Here at BPA Quality, one of the services we offer under the umbrella of managed quality services is to unde
rtake large-scale quality monitoring of text and voice interactions in multiple languages.
On some global, multi-lingual projects, the client expectation is that agent tone should remain consistent, regardless of the customer’s language or chosen contact channel.
It goes without saying that agents’ tone should also sound genuine in any language – so for global campaigns, it is important to accommodate for cultural differences. Avoiding the use of language-specific figures of speech as fillers rather than making meaningful statements, and having a sound understanding of culture-specific etiquette are both key elements for success in soft skills. A prime example: whereas US and European customers might expect agents to express empathy for their situation at the opening of the conversation, in some Asian cultures, displaying unsolicited empathy is not appropriate, and monitoring should take account of these differences.
When considering text-based contact, aside from an inherent difficulty in establishing tone in written communications, there can be further cultural implications to consider. For example, in many European languages, using the formal register has historically been the common way to address clients in customer service interactions; some companies are now making a conscious choice to use the informal register (e.g. ‘tu‘ rather than ‘vous‘ in French) which may not always be well-received by more traditionally-minded customers.
This informality in written communication may sometimes occur in contrast to the voice channel for the same company, leading to situations where agents may be required to address customers using the formal register in calls but not in chat.
This can potentially have implications for overall tone, which may be drawn into particular focus if customers make use of multi-channel contact and are left with different perceptions of the brand depending on the channel (which form of address is the one which is most ‘on-brand’ for any particular company…?)
It is reasonable to expect that customers will increasingly equate web chat with other more informal modes of text-based messaging, like IM and SMS, and so may expect their web chat dealings with companies to be conducted in a similar vein.
Even though web chat may generally be viewed as a more informal medium, best practice is still for the spelling / grammar and typography to be held to stringent standards – not least due to the ease with which these interactions can be copied by customers and find their way onto the wider internet, on blogs and message boards, when compared with calls. Indeed, some companies now routinely forward web chat transcripts to customers, so accuracy, tone and being ‘on-brand’ is paramount.
Ultimately, establishing appropriate tone for agents regardless of language and method of contact is best achieved by frequent calibration sessions, taking all of the above considerations into account. Calibrations should take place on a regular basis with key project stakeholders, ideally using sample interactions across all languages and channels in which the project is delivered.
With over 25 years’ experience in quality monitoring and with global clients, our multi-lingual team have the skills, expertise and experience to add this level of detail and insight to your customer service or sales programmes.
To explore more about the subject of this article or to discuss any element of quality monitoring please feel free to contact me or BPA Quality via our website: www.bpaquality.co.uk or www.bpaquality.com.
By: Helen Beaumont Manahan, Project Implementation Manager at BPA Quality UK
For over 25 years, BPA Quality has been working with some of the world’s biggest organisations with one aim: to improve customer experience and, through this, deliver increased sales, retention, loyalty, cost optimisation, compliance and profitability.
Our many valued clients have a common passion and commitment to create outstanding organisations and work in partnership with BPA Quality to achieve competitive advantage and deliver exceptional results. They understand the strategic importance of having a highly effective quality programme within their organisation.
As the sphere of influence and recognition of the importance of the Contact Centre and quality functions grow, covering all aspects of the business from Sales, Marketing, Product Design, Legal and Compliance to the Customer-Facing Operations, so the need to capitalise on this key resource becomes imperative.
Our many years of specialism in Contact Centre Quality Assurance places us in a highly informed position; we have listened to millions of “human” customer contact situations, covering almost every customer type, having every conceivable difficulty or requirement. We have also undertaken this activity internationally, covering 45 languages, so we understand the differences between customer service expectations across multiple cultures.
All of this activity has enabled us to gain a detailed knowledge and view of the behaviours and processes that drive positive customer experience and engagement in Contact Centres and the development of effective quality and coaching programmes that enhance performance.
One of the key areas is a detailed understanding of the value and importance every customer interaction has in either positively or negatively impacting customer engagement with the organisation.
A great deal of focus in the Contact Centre quality programmes we encounter remains centred on scripting, process adherence, AHT reduction, risk avoidance, contact deflection and compliance, and not always on maximising the real opportunities presented in the Human Element of interactions.
Every conversation with a Customer is a lot more than just saying words and phrases – it’s an opportunity to make a real connection, to build the human element. As humans, unlike machines (chatbots), we have the ability to be creative, intuitive, show genuine empathy, feeling and understanding; to connect on a human level.
The human element in interactions provides great opportunities to:
- Build and reinforce your brand
- Build trust, credibility, and highlight competence
- Personalise the interaction and foster mirrored relationships
- Understand the reason for the interaction
- Identify all elements of the contact
- Build a relationship, show empathy, ownership and understanding; ensure the Customer feels like an individual, not a number
- Paint a picture to show the Customer you are engaged
- Offer flexible solutions
- Negotiate suitable solutions, creating win/win situations
- Build loyalty, retention, sales opportunities, advocacy, and increase first call resolution.
Every interaction, whatever the duration, represents an opportunity to discover valuable information about your Customers, identifying their challenges, wants and needs. This knowledge, once identified, can provide you with actionable insight and intelligence that can be used to guide the conversation and help build more effective human connections.
So in our rush to automate everything, push Customers online and reduce expensive human contact, we must not forget the value these interactions bring to our business. Significant focus should be placed on developing the effective skills, behaviours and coaching programmes designed to maximise this great benefit to our people and Customers.
Travel is part of my job as a trainer with BPA Quality, and I’ve journeyed all over the place for many years. But don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with the clichés of the business traveller: upgrades, airline miles, hotel points, jet lag, ‘red eye’ flights, the psycho ADHD kid kicking the back of the seat….blah, blah, blah and yawn.
The truth is – at the end of a long assignment spent mostly on my feet – all I need from an airline is a flight that guarantees to get me where I most want to be (home!) in the quickest way possible. Luckily I’m quite small, so even the most meager economy seats can usually accommodate me without too much discomfort. That, and my ability to fall asleep the moment I hear a jet-engine start up, usually ensures a palliative experience.
Given all that, I’m sure you’ve realized that I’m not particularly tolerant of fellow travellers in adjacent seats who seem hell-bent on preventing me from gently snoring. And, my goodness, I’ve had experience of all of them on one flight or another: religious fanatics, power-salesmen, fantasists, hypochondriacs, phobic flyers, as well as common garden crazies…….you name it.
However, there are exceptions, and my companion on a flight back from Phoenix a few weeks ago was one of them. For a start he was reading a book. A real one…….without moving his lips. When was the last time anyone read a real book on a flight? Secondly, he was eating a bit of cake with frosting in a dainty napkin. “From my wife and daughter” he explained, showing me a little card that had ‘Daddy’ written on it in childish crayon, “It’s my birthday”.
Well, having demonstrated both his intelligence and humanity it was kind of easy to have a conversation, and naturally it turned to what we did for a living. It turns out that he’s a quality control scientist with a plastics engineering firm (I think that’s correct), so we weren’t able to get much further with that. But when he found out that I trained customer service agents, he was anxious to share some of his own experiences of ‘customer service’ with me.
Apparently he’d just tried to book an air miles flight with his preferred airline, and after a good start with (let’s call her) ‘Stacey’ he’d had a less than impressive follow-up call with (let’s call her) ‘Donna’. I’m not going to tell you how Stacey and Donna got the dates mixed up, and the consequences in terms of costs of upgrades/hotels/car hire and general inconvenience, because occasionally such things happen. And, as you know, it’s not always possible to get to the bottom of these matters and allocate blame like a teacher giving bad marks for wrong spellings.
Anyway, like most situations like this, the matter was resolved after a manager’s intervention and some intensity on the part of my new friend. No doubt, there were also a few ruffled feathers on the part of Stacey and Donna and the manager too.
No. What was interesting here was that this was a perfect example of how telephone language and tone – two things I teach as a trainer for BPA Quality – can immediately influence customer behavior.
So after listening to his long tale of woe I asked “At what point did you lose it? What was the final straw?”, and he told me it was when Donna had bluntly told him that “Stacey wouldn’t have told you that” as a firm rebuttal to something he said. To him it was tantamount to calling him a liar, and he had exploded with anger. Seeing my expressionless face he proceeded to add other crimes to Donna’s inadequacies up to that point: “She was dismissive”, “She didn’t give a XXXX” etc, etc.
Now, this situation was always likely to need a higher power to solve it (in this case Donna’s manager). But a great deal of unpleasantness and bad feeling could have been avoided if Donna had simply:
- Used less confrontational language
- Adopted a more personable ‘tonal’ demeanor
Donna probably didn’t even know what had caused the sudden outburst from the customer, and as a BPA Quality trainer I see this time and again.
Even when the language issue is staring training groups in the face they don’t always get it. For instance, I used Donna as an example recently, and found some quite sensible members of the group defending her choice of words as ‘not offensive’!
My approach here is to put the group in a hypothetical similar situation and ask them to rate the interaction using a scale from 1-10, negative to positive, and this usually works well in gaining consensus with a training group.
“So what would you have done?” asked my new friend. “Possibly the same as you” I reassured him. “My job is to prevent such scenes before they occur. I really can’t do much when they’ve already been provoked!”
More and more leaders in our industry are challenging their organisations to re-think their quality models and making Strategic Quality a foundation pillar within their growth plans.
Whilst the drivers vary across organisations, we are observing a tangible and growing interest in both understanding and leveraging end-to-end Quality.
When the focus changes from ‘box-ticking’ to ‘business intelligence,’ and the Quality Team’s insight and analysis is sought in order to form the basis of key decisions, which impact the whole business, the benefits are leveraged right across the board: from marketing to recruitment, compliance to customer advocacy, from employee engagement to process improvement, product design and more.
Of course, your Quality Team are eyewitnesses to your daily interactions with customers, but it’s how you harness and leverage this insight that provides opportunities for business transformation.
When you compare business endeavours to elite sports performance – marginal gains, outlier theories and so on – coupled with the vast amount of data now available, the difference between winning and losing is down to your ability to hand pick the correct nuggets of data in a timely manner and turn these into actionable goals and winning tactics.
In our experience working with Clients across the global spectrum, the consistent key success factors are:
- Your Quality Team being – and being seen to be – truly independent and impartial
- Highly calibrated outputs, credibility beyond question
- An employee-centric model, built around engaging your people
- Coaching that makes a real difference
- The ability to deploy insight-gathering and report on it, in real time
- A system which enables immediate action by the right people at the right time
- All aspects of the programme being engineered towards your business strategic goals
Whether you have an established and mature Quality setup, or are pushing to move your business to the next level, engaging with the right specialist, independent and trusted Partner will provide you with game-changing bench strength.
Whilst most daily operational metrics give us visibility of how the business is running, how accurately can we measure our current cost of quality, and how clearly can we state what the ROI is on our spend?
Certainly in our experience, this is a tough question to answer for many. This can result from shared ownership, overlapping processes, specialisation and accountability challenges for outcomes as well as costs. All too often this can mean that Quality is perceived as a ‘sunk cost’ to be managed down, instead of a catalyst for business change.
Many of our conversations start from taking a fresh look and benchmarking with best-in-class models. Opportunities become apparent and whether they require a fundamental rethink or focused enhancements, the benefits are soon tangible.
At BPA Quality, we are privileged to be working with some of the world’s biggest brands and many long-term successes are founded on the use of Quality as a strategic driver to deliver higher returns.
BPA Quality is currently speaking to organisations across the UK, US and worldwide who are interested in exploring these themes. If you would like to take part, or share your views, please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.
June 20, 2016
Here at BPA Quality we have over 25 years’ experience in providing expert quality monitoring services and consultancy for contact centres. Our clients are drawn from 100 different industries with the one common area being that they use contact centres to communicate with their customers. Being at the hub of all this combined experience and expertise means we are in the lucky position of seeing all elements of how through quality monitoring different companies attempt to implement exceptional customer experience.
Our experience and variety of client’s results in a unique BPA view on all things related to the delivery and achievement of quality monitoring.
Without selling the family heirlooms I have decided to write about the subjects we are asked about the most and share some thoughts.
One of the main area’s we are asked about by clients and potential clients alike is; “what is the ideal scorecard.”
Regardless of the level of investment in quality in your contact centre you will invariably use a scorecard to identify problems, maintain quality standards, improve customer experience, and increase agent, centre and departmental performances.
Given the importance of scorecards, their creation and amendments should be considered and involve front line team members, managers, stakeholders, customers and, if possible, industry experts.
Building a routine and process for regular reviews of your scorecard is crucial; scorecards in our experience have a habit of growing organically with areas added to reflect current needs, or latest trends. Over time, this can lead to scorecards that have duplicate areas measured or areas measured that are no longer relevant.
Scorecards should have measures that are aligned with your company view on how it should be delivering customer experience. It should also consider KPIs, external benchmarking and also customer expectations.
Once you understand the measures and are confident they reflect your version of a quality interaction, you then need to give serious thought on how these interactions are then measured. Include examples that demonstrate excellent, average and poor quality of the behaviour/activity being measured.
Ask yourself, “Can I develop an action plan from the results of the scorecard. Can I communicate the results to the agents effectively? Am I able to identify outstanding performance as well as areas for improvement?”
Whilst oversimplified, this view of the creation of scorecards provides ‘food for thought’ about some of the key considerations regarding scorecards.
For more detailed information regarding scorecards and how to maximise their effectiveness, please feel free to contact me.
June 6, 2016
I get to help with quality dilemmas every day. I field questions about how agents can better connect with customers, deliver service excellence, and show they care. Leaders tell me “I want the customer to feel like we are on their side and that we are listening to them.” There is no doubt in today’s highly competitive market that great customer service is king. Why is it so difficult to achieve?
Here are three areas to check to help determine if service excellence is a priority in your quality program:
The Evaluation Form: Generally 90% of evaluation forms measure agent’s adherence to processes, knowledge of systems, and ability to locate resolutions. It’s not uncommon to see one, maybe two questions that measure how well the agent serve the customer. This sends a clear message to agents about what is most important, and of course agents are going to focus on processes and systems. While it is vital your teams provide resolutions and fix problems, it’s how the agent does it that really matters to the customer. How many questions on your evaluation form focus on connecting with and listening to the customer?
Training: When new employees join your organization, what percentage of the training is focused on delivering customer service? We often see the same percentage when we look at the how agents are trained to perform their job, with 90% of the training focused on how to utilize systems, understand the processes, and document accounts. All of these areas are important for an agent to effectively do what the customer needs, but it sends a clear message about the priorities and that service is a nice afterthought. How much of your training, new hire and ongoing, reinforces delivering service and showing customers you care?
Objectivity: Agents and customers both despise scripting. You hire smart people who are more than capable of talking with customers, and customers can tell they are being read a script in the first three words – so don’t do it! Objectively measure behaviors that are service driven. Leave out opinion based words such as ‘friendly,’ ‘nice,’ and ‘pleasant.’ Yes you can objectively measure service skills! Do questions about how the agent connected with the customer objectively measure the behaviors you want demonstrated on every call?
BPA Quality has more than 25 years of experience in human behavior research and we are experts at how to optimize your service delivery, whether in person or over the phone. If you have challenges in these areas, definitely give us a call or Email me for a complimentary, 30 minute review of your evaluation form.
Stephanie Taylor has more than twenty years’ experience helping organizations deliver great service. Formerly a client of BPA Quality, she has worked with this great company for six years and is Director of Client Services for North America. She can be reached at Stephanie.Taylor@BPAQuality.com
Effective coaching is at the heart of what we do here at BPA, it is a key part of our daily life. It is a process that enables our Independent Quality Evaluators (IQEs) to learn and develop, to improve their performance, to simply achieve their full potential. Our unique coaching process also ensures that our Clients’ needs are not only met but also regularly exceeded.
So why is our coaching so effective?
Coaching at BPA is not regarded as a task to be completed but as a way to really enhance performance and development within the team, it really is in our DNA! It is performed on a regular basis, individually with each member of our project team and is regarded as the number one priority for our Team Managers. Under ‘coaching’ in this instance I don’t mean Corporate or Executive Coaching; I refer here to the coaching sessions that are part of our project monitoring and development.
This is the coaching process where the coaches are the direct Team Managers who therefore know very well their team members, their daily job routines and the project challenges they face. The Team Managers have an insight into their team members’ individual needs, strengths and weaknesses, and finally – or most importantly – into their unique personality.
This close relationship ensures that the exploration of team member’s needs, desires, skills and motivations takes a very detailed and personalised approach. We don’t deliver a general programme or group-tailored advice. We explore, on a one-to-one basis, the entire performance process. Through detailed and joint analysis of multiple calibration sessions and quality assurance checks, we identify and discuss the areas of strength, as well as scope for development. Yes, both – not only the aspects in need of further development.
We believe that identifying your strengths is a key part of the success – if you realise how you came to be successful in one area, you already have a great tool in hand to be used to achieve the same success elsewhere. It’s not about telling the team members where they are underachieving or pinpointing their weaknesses – this can only result in an opposite and unsolicited effect. It’s about making the team members aware of how good and successful they already are and encourage them to use the same technique in other areas that can be developed and soon become equally successful. It’s also about sharing this experience, ideas and insight with others. It’s about setting specific and measurable goals, for an agreed period of time. The goal is being closely monitored and revisited by the set up deadline. Upon successful completion another new goal is set up, if more work is required, the goal will be repeated.
The key is analysing, feedback, practice, repeat. To take a sporting context, the more you practise, the easier the activity becomes, you become more skilled, more experienced and you are able to recognise what you are doing that is having a positive and negative impact on your performance. The focus is on repeating the positives and using this experience to overcome the negatives. Success doesn’t occur instantly, it’s achieved through strenuous and systematic repetition and training, as you strive to achieve your goal. As the golfer Ben Hogan said, “The more I practise, the luckier I get”.
Our journey through the coaching process is not that distant from this picture and it is a journey that certainly pays off. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, it also gives our IQEs an overview of their individual ‘status-quo’, the much needed guidance and reassurance of how important and valued their daily jobs are.
To show how much our coaching sessions matter to our evaluators, our success in embedding a coaching culture and their hunger for feedback there is a mantra across the BPA teams:
“When is my next coaching session?”
By Ewa Murphy, June 2015
As in all team sports, players either all win or all lose. The same goes for any call center …
While watching the 2015 Women’s Soccer World Cup, USA and Australia were battling to edge ahead in the dreaded D group. Most people believe that having a superior offense wins championships in soccer. Although the USA team put goals on the board, there were countless saves by the defense, especially by goalie, Hope Solo.
How does this relate to a call center, you may ask? Well, in a call center there are many departments that handle every aspect of the customer experience. If the sales department did a fantastic job taking care of the customer, but then punts the customer to the mediocre service department, then the company may just lose the “game.”
Every touch a call center has on the customer reflects the overall customer experience. So, how can a contact center calibrate across all channels of service? Well, let’s talk a bit more about soccer, or as my team in the BPA Quality UK Research Center would refer to as FOOTBALL!
Field of Play
By understanding the entire process from first touch to goal, call center agents can provide the customer with a play-by-play report. The customer is never left wondering what happens next. If you know the game and the role you play within the team, then it will be effortless to win.
A team is only as good as the sum of its parts. Call center agents need great leaders that provide them with meaningful coaching and knowledge, so they can achieve the goal (providing memorable customer service). Also considering outside experts to evaluate agents with a customer-centric point-of-view can up the playing advantage.
In some circumstances, a customer may need a bit of “dribbling” or “hand holding,” and the call center must embrace that average handle time or other KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) will be affected. Understanding of those changes in agents’ quality scores can be circumstantial and provide leadership with a “shot on goal” in grasping the customer journey, effort and/or experience.
The dreaded offside
Working in and around call centers for the past nine years, I have actually witnessed leadership stepping over the line of defense to try and make that “easy” goal. When that has happened, the customer, the agent and ultimately the company loses. Play fair with customers and they will return and recommend the company to their friends and with agents because they are the first and only touch to the customer. To win a customer does not mean they will be one for life, it could only be for the moment. Once they are lost, no telling how many more will be lost.
Shots on goal & GOAL!
Once the call center is working together to provide incredible customer service, then the “shots on goal” will increase and eventually the customer becomes not only loyal, but an advocate too. GOAL!
When evaluating the call center, make sure to step back or have a third party understand the “field of play” as the customer. For example, as a fan of the USA women’s soccer team, it is much simpler for me to recognize why Abby Wambach missed last night’s header into the goal. If she had my outside vantage point, she may have put a goal on the board. Luckily for the USA Team, she is a part of a capable, successful team to get the win for USA.
I’m willing to bet that #20 (Abby Wambach) and her team will review the recording of that missed header to evaluate how do to it better the next time.
As a call center team, are you ready for the customer experience “World Cup?” If not, the competition is …
Go #USWNT & #USA!