Contact Center Performance And Calibrations — What You Need To Know

Contact Center Performance And Calibrations — What You Need To Know

Measuring performance in your contact center or customer service department is an ongoing, in-depth, and insightful process. Once you implement a quality management program into your everyday operations, you should be able to continually achieve your business goals across your workforce, incorporating lessons learned from studying data to enhance all employees’ performance.

However, even after customer service center agents adopt new techniques and approaches, more must be done.

Your quality analysts, team leaders, and even management team members need to remain consistent when evaluating employees. And a vital aspect of that is conducting calibrations to maximize the efficiency, effectiveness, and accuracy of performance measurements.

Contact Center Performance And Calibrations — What You Need To Know

Calibrations: Standardizing Performance Evaluations

Launching a quality management program takes time and commitment. You can’t bring a team of QA analysts into your business and expect them to start driving your employees to new heights of excellence within a matter of days.

Instead, they have to get to know the company, the culture, the people, and how individual agents work. They have to understand your shared goals and values. For a successful calibration, you must ensure the entire customer service team is on the same page when conducting evaluations or your performance insights could be misleading.

Getting Calibrations Right

First of all, let’s define what we mean when we say “calibrations” in a contact center.  Calibrations are an opportunity for reviewers to streamline their assessments with the intention of offering consistent agent feedback and eliminating bias from feedback. Customer service QA calibrations lay a foundation for similar-quality feedback for agents, regardless of who reviews their customer engagements. 

Calibrations don’t have to be complex. These meetings can be as formal or informal as you like with all the good humor and relaxed atmosphere you want. But the important thing is to establish alignment — everyone must agree on how each quality behavior should be evaluated and scored.

Why do calibrations matter? There are many key reasons why calibrations are worth the time they take. First, calibrations ensure alignment. Calibrations allow for standardization, making certain that all reviewers have the same understanding of internal processes and guidelines. They also ensure an accurate understanding of what positive customer experiences look like. 

Calibrations also set the stage for equity. Now, some people may argue that it’s impossible to evaluate every agent identically every time. After all, customer requests differ, no two interactions are the same, different factors contribute to agent interactions . . . the list goes on. But all agents must be held to the same standard and must be evaluated fairly. Calibrations prevent favoritism, level out the playing field, and objectively evaluate every customer interaction. 

Calibrations also offer consistency for agent feedback. Consider it this way: If agents receive unreliable ratings, how can they trust the evaluations? When they know they’re being evaluated consistently, customer service center agents can more effectively bring that feedback into customer interactions. Consistency leads to overall agent effectiveness.

Related Article: 7 Simple Tips To Give Quality Feedback In Your Call Center

Who — and How — To Engage In Quality Management Calibrations

Calibration sessions should involve key players from across your workforce, all of whom will be involved in the coaching and scoring of the agents. This includes quality analysts, trainers,  supervisors/managers, and agents.

Just one or two representatives from each area can ensure a fair balance from every department. Everyone brings their own experience, skills, training, and opinions to the table, which makes for an insight-filled process. And don’t forget to establish the correct time frame for calibrations, too, so everyone understands the timeline. When will you begin the process and when will you reconvene? It can be valuable to appoint a calibration coordinator to keep things moving forward.

There are several ways to set up your calibration process. You can have the key players review data separately and then discuss together, review and discuss it together in real time, or review it together with agents.

All three methods of calibration allow the team to map differences in ratings and gather collective feedback. Keep in mind that reviewing the information with agents provides the most transparency. Reviewing with agents allows them to share feelings, concerns, and ideas. Plus, agents can provide valuable context if reviewers disagree on ratings. 

Why offer contact center agents a seat at the calibration table? These team members are on the front lines, which means they can share a perspective that no customer experience metric ever can. After all, even the most thorough customer survey or customer sentiment analysis only tells part of the story. Plus, your operational managers can more effectively engage with agents when agents know their voices have been heard. 

Related Article: How To Create a Feedback Culture In Your Call Center

Analyzing Key Metrics: What Matters Most In Calibrations?

A number of customer interactions should be utilized to calibrate, incorporating multiple channels for the ultimate customer experience — such as live chats, emails, and even social media.Each type of interaction has its own format, but the quality of service should be consistently high across all of them. Why? Because more than two-thirds of customers want seamless, conversational engagement with companies — not siloed conversations in which they have to repeat themselves in multiple channels to get resolution. Consistency across channels matters.

Establishing A Calibration Baseline

How can you begin calibration on the right note? First, make sure your support center has defined what success looks like. 

Most customer support centers agree that success means a strong customer experience, but there’s more to it than that. You can establish a quality management baseline in a number of ways, including defining customer service goals. You want to make sure you understand the key performance indicators that matter the most.

For example, is the average handle time for incoming interactions most important or will you place more emphasis on customer satisfaction scores? Or perhaps the average speed of transfer rate or speed of answer are more important contact center metrics. Successful calibration starts with defining the goals.

Related eBook: How to Build a Successful Omnichannel QM Program That Actually Works

Ongoing Calibrations For Consistency

While calibration sessions should be held at the start of your quality management program, they should be a reasonably regular process beyond that too. Team leaders and managers should look at quality data supplied by quality analysts to determine where there may be room for improvement.

A team lead may notice that performance in a specific area is a consistent problem — take outcomes of customer satisfaction surveys, for example. It may be a good area to calibrate on to ensure at least the scoring is consistent and then take further action with training.

As the team conducts ongoing calibrations, it’s important to maintain a history of their scoring to track how to properly score the various behaviors in a scorecard. This is a document that will evolve with every calibration, but ultimately it will help ensure lessons learned in calibration are shared and adhered to moving forward by the various scorers.

Scores could vary wildly from one quality analyst to the next. A slight difference is nothing to be concerned about, but a calibration should be organized when there’s a clear gap between two or more analysts’ scorecards within a certain time frame.

This would involve bringing a calibration team together to review the current scoring process for the specific metric, whatever that may be, and finding a new way to measure that element of performance. Relevant interactions should be available for attendees to evaluate and develop their own ratings.

Ensuring Balance And Accuracy

Giving analysts a chance to discuss the merits or flaws of particular interactions can shed light on oversights or mistakes leading to discrepancies. Standardizing the way in which specific elements of an agent’s performance are scored is incredibly important to avoid wasting time and energy collating confusing results.

Team leaders and managers should only make key decisions related to performance when they can be sure the data they have is reliable. The quality results must be accurate and consistent, regardless of who is scoring because these metrics are vital in performance reviews.

This is especially true if one or more new analysts have been added to the team. Without attending a calibration session, these newcomers may struggle to measure performance to the same standards as their colleagues. If they are scoring inconsistently, this can lead to agents losing confidence in the process and, in turn, costly turnover.

As your calibration process evolves, there will be more confidence and consistency in how agents are being scored. This will lead to more targeted and aligned coaching from customer service managers, which ultimately helps drive stronger experiences — and customer feedback should reflect this improvement too.

Contact centers and customer service departments can expect to see performance improvement through calibrating. Investing time and resources into holding fair, balanced calibration sessions will pay off when agents know where they’re going wrong and analysts measure performance in the agreed way.

Related Article: How To Preserve Your Contact Center QM Budget

Changing Your Quality Metrics

Ideally, your calibration process will confirm unbiased, accurate agent quality analysis. But what if your calibration reveals the opposite? What if you notice a larger-than-expected discrepancy? You’ll first want to give feedback to reviewers, so they can understand how your organization measures quality and delivers rating scales in a unified, equitable manner. 

It’s also worth remembering that the key metrics your business uses to evaluate and improve may change over time. How your organization answers the question of “what matters most” is bound to evolve.

Don’t feel you need to stick with the same group of behavioral metrics for years. By industry standards, you can and should refresh your quality scorecards every six months to ensure that  they are aligned with the company’s objectives, and you are driving operational performance with agents and customer experience.

For example, your contact center may have determined empathy and conversational skills as a crucial metric during the pandemic time period, when businesses experienced an influx of customers that were shopping from home — and when customer retention was truly significant.

But maybe contact resolution is a more relevant metric now with customer expectations reaching new heights and simplifying customer experience being one of contact centers’ top priorities. Calibration helps ensure everyone is scoring these behaviors the same, so feedback to your front lines remains consistent and effective.

But calibration sessions should be held to standardize any new contact center agent performance metrics being used. Everyone involved in this process should understand the metric’s purpose, its direct impact on overall performance and customer loyalty, and how it drives business outcomes overall.

Some questions to ask may include: 

  • Does it affect the quality of the customer’s experience? 
  • Can it help management boost operational efficiency and eliminate unnecessary obstacles? 
  • Could the average cost per interaction be reduced by focusing on this metric in the future?

Related Podcast: Recession-Proof Your Customer Service with Scott Prater

Calibrations, Quality Management, And Additional Agent Training

Performance improvement through calibrating carefully is something all businesses should include as part of ongoing strategies. As a result, team leaders and support center managers can expect more effective coaching, leading to faster agent performance improvements.

In the process of calibrations, areas for agent growth may rise to the surface. The same can happen in all areas of quality management: As you analyze how your customer service agents are performing, take care to note what seems to be challenging tasks for your agents, so you can offer additional training.

Individual agent performance will differ, of course. But the calibration process can reveal where your contact center productivity can improve. For example, as you calibrate agent conversation quality, you may realize that average time per interaction is an area in need of improvement.

The right coaching can make a dramatic impact on agent productivity and take your service level to new heights. Training sessions can take a variety of forms. As a rule of thumb, ongoing training will make a major impact.

Don’t wait to deliver feedback or coaching until an all-hands meeting or full-team session. If contact center agents don’t get the education they need, you could risk agent turnover (not to mention a decrease in happy customers and increase in customer frustration).Coaching on a daily basis, as well as ongoing training, can make a big impact on agent efficiency and can minimize negative customer experiences. As you invest in training, continue monitoring your contact center performance metrics to ensure quality assurance.

Contact Center Performance And Calibrations — What You Need To Know

From Calibrations To More Satisfied Customers

Performance and calibrations relate in a very clear and straightforward way. Calibrations are vital to ensure the scoring is consistent and accurate, regardless of who is scoring an interaction. This leads to better coaching for agents, which drives stronger performance and customer experience. Ultimately, it’s all about creating a foundation for agents to deliver positive customer experiences.

Your analysts may struggle to attain a balanced view of your team’s work without calibration sessions. This, in turn, means mistakes can be more challenging to spot, and customers could receive weaker service than they expect, leading to a poor customer experience and ultimately, customer attrition.

The goal of calibrations is to help reviewers get on the same page, deliver consistent feedback, and avoid bias in ratings. But don’t forget that this analytical process serves larger business goals. Measuring performance in your contact center through a strong calibration process can lead to higher customer satisfaction levels, stronger agent productivity, a more efficient customer support center, and excellent customer experience. 

Performance improvement through calibrating is worth all the time and energy you invest when employees continue to work better than ever and the customer churn rate decreases.

If you want to learn more about calibrations and improve your customer satisfaction, request a demo from Playvox.

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