BPA Featured Article

Aspect on Quality Monitoring

By Brendan B. Read, Senior Contributing Editor
December 09, 2010

Quality monitoring (QM) is hot: as organizations discover that it can help them retain customers and revenues and reduce costs by uncovering where total performance can be improved through targeted listening and viewing of agents’ interactions with customers.

Aspect is a leading provider of QM and performance management solutions, integrated with its multichannel contact center routing platform and unified communications (UC) applications. TMCnet recently interviewed Aspect (News - Alert) Product Manager Kathy Krucek on QM trends:

TMCnet:          What shifts if any have you seen and are seeing in how quality monitoring is used in contact centers and what is driving them? For example is there a greater emphasis on reviewing agents’ performance in their ability to cross-sell and upsell on service and support calls as a result of the tighter economy?

KK:     We’re seeing monitoring performance to determine whether cross-sell/upsell goals are met, we're also seeing an upswing in the collections industry with increased outbound dialer contact handling and respective recording of those contacts. Somewhat related to this, we’re in addition seeing an increased need for compliance recording and security features related to encryption and avoiding recording/storing sensitive data (payment card information). Not being in compliance with some of these standards can result in fines that customers certainly want to avoid. The focus is also on coaching features that improve agent productivity (doing more with less) so agent performance management is an important piece to the overall contact center strategy.

TMCnet:          There appears to be a trend for more surveys i.e. customer feedback being offered to callers while they are still on the line. Is there an integration taking place between feedback and QM and if so what are the benefits and any challenges

KK:     Aspect Quality Management provides an integrated web-based survey. Based on customer-defined criteria, rules are evaluated for which calls should trigger a survey invitation being sent to the caller via e-mail to take an online survey. Survey results are then posted back to the QM application for ease of comparison with internal evaluations. 

Some of the benefits of surveying customers include having immediate feedback specific to a transaction (agent quality and process) as well as insight into products and services offered by the company. Challenges include obtaining that feedback in terms of response rates (customer being willing to take the time to complete the survey). They also include getting feedback across a variety of scenarios (not just getting bad feedback when something went wrong or only getting great feedback if something went very well). Getting ‘average’ customer responses can often be very useful in gauging typical experience.   

TMCnet:          UC via presence and the ability of contact center routing systems enable non-contact agents e.g. bank branch, front-desk staff to handle customer interactions. Do you see more of this happening? How does this affect the QM methodology and technology? Have there been any issues with non-agents now having to be monitored and evaluated contact center style?

KK:     Yes, we’re seeing increased interest in monitoring non-contact center agent (i.e. back office) activity from quality and compliance perspectives. There’s interest in tracking and evaluating productivity and being able to ensure that compliance requirements are met (e.g. in banking or industries related to handling financial information). 

As more interactions occur in the enterprise outside of the contact center (i.e. via escalations to experts or knowledge workers) and in the back office, oftentimes, those interactions still need to be recorded for compliance purposes and potentially for cradle-to-grave quality monitoring. In which case they need to be captured, tracked easily and possibly evaluated for quality. 

In these enterprise and back office type scenarios, it’s important to track the entire interaction and potentially record it, e.g. to determine first contact resolution (FCR) when escalating to experts. As well as be able to evaluate back-office tasks even when a recording doesn’t exist (e.g. for compliance purposes). Individual agent evaluations (agent performance) and agent coaching, however, are still predominantly activities carried out within the contact center environment by either the team supervisor directly or via a quality assurance department that evaluates interactions and flags certain ones as items to be coached on by supervisors. 

This means that from a QM perspective, tools need to be designed in a way to allow for capturing multi-channel contacts (e.g. e-mail in addition to voice). [They should also capture] unstructured data such as documents stored on Sharepoint and other sites. 

Many companies adopting this kind of monitoring outside the contact center face a challenge initially in getting employees to accept and understand the purpose and benefits of monitoring. It’s critical to communicate the reason for monitoring, as well as to make sure that employees understand it is for their benefit. For example, monitoring this activity provides insight into whether existing processes and technologies are working or whether they can be improved.

TMCnet:          Discuss QM of text-based interactions (e-mail, SMS, social media comments/response). Do you see more of this happening? How are contact centers managing this process? Do the technologies enable an integrated voice and text interaction capturing, analysis and coaching?

KK:     With increased focus on multi-channel operations, customers are becoming more interested in being able to capture text transactions whether they are in the contact center or in a back office environment. Additionally, in many cases customers also want to be able to score those interactions for quality analysis, coaching, and improving productivity. And when a voice interaction occurs, customers want to be able to tie that call with those other interactions to determine FCR.

To manage this process, customers want an integrated application like Aspect’s Productive Workforce application: where they can track, capture, score, analyze agent performance, and schedule coaching based on multi-contact interactions. Aspect’s performance management capability (part of Productive Workforce) can also help with analyzing unstructured text data such as content from social media sites, which can be more challenging to monitor and analyze as compared with other types of structured contacts like voice, e-mail, chat and IM.

TMCnet:          QM is also for automated voice (DTMF, speech rec) and self-service systems. Discuss how these tools are monitored and their interactions analyzed, and for what purposes. Are organizations using QM to compare self-service with live agent quality performance and if so how. Is this becoming a ‘man versus machine’ comparison? 

KK:     For complete cradle-to-grave insight into the caller experience, our customers want to monitor the entire life of an interaction from the time the customer enters the IVR (DTMF or speech) to when they are transferred to an agent, if that occurs. Monitoring the IVR can provide insight into whether the self-service application has been designed properly and whether it’s working to meet customer needs. 

Are customers able to get the answers they need or take care of the transaction on their own (if that’s the goal), or are they always having to speak to an agent whether they want to or not?  If the IVR is designed in a confusing way or if it takes too long (too many entries within the IVR tree) to complete a transaction, the customer may not be happy by the time they get to an agent and their experience has already been less than satisfactory.

Ultimately, end-customers want their problem resolved or question answered as efficiently and effectively as possible and the IVR provides another means for helping to achieve this.  Recording a customer IVR interaction and tying it to the agent contact (if occurred)—as well as allowing for those interactions to be easily searched and played back—provides insight into the entire customer experience.

TMCnet:          QM has long been focused on agent performance. Please discuss using QM for evaluating coaching and supervisor performance. 

KK:     In addition to monitoring and analyzing agent performance, supervisor and mentor performance should be tracked and evaluated also. An agent evaluation is only as good as the person who performed that evaluation in the first place. 

It’s important that calibration sessions are done to assess collective supervisor understanding of scoring criteria and to ensure that they are performing the evaluations as objectively as possible. The number of evaluations completed by each supervisor per agent, as well as the scores resulting from them, should be tracked on a per supervisor basis to ensure scoring consistency and to monitor whether each supervisor’s team quality is improving over time. Perhaps additional supervisor training or coaching is needed on how to provide feedback and coaching to their agents to improve quality over time. Quality management and performance management capabilities of Aspect’s Productive Workforce application allow customers to have a centralized view of their supervisor performance over time. 

TMCnet:          What innovations and changes do you see in QM tools in response to these needs, and to make them more versatile, affordable and easier to deploy?

KK:     In general, QM tools have had to add advanced security features to help customers meet compliance standards important to companies carrying out financial transactions (e.g. collections) but still stay affordable in this tighter economy.  One of the ways Aspect helps customers with this is by including encryption and other security features as part of the base QM package at no additional charge. There’s also a blending of quality, performance, and workforce management capabilities into a single offering (e.g. Aspect’s Productive Workforce). This meets growing customer demand around multi-channel contact monitoring including monitoring of unstructured data from social sites and provides a centralized application with monitoring, analyzing, and coaching functionality. 

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Juliana Kenny