Just because your agents start to score better using your evaluation forms, don’t be tricked into thinking your job is done! Letting your evaluation form become outdated is a typical quality assurance mistake. A great evaluation form will mature over the course of time based on how you and your team learn, improve and drive to meet your goals across various KPIs. How do you ensure your evaluation forms help drive your goals and keep up with your progressing work force? What do you need to consider in building an evaluation form, grading form, or questionnaire?
Your evaluation forms, are they vintage or vinegar?
Identify what the key drivers of your targeted KPI are. For example, we know that average handle time can be effected by product knowledge, script adherence, system use and call handling skills. These drivers may change as your agents become efficient in meeting them and require updating.
Group structure and group related questions. Key drivers should be broken down into groups containing related questions and given a weight of importance depending on how importantly that group effects performance or meeting your KPI goals. For example, “Product Knowledge” will be the title of one of your question groups for addressing AHT. Additional groups and questions may be added as important areas are discovered. Group weightings may also shift as agents become efficient in specific areas. When agents become very efficient in System Use, shift the weighting of importance to Call Handling Skills.
Questions should have more than two possible answers that provide scoring depth and allow for richer analytics. Questions should directly assess a targeted area. For example “Did the agent understand the customer’s needs by restating the customer’s issue?” Using answers such as Yes -100% No- 0% leaves very little area for analytics. If the answers had various scoring such as Yes-100%, Partially 50%, No-0% this will indicate that the agent can easily be coached to correct behavior instead of needing modular training which saves time for everyone. Taking it a step further by providing four answers will eliminate the option for the evaluator of just taking a middle ground stance. This will push them to provide an answer that can truly identify root causes.
Design each group and question not only for analytical scoring structures but also for coaching feedback and maintenance of historical feedback. When evaluations are completed, agents should have access to them and be able to take in valuable constructive feedback, aligning their work with the QA standards. This will enhance any coaching or one to one sessions that may be necessary to correct behavior. Users should see a track record of improved performance across the key drivers of any KPI.
The evaluation form is the back bone of all quality assurance campaigns. Using this as a foundation to address your KPIs will provide a solid starting point for your path of continual improvement. Ensure your evaluation form matures along with the improvement which will drive your goals.
Average Handling Time (AHT) is frequently the most important KPI a contact center can monitor. It is very closely related to the cost of a call. Staff wages are the main variable cost of a contact center, they make up 70% of contact center expenses. If the call is longer, it costs the organization more to provide it.
So what drives AHT up and how can we bring it down? Here are the “drivers” of AHT:
- Script adherence. When an agent follows a script, the call has a “road map” that enables him/her to complete the transaction in a quick, pre planned way ensuring that all requirements are covered as quickly as possible. When agents don’t follow the script, AHT will increase.
- Product knowledge. It doesn’t matter whether the agent handles customer enquiries or sells outbound, s/he needs to know what s/he is talking about. In this way, s/he is more likely to complete the transaction successfully and quickly.
- Application/System use. Inbound customer service programs often use complex CRM systems which take considerable skill and experience to handle quickly and effectively. An agent who is “all fingers and thumbs” can slow the call down considerably because he will not be able to process the customers transaction as quickly as possible.
- Call handling skills. We talked about agents following scripts. The other participant in the conversation, the customer, never follows the script! An agent who is skilled in handling diffcult or upset customers can solve their problems more quickly and get the required result, because s/he knows the techniques to deal with him quickly effectively and politely.
- Escalation. There are 2 ways this can increase call length. An agent can escalate a call he could have handled himself. This can increase the call costs not only because of the extra time the customer has to spend talking to the higher level agent, but also because that agent may well be paid at a higher rate. On the other hand, if the agent does not escalate when he needs to, he may spend a lot longer trying to solve a problem he doesn’t have the knowledge and skills for than a higher level agent who is better qualified and more experienced.
So how can we bring AHT down? The way that works is to set up a quality improvement project along 6 sigma lines, including the 5 phases of Define, Measure, Analyze, Design and Verify (DMADV).
AHT reduction project process diagram
Having defined the issue as the need to reduce AHT, a specially written questionnaire can be used to measure the influence of each of the drivers on the overall situation. The statistics are then analyzed to identify which of the drivers above are pushing AHT up. Once the numbers are in and the drivers have been revealed, further questionnaires are designed to form the backbone of a cyclical improvement program where agents are evaluated and receive feedback on their performance in this area. The effect of the project is verified by monitoring both the AHT statistics from the CRM system, and also the scores from repeated administrations of both questionnaires.
Such programs usually prove to be hard work. Changing habits is not always easy, but the rewards for even a modest reduction in AHT can be quite substantial.