Off Center
Few processes in the contact center are as contentious as quality monitoring. When not carefully explained and carried out with tact and sensitivity, monitoring smacks of spying. Cries of “Big Brother” and micromanagement are not uncommon in such environments, resulting in agent burnout, attrition, and poisonous darts being shot at QA staff.

Several studies have revealed that call monitoring can cause significant stress and dissatisfaction among agents. In one study – conducted by Management Sciences Consulting, Bell Canada – 55% of all employees responded that some form of telephone monitoring added to the amount of stress they experienced with their job to a large or very large extent.

In order to achieve the level of agent engagement and customer advocacy that today’s contact centers seek, managers need to aim for agents to not only accept and tolerate quality monitoring, but to embrace it. You may ask, “What kind of freak actually looks forward to having their every word recorded and keystroke captured while on the job?” Well, I’m not saying that agents need to be so excited about monitoring that they beg for it or do a jig when they find out that they will have 10 calls a month evaluated. However, in the best contact centers I have seen, agents do look forward to being monitored and coached occasionally – because they recognize the positive impact it can have on their performance, the customer’s experience and the organization’s success.

So how do these contact centers get their staff to embrace quality monitoring rather than run in fear from it? Let me count the ways:

They educate new-hires on the reasons for – and value of – quality monitoring.  In leading contact centers, managers don’t just tell new agents that they’ll be monitored on a regular basis, they tell them why. In fact, many centers do this with agents even before they become agents – taking time to explain monitoring policies and practices (and the reasons behind them) during the hiring process so that applicants know exactly what to expect before they take the drug test.

When describing the center’s monitoring program, it’s a good idea to lie just a little to make it sound more rewarding than it actually is. Tell agents that monitoring is not used to “catch them” doing things wrong, even though you know that it usually works out that way. Explain that having calls evaluated enhances professional development, builds integrity and helps to ensure customer loyalty, even though you know that such things are true only if your agents care about themselves, the company, and the future – which isn’t likely the case, what with the world ending in 2012. But hey, it’s worth a shot.

They incorporate post-contact customer ratings and feedback into monitoring scores. For some reason, agents would rather have a customer than a supervisor tell them that they suck at providing service. That’s why the best contact centers have incorporated a “voice of the customer” (VOC) component into their quality monitoring programs – tying direct customer feedback from post-contact surveys into agents’ overall monitoring scores.

Adhering to the VOC-based quality monitoring model, the contact center’s internal QA staff rate agents only on the most objective call criteria and requirements – like whether or not the agent used the correct greeting, provided accurate product information, and didn’t call the customer a putz. That internal score typically accounts for anywhere from 40%-60% of the agent’s quality score, with the remaining points based on how badly the customer said they wanted to kiss or punch the agent following the interaction. 

They provide positive coaching. While incorporating direct customer feedback into monitoring scores is key, it won’t do much to get agents to embrace monitoring if the coaching that agents receive following an evaluated call is delivered in a highly negative manner.

During coaching sessions, the best coaches strive to point out as many positives about the interaction as they do areas needing improvement. This provides a nice balance to the evaluation and makes agents less likely to strike the coach with a blunt instrument. Even if the call was handled dreadfully, good coaches always find something positive to comment on, such as the agent’s consistent breathing throughout the interaction, or how well they were able to make words come out of their mouth. 

They empower agents to self-evaluate their customer interactions. There are few better ways to gain staff buy-in to quality monitoring/coaching than to trick agents into thinking that they have even the slightest bit of control during the process. The best contact centers always give agents the chance to rate their own call performance; the center then pretends to factor such self-evaluations into the overall quality score that’s recorded.

Many managers report that agents are often harder on themselves than the QA specialist or supervisor is when evaluating call performance. Sometimes, after listening to a call recording, agents become so upset by their own performance and/or the sound of their own voice that they try to physically harm themselves during the coaching session, which adds a nice touch of comic relief to an otherwise stressful situation for coaches.

They reward solid quality performance. Generally speaking, people are more likely to embrace an annoying or uncomfortable process if they know there is at least a chance for reward or positive recognition. I mean, if it weren’t for the free toothbrush, who would ever visit the dentist? And if it weren’t for the free alcohol, who would ever celebrate the holidays with family?

The same goes for quality monitoring. I’m not saying that you should give agents a free toothbrush and some alcohol after every call that is evaluated – just the ones where the agent didn’t make the customer or themselves cry. And remember, there are other ways to reward and recognize staff than with toothbrushes and alcohol, I just can’t think of any right now.

I’d love to hear about some of the ways that you and your center make quality monitoring more palatable to agents. Share your insight and experiences here by leaving a comment.

10/22/2010 01:27:02 am

Thanks for sharing Greg. I totally agree with your points on introducing quality monitoring among new hire orientation and in finding something positive on a totally disastrous call.

As a supervisor, the time is set for quality monitoring discussions during training. I also made sure that my team constantly interfaces with agents to establish relationship. It also helps that we quality is involved in rewards and recognition events, with QA-related awards handed to agents who are doing well.

10/22/2010 01:41:22 am

I'm glad that you liked the post, Alwin. Considering that you are a quality assurance expert (I've been to your Twitter page!), your comments are particularly meaningful.

Best of luck!


Lisa Vaz
5/1/2011 01:09:45 am


The information is great thank yor for sharing. What I'd like to know or gain your thought on is how do you approach build/coach a virtual call center platform of support agents. In some retrospects the approach is similar, however reps and QA coaches are working from home and coach over the phone making it a challenge to view body language etc. So do you have any ideas on how to make this approach engaging and insightful?

Lisa Vaz

5/1/2011 02:27:23 am

Good question, Lisa. I've spoken to a lot of managers of home agents over the years, and many -- in addition to regular conversations via text chat, email and phone -- incorporate video chat into the communication/coaching mix. There are many affordable (and even free) apps that enable this (e.g, Skype, Google voice & video, etc.)


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