Finding the Quality Needle in a Haystack of Calls | Calabrio
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Finding the Quality Needle in a Haystack of Calls

When you’re managing a contact center, there are several factors that go into fostering the development of your customer care representatives – workforce optimization and management are the bare essentials, but we all know that it takes a lot more than that.

At Calabrio, we know the success of a contact center is directly tied to the confidence of the professionals staffing it.

Why? Because there is a surprisingly strong relationship between the quality of the interactions agents have with customers and a company’s overall growth.

At this year’s Calabrio Customer Connect (C3) event in Minneapolis, MN, Planning, Analytics, and Quality Manager, Alexander Wareham, from AAA of Western and Central New York, shared his insights into finding the best way to evaluate the performance of agents in any contact center. Alexander puts the emphasis on developing the right training approach to empower each professional to be more skilled and confident.

It’s also important to remember that quality isn’t a one and done process. A Quality Assurance (QA) team has to continually evaluate the program and make changes when appropriate to keep improving.

With these suggestions for quality monitoring, any contact center manager or quality assurance team can prepare his or her contact center for successful engagement at every customer touch point.

Common Slip Ups in Quality Assurance

It’s important to ensure a contact center evaluates enough calls each month to produce a statistically significant sample size.

Across the industry, we’ve seen that companies aren’t assessing enough of their calls for quality. Evaluating an optimal number of calls will provide a contact center with a clearer understanding of the breadth of challenges their professionals face – whether it’s agent style, conversation techniques, product knowledge, or some other skill that can be further developed.

It’s not just about the number of calls a QA team evaluates, but the insights gained and the actions taken to make a positive impact on an agent’s customer engagement effectiveness.

There are different ways to approach quality assurance.

One way is to record select calls and then have a Quality Assurance analyst evaluate the pros and cons in order to give the agent retroactive feedback. Another way is to conduct live monitoring during which time a supervisor is side-by-side with the agent to observe and coach them in the moment. This approach allows for real-time feedback, course corrections, and provides an opportunity for the supervisor to mentor the agent and uncover opportunities to apply more creative techniques.

Start with one.

If your contact center monitors four calls per agent every month, start by increasing the number of calls your QA team evaluates per month by one call per agent. Then slowly increase the number of calls every month to gain more insight.

While cherry-picking is always a concern, it’s important to remember that more data brings the opportunity to see statistically significant trends amongst calls so agents can learn from their behaviors.

Out of a monthly call volume of 90,000 calls, AAA went from evaluating 400 calls, to 500 calls, then to 800 calls per month. Yet the contact center didn’t see their overall KPI metrics change. Overtime, AAA listened to more calls, and while they thought collecting more intel in this way would be the solution, there were other factors at play. AAA had to take a new approach in order to find the quality needle in the haystack of calls that would lead to effective behavior change for agents.

The New Approach to Quality Assurance

AAA experimented with several new tactics in order to see what would yield measurable improvements. Each contact center agent received 45 minutes of side-by-side mentoring from a Quality Assurance analyst or coach.

This method seemed sound in theory, but the AAA contact center didn’t see an immediate impact from the extra coaching. Real-time coaching has its benefits, but there’s also a huge need to evaluate how agents perform when they don’t have a supervisor sitting by their side.

Whether it was silent monitoring or side-by-side coaching, AAA found that doing just one or the other wasn’t effective. It was time for a combined approached.

The Importance of Combination

After several trials of QA programs, extracting lessons from the calls and coaching strategies, the organization created a sure-fire methodology to find, and drive, opportunities for measurable improvement.

Here’s how they did it:

  1. Each contact center agent received two 30-minute silent monitoring sessions during which a Quality Assurance coach would record the call and evaluate the agent’s natural behavior when he or she wasn’t “performing” for a coach.
  2. In addition, each agent would have two 45-minute live sessions of side-by-side coaching where the coach sat with the agent to course correct and give real-time encouragement.
  3. For each agent, half of these sessions, whether 30-minute silent monitoring or side-by-side coaching, occurred at the beginning of the month, and the other half at the end of the month. In total, an agent could expect 4 interactions with a Quality Assurance coach per month.


With this approach, QA supervisors were able to differentiate the types of calls they monitored and maximize the number of calls they reviewed, seeing a breadth of contact center behavior. In addition, the agents were able to receive high quality real-time feedback as well as instructional insight from the silent monitoring sessions. With these different perspectives, agents gained self-awareness and a better understanding of how they performed in the moment.

By changing the process in which the Quality Assurance team picked calls to score, AAA of the Western and Central New York increased the total number of calls reviewed by over 400 percent. At the same time, they increased the amount of coaching each agent received by 200 percent.

Quality Assurance monitoring and training is a keystone of building confidence in contact center representatives. The customer experience is often cemented during a single call between a contact center agent and a customer. You have to get that one call right. Positive one-on-one engagement between your agents and your customers is the root of brand loyalty, and brand loyalty is the root of revenue growth.

To learn how customer engagement leads to top-line growth, dive into CEO Tom Goodman’s keynote on how technology empowers customer contact centers to drive a customer-conscious corporate strategy.

Brad Snedeker is the Director of Customer Advocacy at Calabrio. With over 15 years in the industry, Brad has extensive knowledge of the contact center space. As Calabrio’s head of the Innovation Center, he works directly with users to teach and develop new and innovative techniques to implement customer engagement and WFO best practices.
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