Ask people to name three companies known for their customer-centric approach to business, and there’s a good chance some common names will surface: Nordstrom, Apple, Trader Joe’s, Patagonia, and others frequently come to mind.
What do they have in common? What’s their secret? They make customers the center of their business strategy, execute on delivering outstanding customer experiences, and strive for continuous improvement.
It’s often the continuous improvement or quality management (QM) piece where contact centers struggle. In an era of agent turnover, budget cuts, and fleeting customer loyalty, it’s useful to explore the evolution of quality management from its traditional, compliance-focused roots to a modern, customer-centric approach. If you are thinking about making the move to more customer-focused QM, here are considerations and steps to help you get there.
Definition of Quality Management
At a high level, quality management is the act of overseeing all activities and tasks that must be accomplished to maintain a desired level of excellence. In the context of a contact center, QM is the people, processes, and systems a contact center uses to monitor customer interactions to ensure they are being handled by contact center agents in the desired fashion.
QM, sometimes referred to as quality assurance (QA), includes more than just scoring interactions and is made up of a variety of processes and systems aimed to help improve and engage agents – with the desired outcome of delivering outstanding customer experience (CX).
History of Quality Management
References to quality management date back to medieval times, when craftspeople needed to follow strict guidelines for their guilds’ finished products, which were inspected for defects before they were accepted for purchase. Understanding the foundation for and evolution of quality management helps paint a picture of where companies have been in order to see the path to a modern approach.
How Quality Management Has Evolved
Fast forward to the post-war industrial revolution when companies turned their attention to quality products and the production process on the factory lines. The concept of total quality management (TQM) was introduced and advanced by visionaries such as W. Edwards Deming and Walter A. Shewhart, when American companies began to adopt concepts from Japanese manufacturers, particularly those in the automotive industry, whose quality principles of Kanban and just-in-time (JIT) turned manufacturing, production practices, and distribution for product quality on its head.
These same principles of quality controls, processes, and continual improvement are applicable to any industry today and provide competitive advantages. Over time, the most rigorous international QA/QM quality standards, including ISO 9000 and 9001, have added requirements to help organizations achieve not only quality control and continuous improvement, but quality management practices, processes, and outcomes that lead to consumer trust, higher customer satisfaction ratings, and sustained business success.
Compliance in Quality Management
Quality assurance (QA) started in the contact center as a compliance-driven process. Companies began by creating checklists to ensure agents were meeting all requirements on calls. These could be things like using the customer’s name or saying mandatory compliance statements word for word. At this stage in the evolution of quality management, QA was very black and white at this time with no room for gray.
Mention regulatory requirements and quality compliance and contact center leaders and agents alike shudder. It’s often regarded as restrictive, costly, and an afterthought. Thankfully workforce management software helps contact centers minimize compliance risks by automatically managing labor regulations, tracking time off, and other important labor metrics.
But the truth is, compliance can improve and enhance customer satisfaction and create a quality culture, quality leadership, and quality organization because it forces contact centers to perform better than average. But why stop there?
Customer-Centric Quality Management
If quality management compliance is a must-do for contact centers, it does provide an opportunity to go above and beyond meeting basic requirements. If you’re already on a journey to check compliance tick boxes, why not strive to exceed customer expectations with customer-centric QM?
Customer-centric quality management in a contact center environment puts the customer as the focal point of all decisions related to delivering services, support, and experiences to create customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. While the concept of customer focus sounds like a “no brainer,” achieving customer centricity with all agents across your organization is no small task. Thankfully AI-infused automated quality management can help with the journey from compliance-focused to customer-centric.
AI in Quality Management
Across all industries, artificial intelligence (AI) is coming into its own as a tool to increase efficiency, automate tasks, and reduce costs. While the use of AI technology in quality management systems might have seemed intrusive to customers in the past, most now embrace companies using it — if it will make their customer interactions better. Contact centers are prime to gain many advantages by embracing AI as a holistic approach to quality management.
As the phrase suggests, automated quality management helps increase efficiency by automating the entire quality management process of a contact center — from assisted scoring to agent coaching.
Due to time and resource constraints, contact centers only analyze a small percentage of their interactions. An AI-infused quality management system can analyze sentiments for all interactions and analyze the topics discussed, surfacing the most pressing issues across a large sample and directing them to your quality analysts for deep insights, to score and to provide feedback.
How to Evolve Your Quality Management to Customer-Centric
Being a fully customer-centric contact contact center doesn’t happen overnight. After all, the evolution of quality management has evolved over centuries. A better approach is to phase in customer-centric quality management as a journey for your service organization. Here are some steps to help you get there.
- Set goals, objectives, and metrics on how to infuse customer centricity not only in your contact center but across your entire organization. Again, it’s less daunting when you take a phased approach to quality planning and execution.
- Start with the business processes. You can’t overhaul processes overnight, so it’s critical to understand important considerations for successful quality initiatives when incorporating automated AI into your core quality processes and quality culture.
- Leverage technology to automate the monitoring and management of agent performance and automate quality processes. This not only creates operational efficiencies but creates an environment where agents can thrive and do their best work.
- Automate recruiting, training, and onboarding. Leverage AI to understand what makes up your best agents so you can find more team members like them. With integrated coaching, you can onboard and train new agents while keeping your whole customer service team engaged to reduce agent attrition.
- Understand customer sentiment. AI allows you to quickly detect customer sentiment across all channels, throughout a conversation, and take action faster to resolve issues, make process improvements, and close service gaps early.
- Let data-led deeper insights inform your QM strategy and tactics. By gathering this information, you can begin to spot patterns, link customer requirements and feedback with action and continuous improvements, and make future predictions on service delivery and customer needs and preferences.
Benefits of Customer-Centric Quality Management
When your contact center puts in the hard work to embrace customer-centric quality management, the rewards follow.
- Increased customer satisfaction and positive customer experiences from better service quality and improved practices – Lock in customers and sell more when you deliver superior service. Create an optimal competitive position — strive to create an experience so good they can’t imagine receiving the same level of support and attention anywhere else.
- Cost-effectiveness – Let the technology take over the repetitive work practices and manual QM tasks, allowing analysts, managers, and agents to focus on CX and employee experience (EX).
- More efficient workflows and quality monitoring – When you put in the work upfront to define customer-focused goals and processes, automated QM provides tremendous efficiencies, especially around more efficient workflows and quality monitoring.
- Prevent costly CX problems before they grow – Proactively analyze agent interactions to look for coaching opportunities that improve service and prevent costly issues.
- Improved agent performance and employee experience – Your agent experience lays the foundation for your customer experience. AI-powered QM helps customer support leaders identify and address agent disengagement, deliver informative feedback, and communicate agents’ growth and performance journeys.
Not only do your agents reap the benefits of customer-centric, automated quality management, but you’ll create more outstanding customer experiences. With the right focus, processes, and systems, your contact center too can become the Nordstrom of CX.
Learn how to evolve your quality management from compliance- to customer-centric in our on-demand webinar “How to Infuse AI Into QM: What You Need to Know.”