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
- Define goal: Map your QA process to business goals
- Build a QA quality culture and behavior framework: framework centered around improving the customer experience by focusing on the effort the customer makes, minimizing conduct risk and providing the most positive customer outcomes
- Remove the perception of QA evaluation as being a punitive process
- Pay close attention to correlation between QA scores and customer survey scores – note: Only 20-25% of customer satisfaction with a call is determined by the content of their conversation with agents
- Progressive businesses are moving on from tick box, features and benefits format to customer engagement / active listening, matching and outcomes
- The QA team should be regarded as experts in driving the customer experience agenda across the organization and be regarded as an integral part of the company value chain
- Business Intelligence Team uses the data gathered through quality process for providing the business with performance insight & predictive analytics
- QA should inform product and product governance: Undertake product reviews / what do customers like, dislike
- The QA and compliance teams need to work hand-in-glove; ensuring compliant customer interactions for both new and existing customers: regulatory rules are now given
- Red flag process vigorously enforced
- Senior Executives need visibility: Customer experience, product / marketing / managing risk
- Build processes and systems to share information across the business: Share Voice of the Customer feedback with other departments
- Hold regular round tables with Product, Marketing, Sales: highlight trends, risks, feedback
- Influence the organization: don’t operate in a silo
- Include agents and team leads in the calibration process
- Calibrate based on expertise, not deviation from average or arbitrary targets
- Use Calibrations to refine QA forms and remove ambiguity
- Look to your teams to identify and share anecdotal feedback: sometimes it is OK to work in the grey
- Keep your QA forms fresh and relevant
- Deep-dive analysis of the data to identify trends, insight and areas that require greater focus
TRENDS FOR THE FUTURE OF LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT by Yvette Renda, Director of People Development
As a trainer at BPA Quality, I like to keep on top of current thinking in my area, and so it was with interest that I read a report recently released by the Brandon Hall Group – a think tank specializing in theories of workforce management practice*.
The report highlighted that – in today’s world – organizations that fail to adjust their learning management practices and solutions often struggle with organizational growth as well as productivity.
As a result, forward-thinking companies are abandoning traditional methods of learning in favor of more effective solutions that engage talent and improve performance. And although the report focuses on the use of new technology to improve training outcomes, I found that some of the non-technological aspects were also quite interesting. After all, not every organization can immediately re-purpose all aspects of training strategy, tactics and materials to take advantage of cutting edge technology.
In fact, the aspects of the report that I was most interested in highlighted key trends affecting the future of enterprise learning and recommendations for selecting the right provider.
A number of key findings of the report jumped out at me:
* One-third of companies are increasing their budget for learning and development
* 41 percent of companies describe their culture as “Controlling”
* 59 percent of companies are leveraging social learning activities
Source: Brandon Hall Group 2014 Learning and Development Benchmarking Study (n=569)
Prioritizing the Individual
It is true that finding and keeping talent is no longer an HR challenge but a strategic business priority. Yet, the authors of the report found that most companies were unable to build lasting relationships with their employees in an effort to overcome these challenges. Instead of giving employees the tools needed to succeed, many companies feel threatened by their workforce and fearful of change. In fact, when asked to define their company culture, 41 percent of employees described it as “controlling”.
I agree with the authors that, with the emergence of a younger generation and the rise of the independent worker, companies must rethink their approach to talent and begin to prioritize the “individual”. I’ve found in my own work at BPA Quality that provision of a ‘peer coach’ to help new trainees apply the skills they’ve acquired in the workplace setting allows for an individualized approach rather than a ‘one size fits all’ ‘controlling’ model.
However, in my own view, for many companies this updated learning and development process is long overdue. Indeed, research shows that more than 50 percent of companies have revisited their learning strategy less than two times over the last five years and learning has remained, for the most part, stagnant. But the good news is that one-third of companies are increasing their budget for learning and development over the next 12 months.
With nearly 50 percent of these companies currently spending $100 per learner per year, it makes sense to conclude that companies need to become more strategic about their training programs and the type of learning experience offered by training enablers.
Although training is one of the most mature areas of talent management, it is also one of the most innovative. Yet making a decision to improve a learning management program and invest in a learning management solution is often a daunting challenge.
Happily, the authors offer some considerations that can help with this which I would recommend from my own training experiences at BPA Quality:
* Considering Adaptive Learning. Adaptive learning is a methodology that allows employees to learn at their own pace. Employees can be monitored individually and in real time to determine what learning approach will best suit their needs.
At BPA Quality we utilize this approach as can be seen in the afore-mentioned example of the provision of a ‘peer coach’ for new trainees to try out their new skills in the actual work setting under the guidance of their personal ‘peer coach’.
Personally, I’ve found that the Adaptive Learning approach allows employees to build confidence and overall expertise at their own individualized pace – and that this has positive benefits for both efficiency and long-term employee engagement, increasing productivity (a key metric of the report).
* Aligning with Business Objectives. It goes without saying that any training program should drive retention, engagement, and performance aligned with the organization’s business objectives. The authors were able to demonstrate that for those companies that did align learning and business priorities (48 percent), more than 70 percent were able to improve company revenue.
I happen to strongly agree with this and apply it in my own work. When I’m conducting training at our client sites every BPA Quality workshop that I conduct is based around the input, and expertise of the participants – from agent to management level training – and therefore keeps my training relevant to the participants, client environment and business objectives.
* Measuring Effectiveness. To determine if the learning strategy in place is driving business outcomes, companies must find a way to consistently measure its effectiveness.
This makes good sense to me, and at BPA Quality all team members participate in regular quality calibrations to ensure accuracy and complete understanding of their objectives and how they align with clients’ business objectives.
MY KEY TAKEAWAYS
Put the individual first. I totally agree that companies must shift the way they view employees and consider focusing on the individual and his or her unique learning needs. For some companies, this strategy may include aspects of adaptive learning; for other companies, it could mean a different communication strategy.
At BPA Quality we have always based our training around an Adaptive Learning approach, and in terms of other communication strategies I always keep an open mind. The changing dynamics of our marketplace demand no less.
*[Brandon Hall Group is an independent HCM research and advisory services firm that provides insights on Learning and Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition, and Human Resources.]
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
Grammar and language is changing and evolving due to the impact of social media. Trying to fit thoughts into text messages and 140 characters on Twitter can be mind boggling. As Quality experts, we are asked a lot about if agents can utilize abbreviations and “text talk” in customer interactions via chat, email, social media, etc.
There is a very fine line in regard to what is acceptable and just plain negligent on a company’s part. There are still many consumers that judge grammatical and spelling mistakes harshly. As a rule of thumb, when it comes to the brand, all “t’s” should be crossed and all “i’s” should be dotted. By doing so, agents are protecting the brand’s credibility and representing it appropriately.
Proper grammar and spelling should have been grasped in primary school and with the internet available to almost everyone, there should be no reason interactions with customers should not contain the correct usage of language.
According to 1,003 UK consumers, 42.5% hated poor spelling and grammar when it came to brands on Social Media. That is a significant percentage and warrants attention when ensuring call center agents are representing their company.
Mistakes can be forgiven; however, making them continually can be detrimental to the company and the brand. Ultimately, encourage call center agents to use proper spelling, grammar and speech to demonstrate that the company cares about their credibility and image to the customer … and that says a lot.
For the 6th Year, BPA International ranks on Inc. 5000
09/11/2014 (press release: KarynDupree) // Carle Place, New York, United States // Karyn Dupree
The 2014 Inc. 5000, unveiled online at Inc.com and with the top 500 companies featured in the September issue of Inc. (available on newsstands August 20 to November 30), is the most competitive crop in the list’s history. The average company on the list achieved a mind-boggling three-year growth of 516%. The Inc. 5000′ s aggregate revenue is $211 billion, generating 505,000 jobs over the past three years. Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at http://www.inc.com/inc5000.
More about Inc. and the Inc. 500|5000
The 2014 Inc. 5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth when comparing 2010 to 2013. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2010. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent–not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies–as of December 31, 2013. (Since then, a number of companies on the list have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2010 is $100,000; the minimum for 2013 is $2 million. As always, Inc. reserves the right to decline applicants for subjective reasons. Companies on the Inc. 500 are featured in Inc.’s September issue. They represent the top tier of the Inc. 5000, which can be found at http://www.inc.com/5000.
About Inc. and the Inc. 5000
Founded in 1979 and acquired in 2005 by Mansueto Ventures, Inc. is the only major brand dedicated exclusively to owners and managers of growing private companies, with the aim to deliver real solutions for today’s innovative company builders. Total monthly audience reach for the brand has grown significantly from 2,000,000 in 2010 to over 6,000,000 today. For more information, visit http://www.inc.com/ .
The Inc. 500|5000 is a list of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation. Started in 1982, this prestigious list of the nation’s most successful private companies has become the hallmark of entrepreneurial success. The Inc. 5000 Conference & Awards Ceremony is an annual event that celebrates their remarkable achievements. The event also offers informative workshops, celebrated keynote speakers, and evening functions.
For more information on Inc. and the Inc. 5000 Conference, visit http://www.inc.com.
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2. “Be a yardstick of Quality.” ~ Steve Jobs, Apple
3. “Quality is not an act. It is a habit.” ~ Aristotle
4. “When you’re out of Quality, you’re out of business.” ~ Anon
5. “Our innovation makes us first, our Quality makes us last.” ~ Scott Adams, US Cartoonist
6. “We have two ears and one mouth, so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” ~ Epictetus
7. “Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.” ~ Gucci Family Slogan
8. “It is easier to do a job right, then to explain why you didn’t.” ~ Martin Van Buren
9. “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence — only in constant improvement and constant change.” ~ Tom Peters
10. “If you build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” ~ Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com
11. “Customer satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty is priceless.” ~ Jeffrey Gitomer
12. “If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.” ~ Jan Carlzon, ex-CEO SAP Group
13. “In the world of Internet Customer Service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away.” ~ Doug Warner
14. “Why wait to be memorable?” ~ Tony Robbins