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October 1999

Quality Monitoring Myths And Tips For Implementation


Quality monitoring solutions are expensive, difficult to deploy and too complicated to manage: truth or fiction?

The truth is that some of the most quality-conscious companies in the world are investing in automated quality monitoring solutions to significantly improve productivity, morale and customer service.

Yet analyst reports show there are still only about 1,000 call centers in the U.S. that have implemented an automated quality monitoring system. In many cases, misconceptions about resource investments — technology, training and personnel— are preventing companies from taking a closer look at what could be a smart investment in improving customer contact. Following is a list of myths about automated quality monitoring systems, followed by a set of tips for implementing this technology.

Dispelling Common Myths About Quality Monitoring
Myth #1:
I have to be technologically savvy. End users and administrators of automated quality monitoring need only know how to interact within a Windows environment. With the solutions available today, the only hardware required is a server and a few voice cards (you can opt to add CTI boards, if you decide to integrate computer-telephony features). Providers should work closely with your IS team to ensure a smooth installation and effective training program. From there, applications can be as easy to use as Microsoft Windows. Wizards and templates can make scheduling a 10 minute task, and evaluation tools can be integrated to automatically track and tabulate results and publish personalized results for access by agents, supervisors and key decision makers.

Myth #2: Quality monitoring is going to be a huge investment. Let’s face it. There are thousands of call centers that staff less than 50 agents. In this environment, technology of any kind is a big investment, automated quality monitoring solutions included. Is improving agent performance, i.e., call center productivity, worth an investment of $25,000 or more? We believe so. In fact, most of our customers have shown a return on investment in less than 12 months.

For example, by using an automated quality monitoring program to train and provide regular feedback to agents, call center management can reduce the time an average agent spends on each telephone call. This presents an opportunity to reduce the number of agents required on any single shift, assisting call center management with a reduction in budget without a reduction in customer satisfaction.

Myth #3: Installation and training will be hugely disruptive. Not at all. A good solution provider will stage your equipment with the quality monitoring software in their own lab first, ensuring the system is stable and working properly before it reaches your facility. In many cases, on-site installation is accomplished in two days or less. Additionally, because the software is Windows-based, training is a simple show-and-tell, as nonintrusive as a half-day session with your end users.

Following is an interesting case study: Immediately after we installed our quality monitoring system at Optiva, manufacturer of the popular Sonicare electric toothbrush, the company moved to a new office building. Even though disruptions were anticipated, the IT department moved the monitoring server to the new location and the supervisor team was up and evaluating calls quickly.

Optiva’s call center supports international sales with 20 inbound customer service reps and 30 outbound sales agents handling more than 18,000 calls a month. The ability to improve agent performance by monitoring both voice and screen activity, and sharing these call files in training sessions, has allowed the management team to cut the learning curve for new employees in half. Agent turnover is minimal and the center experiences less than a five percent abandon rate on an annual basis.

Myth #4: It won’t work with technology we already have in place. Today’s quality monitoring systems are designed to work in standard environments with open platform hardware solutions. The best systems will run with any of the leading switch solutions and will reflect your organization’s hardware preferences, requiring only that you purchase an NT server on which to run the software. Voice cards, storage solutions and CTI options are recommended based on compatibility with your existing and proposed environments.

Myth #5: I still won’t be able to share call information with employees outside of the call center. Sharing call data with the “outside world” is quite easy. For supervisors who choose to monitor calls from a remote location, they simply dial into the quality monitoring server to analyze recordings and forward records with their own comments embedded in the call. Similarly, remote agents may dial in to review recordings with supervisor comments.

Additionally, a complete snapshot of performance, from an agent’s call records and online evaluations to overall activity to integrated survey results, can be posted to Web pages. This allows call center managers to drive valuable feedback to agents on a consistent basis, and customer comments to enterprise departments, enabling decision makers to monitor satisfaction levels and make better business decisions about products, services and initiatives.

For nonsystem users, digital call recordings may also be sent via e-mail as .WAV files, so decision makers outside the call center can listen to call records or other quality monitoring feedback. Finally, a key advantage of a quality monitoring system’s client-server architecture is the ability for training departments to be centralized and still have access to call records from distributed call centers.

Myth #6: Automated quality monitoring will impact agent morale. Some call centers worry that a system designed to automatically record agent calls will create a “Big Brother” atmosphere for employees struggling to improve. The truth is, quality monitoring often significantly enhances training and improves morale by placing evaluation processes on a level playing field. More consistent, random monitoring helps ensure that all employees are monitored equally, in similar environments.

The data and statistics collected by automated quality monitoring systems can motivate personnel when used in conjunction with incentive programs for employees. Identifying star performers and rewarding them through recognition, bonuses, prizes, schedule preferences, etc., are key elements in retaining strong, loyal employees. The scores compiled in an automated system can ensure employees are rewarded in a fair and objective way.

In addition, managers can use quality monitoring systems to identify the top producers in their call center and promote them to higher-level positions. This not only benefits the company, but agents may also be empowered by the obvious career opportunities that result from positive evaluations.

If you’re interested in taking a closer look at quality monitoring, one of the first things to do is to evaluate your operation and the way you plan to measure success. What will represent a strong return for your investment? Higher first-call resolution rates? Lower training costs? Lower abandonment rates?

Your automated quality monitoring provider will be able to help you determine if a system makes sense for your environment. A good partner will help you identify where your cost savings will occur, identifying the places where a quality monitoring system can actually give time back to you. The result of collaboration with this partner should be the justification you need to make an automated quality monitoring system your next investment.

Rodney Kuhn is president and found-er of Envision Telephony. The company’s SoundByte Enterprise call center suite is an integrated quality monitoring system to support Windows NT, and to integrate CTI with quality monitoring. Before establishing Envision Telephony in 1994, Kuhn was the principal developer of CTI-enabled applications for Active Voice, a supplier of PC-based voice processing systems.

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