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From Agent To Advocate

Rob Gofourth, Vice President, Operations Strategy & Performance, Blue Cross NC
Rob Gofourth, Vice President, Operations Strategy & Performance, Blue Cross NC

Rob Gofourth, Vice President, Operations Strategy & Performance, Blue Cross NC

Whether we have seen it from a contact center management perspective or even as a caller ourselves, we have all been there; Listening to a Customer Service Professional that is following the “rules” of a quality program so they don’t get “dinged”. Quality Assurance programs are one of the most powerful tools we have in a contact center that can help improve our employees and ensure a great experience for our caller. However, it is my experience that we as an industry have taken the greatest power of this tool and manipulated in a way that lends itself more to a cop mentality than a coaching mentality. For ease of use, we have created check lists and our employees wanting to be compliant, they follow the check list.

In doing so, we now havea veryrobotic interaction that limits our agent’s ability or perceived ability to be an advocate of our customer. At times, this leaves both parties frustrated and adds an additional layer of complexity to theinteraction and resolution of the situation. Several years ago, I set out to transform the quality assurance program in my organization. While overall satisfaction scores were acceptable, first contact resolution scores were not. We examined calls and found that are agents were sticking to the confines of the quality form – not going above and beyond so as not to get penalized on giving additional information that was not in the strict context of the original inquiry. When conducting focus groups with our customers, we found that many of them felt unsure about answers they had received and were “answer shopping” or had an additional issue that could have been addressed in the first call but had not been addressed. This required an additional call back.

The objective of the quality redesign was to move the interaction to a more natural flow that would both empower the agent to advocate for the caller and give the caller greater confidence that they were receiving support. We partnered with a research firm to determine the behavioral based competencies that would meet our objectives. Looking at a total of 27 competencies, we determined 6 were appropriate for our environment and fit our customers.

  ​Quality Assurance programs are one of the most powerful tools we have in a contact center that can help improve our employees and ensure a great experience for our caller   

Our previous form measured a total of 5 areas with a total of 9 sub-categories:

1.0 Service Excellence

1.1 Created excellent customer experience

1.2 Met FCR

2.0 Call Management

2.1 Maintained call control

2.2 Used proper hold/silence

2.3 Used systems efficiently

3.0 Accuracy

3.1 Privacy met

3.2 Provided accurate information

3.3 Used disclaimer

4.0 Follow-up

5.0 Gross error

5.1 Projected positive company image

Many of these areas were not well defined and had a fair amount of variation in scoring.

We conducted a pilot with a control group and a pilot group with a post call survey. We piloted the new form with the six competencies and three compliance elements:

Resolve the Issue:

1. Issue Diagnosis – Understanding customers underlying issues and identifying the right solutions

2. Proactive Guidance – Actively guiding customers throughout issue resolution/call interaction

3. Issue Resolution – Providing a complete and accurate solution

Connect with the Customer:

4. Education – Teaching the customer new information that can be used even in future interactions

5. Personality Flexing – Being aware of your personality and the customer’s personality and adapt accordingly to create a positive relationship with the customer

6. Resilience – Ability to bounce back from difficult service and/or deliver a consistently positive experience

Compliance:

1. Legal compliance – Satisfy all legal obligations during each interaction

2. Procedure compliance – Follow internal procedures to ensure low effort for the customer

3. Information accuracy – Offer correct information to ensure first call resolution

The results of the pilot showed an increase of 8 points in overall satisfaction. Once the new program was instituted – involuntary termination reduced by 8.4%, FCR increased by 14 points in eight months and employee engagement scores increased by 6 points.

The results overall were extremely encouraging and impressive. However, there are pitfalls:

• You must retrain your agents and quality staff in a totally different way of thinking (a note of warning, not everyone will be able to make the switch).

• This approach is more subjective and can be difficult for some to grasp (when in doubt, error toward…was it a good call).

• Calibration is a must and I would recommend quantitative calibration.

• Most likely, you will need to convenience some of your internal partners such as employee relations, sales and compensation if incentives are tied to quality outcomes.

A couple of internal comments we received:

Agent – “I struggled with the previous program. The purpose for Quality finally makes sense to me.” – Greg T.

Internal Stakeholder – It is through innovative efforts like this that will enable us to be a successful operation and give our customers a different level of service.” – Beth C.

Go ahead and pilot a new approach in quality. Make it modern and allow your agents to advocate for your callers. It is a win-win for all.

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