a number of different things. This could be to see if they are using the right tone, correct grammar – or whether they are doing everything they can to give an effective answer to a customer’s query, the first time round.

It’s not about assigning blame!

QA shouldn’t be viewed by agents as a way of pointing out their flaws – managers should avoid this thinking, too. QA is simply a way of ensuring that the universal quality of interactions with customers is high, and it is done randomly – so it’s inherently unbiased.

An efficient process should bring people together, unify them, and make the team stronger. It will point out common flaws, show you where knowledge gaps appear, and where documentation is lacking. When reviews are being discussed with agents, it should be from the perspective of coaching them and trying to develop their skills, not micro-managing them.

Improving feedback and coaching by deep diving into comments left by reviewers

We believe that this part of QA is more about the feedback and coaching that you give agents than the grading of the conversations themselves.

It’s really important that you take the opportunity to tell agents how they can improve and not just where.

Examples of good and bad review comments:

✔️ Make sure you link the customer to this knowledge base article when

dealing with this shipping issue.

❌ You won’t stop the customer from contacting us again if you don’t give them all the information they need.

1:1s

The majority of our customers do bi-monthly reviews for their agents. One longer meeting and one shorter check-in meeting.

1 hour: This is the time to go through an agent’s reviews, discuss their KPls, and see how they are trending for that month. It’s also the time to give them as much constructive feedback as possible. This session can be supported with your QA tool or Agent Development Plan, where you highlight specific things that you want them to improve on, as well as check and see if previous targets/objectives were achieved. Remember, it’s a two-way street and they should come prepared to ask any questions that they may have, too.

15 mins: This shorter session is just a check-in on how they are doing and to get updates on any projects they may be working on within the company. They can raise any quick questions with you here.

Adapt the process to your team

Not everyone needs the same level of attention or the same number of reviews. Personalize your process to each team member to save time. 

Customer service team & organization performance

All the reviews that you’re conducting are helping you to frame a picture of how your team, as a whole, is performing.

Providing effective feedback to agents and giving them the chance to develop their skills is important on an individual level, but looking holistically at all the reviews you’ve conducted is also very important.

Customer service quality assurance framework

Using the example above, you can see that this agent, let’s call her Alice, has no problem with “Tone of voice.” If we were a reviewer, we would know that our team also has no problem with it, and we could assume that the “Tone of voice” across the company is also not a problem. No harm done there, but it’s never good to assume, as we’ll see in the next example!

When we consider “Politeness,” things change. After reviewing our whole team, we could (wrongly) assume that the whole organization is bad on this front, when really it’s our team’s issue. Alice has got it right, like the rest of the organization – but we should set our team the goal of tackling this issue – fast! In our 1:1s, we should ask agents about what it is they are struggling with in terms of politeness.

Most importantly, without a proper assessment of “Product knowledge” across “Agent,” “Team,” and “Company,” we could come to the wrong conclusions. We might assume that Alice is at fault because she is not performing like the rest of our team. This could be true, but after the analysis we see that the company as a whole has a problem with product knowledge. It’s now down to us, the team that’s performing above the rest, to share our knowledge and ways of tackling issues. If we didn’t do this, we might not be able to help the rest of the company as quickly – and Alice might still feel bad about having below-average product knowledge.

💡Example: Let’s take this “Product knowledge” example from the perspective of a QA Manager or Team Lead.

Plan

Alice isn’t showing the same level of product knowledge as the rest of the team for requests related to a new line of products. I need to find out whether this is because of poor adoption, or if there is a problem with the documentation itself (unclear, confusing information).

Do

We carry out the reviews to see why Alice is struggling, but also to see if she is the only one. I review customer queries related to these new products in my team and samples from other teams.

Check

It seems that Alice isn’t the only one. The First Contact Resolution (FCR) rate for the rest of the organization is lower than it is for the rest of the agents on my team.

Act

We check the documentation with the responsible parties, explaining that some of it is confusing/contains incorrect information, and we update all agents to improve their knowledge. We continue to check related queries.

If numbers improve and we are satisfied that we have solved the issue, we can consider the problem closed. If not, we repeat the process and keep looking.

Comprehension Loop

Monitor operations & prevent problems

The first part of the Comprehension Loop forms what we would consider the standard process by which you check your quality across the board. These QA checks are put in place to monitor activity related to new things (products, processes, or other changes), and even if there’s no signs of any trouble, it’s the pure control/safety loop.

The goal is to detect issues early (before they become visible through metrics) so that they can be addressed before they become a bigger problem.

Identify & solve specific problems

As we’ve said before, QA will help you identify why something is happening when it’s not immediately obvious just from looking at the data. In other words, QA is incredibly useful for ultra-specific deep-dives. This could be to investigate the effectiveness of any of the following:

  • A new process
  • New documentation
  • Adoption (new process adherence, documentation use, etc.)
  • Training
  • Knowledge of new products/services

But it’s also a chance to capture new insights and detect emerging trends.

This is where the PDCA framework can be applied for maximum effectiveness. Let’s take the above “Product knowledge” example again, but let’s imagine it in the context of a new product launch. Let’s say you’re an eCommerce company that is launching a new line of shoes.

Plan

You’ll plan ahead with answers for questions that could arise about these new shoes. For example, questions about where and how they were produced, sizing, colors, potential discounts, delivery, etc. You’ll update your internal and external knowledge bases, create templates, and train your agents so they know where to find all the information they need to solve customer queries. 

Do 

You deal with the new requests that come in as a result of these new shoes. It seems that a lot of the new requests coming in are not being solved the first time around, which is evident when you conduct your reviews. The data confirms this: you notice a suspiciously high re-engage rate for conversations under the “new shoes” category. You can see that your agents are doing as instructed and sending customers to various knowledge base articles that have been set up to help. However, some of them simply aren’t doing the trick.

Check

Now you need to see what the problem is. Are your agents just linking to the wrong articles? Or is the content itself an issue – are customers reaching out again when they are sent a specific link?

Here’s where you assign reviews to your reviewers to get to the root of the problem. You automatically assign them customer conversations with the following criteria to investigate: Channel: Email or Live Chat; Reason: New shoes; Conversation re-opened: Yes.

Act

Let’s say that there are three articles that contain the incorrect information. Through the review process, you have identified this. The action you take might be to update all three of the articles and also to investigate why they were wrong (in this case, it could involve some discussions with the manufacturing team).

Once you’ve corrected this, the process repeats itself:

Plan: Inform agents of the change and show them where to find the new materials.

Do: Agents use the updated documentation.

Check: Carry out reviews and see if the issue has been resolved and, if not,Act: Take the necessary action(s).

Want to learn more about customer service quality assurance?

As you can see, implementing quality assurance into your customer service organization will help you stay ahead of potential problems and solve issues faster. You’ll see improvements in your efficiency as well as get access to meaningful metrics that help demonstrate your team’s contribution to company goals. 

Now that we’ve given you the fundamentals, we hope you’re ready to get started on your QA journey. Book a demo with us today to learn about Dixa’s QA solution. 

Author

Francesca Valente

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