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
Did you know that 76% of consumers that partook in the Aspect Consumer Experience Survey view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them? How about, according to the 2015 Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report by Parature, 65% of the 1000 consumers surveyed said they would sever their relationship with a brand over a single poor customer experience? So … how do you make sure that your agents are providing a fantastic customer experience every time they interact with customers? One word … QUALITY!
A potent Quality program that provides objective and customer-concentric evaluations can make the difference in agents’ abilities to understand the optimum way to provide first-class customer service. There are 3 main platforms of Quality: Internal Quality Team, Outsourced (offshored) Quality Team and Pro-sourced Quality Team. Choosing the right one depends on the business needs and goals.
If you are looking to have total control over the quality program and to have analysts available to answer calls during high call volume, then an internal team may be your choice. From my many conversations with call center leaders, they have complained that quality wasn’t being done because the analysts were pulled to help manage call queues. Since evaluations were not being done, then the agents were not being provided proper coaching. Also, from the same conversations, there is also a high probability of nepotism because quality teams were co-workers/friends with the agents. Since the evaluations are more subjective then objective, opportunities are lost to assist agents to be best-in-class.
Outsource (offshoring) quality monitoring will definitely get audits completed, in a check box mentality. Since this work is outsourced to different countries because of lower wages, cultural issues arise. Customers from the USA are quite a contrast from those in India, South America and the Philippines. The cultural difference can be one word or tone away from losing a customer. A quality program should contribute insight to all your customers’ expectations and benefit call center managers with appropriate information to properly coach agents.
The last main platform, far from the least, is Pro-sourcing Quality. Just like FedEx is an expert on getting packages from Point A to Point B on time, a Pro-sourced quality company are experts in quality. Listening to calls for quality is not a skill that everyone possesses. It takes expertise in listening and analyzing calls for hours. Uncovering business intelligence to help a company reach their goals and needs are all part of a pro-sourcing relationship. Since most pro-sourcing quality companies are located where your customers live, it is capable of understanding the culture and even regionalism of your customers. In a pro-sourcing quality partnership, they work with you (the expert in your business) and couples it with unbiased, customer-centric analysis of how to increase customer experience and loyalty.
As mentioned before, choosing the correct quality platform that works for your call center needs and goals can be a daunting process. According to a whitepaper by Craig Antonucci at BPA Quality, there are 4 factors that make a quality program successful:
- Make it clear and to the point
- Integrate supervisors and managers into the process
- Clearly define the program for the agents
- Make it consistent, fair, objective and accurate
I would add one more factor …
Be sure your quality analysts and program are experts in quality, and they can provide insightful knowledge on what is excellent customer service to YOUR customers.
Back from a couple of days at Customer Contact Expo, the self proclaimed “UK’s premier event for Customer contact solutions, workshops and connections”, where thousands of industry professionals gathered to hear about trends, see the latest technology and gain a vision of what the contact centres of the future will look like.
As anticipated there were lots of solution providers and discussions around the usual Contact Centre hot topics of Omni-Channel, process improvement and Customer Engagement with “Cloud Based” appearing to be the buzz phrase at the event.
What was refreshing to hear was the increased focus on two areas that I believe are vital to contact centres and business success; employee engagement and the increasing sphere of influence of quality in organisations.
In a highly interesting talk by David Macleod from the Employee Engagement Taskforce, the understanding, backed up by compelling evidence, that positively engaging your team can have dramatic impact on all of your business metrics was persuasively delivered. I encourage you to look at the Engaging for Success website where there are specific publications showing the weight of evidence of how positively engaging employees impacts profitability and service outcomes.
From personal experience, I have always believed that the engagement and development of team members with the same level of rigor used in measuring and managing customer engagement and experience can deliver exceptional dividends.
We are all aware of the drive towards reducing customer effort, satisfying customers and in encouraging customers to promote our products and services, indeed most businesses have robust processes for measuring these areas; CES, CSAT, NPS. Can the same be said for our employee practices?
Do we spend an equal amount of time tracking and measuring our employee effort, how easy it is to work for us, our employee satisfaction and our employee promotion scores, given the impact our people can have on our business and customers?
From a customer perspective, we measure the customer journey; from promotion to acquisition, utilization, satisfaction and retention, with teams looking at understanding and enhancing all touch points for consistency, simplification, cost optimisation and enhanced experience. We undertake detailed root cause analysis, process improvement, quality measurement and invest heavily in technology to ensure we are meeting business and customer needs.
In my opinion, a compelling case can be made for undertaking the same detailed approach to the employee journey from values, culture, skills, competencies, advertising, recruitment, on-boarding, induction, personal development, communication; in short all employee touch points. By identifying what excellence looks like in each of these areas, there can then be a drive and culture within the organisation for continuous improvement and enhancement.
With technology increasingly providing solutions for less complex interactions, the ability of our teams to handle higher value, more complex interactions across multiple channels will grow. Having a highly skilled and engaged workforce will enable us to better meet the future challenges, and is going to be an increasingly important area of focus in the Customer Service and the Contact Centre industry in the years ahead.
The second area; the increasing sphere of influence of quality in organisations, I will cover in my next article.
Written by: Andrew Mutch, Chief Customer Officer, BPA Quality UK Research Center
- 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
A lot of people in the contact center scene have heard about Speech Analytics (SA) but do not know the purpose of the technology. Researching the topic can be overwhelming so let’s start with the basics.
What is Speech Analytics?
Speech Analytics is the technique of taking calls that have been recorded to acquire data. It is to call centers what Google is to the internet. You can search for keywords or phrases to identify specific topics or behaviors during a customer-agent interaction.
What can I use Speech Analytics for?
You can use SA for a lot of things. Say your company requires sales agents to read to the customer a disclaimer about E911 (Enhanced 911) at point of sale- you need to know the percentage of agent compliance in your sales queue. You could spend an eternity going through calls randomly and hope to find what you are looking for or you can use SA technology to search for the specific phrase you are looking for like “E911 will not function until power is restored” and examine the data for accuracy.
You can also use SA technology to improve an existing process. For example one of the biggest issues in any size call center is First Call Resolution (FCR). You want to make sure that your agents are handling your customers concerns the first time around. The more customers have to call in results in lower customer satisfaction which could result in your customers ultimately leaving you for a competitor. SA can help you identify the hot topics that trigger repeat calls and help you develop processes to resolve them.
How does a Speech Analytics tool work? How does it know to find what I am looking for?
A SA tool typically is broken down into the following functional segments:
Speech Engine- This portion does the initial analysis of audio and will convert it into a file that contains a series of phonemes or transcribed text.
Indexing- This portion improves accuracy of the speech engine. It will try to make sense of the data from the speech engine and index it for additional analysis, ad hoc searching and queries. The tools will import/ingest data from the call center’s recording system(s).
Query Engine- This is where authorized end users are able to define their queries and results they want in the SA tool.
Search- Used to perform ad hoc search terms on indexed audio files. Operates similar to a google search.
Reporting Dashboard- This is where you can go to organize system data in a customizable and easy to visually digest manner. In this area you are able to drill down and filter results to your needs.
There are 2 primary types of speech engines:
Phonetic Speech Engine- the English Language has 40 phonemes. A phonetic based SA tool will search your keywords and phrases broken down in phonemes in order to return your search results faster. Example: “an-l-it-iks” or “Foh-net-ik”. A benefit to a phonetic based SA tool is that it is not limited to a pre-defined dictionary.
Text to speech (also known as LVCSR) Engine – A text to speech tool will convert speech into text using a dictionary. It will then locate the occurrences of query words in the transcribed call. A benefit of this type of SA tool is that it creates a transcript of the customer-agent interaction.
What is a Query?
Queries are an absolute must to have in your SA tool in order to get the best results. A query is a prebuilt search that has been created within the SA tool to help an end user best refine their ad hoc searches. An organization will typically have some resources set aside who specialize in creating specific queries that are of significant value to the organization. For example a telecommunications company may want to have queries built around the core lines of business they offer in addition to having queries built for specific call drivers like payment arrangements or general inquiries. Typically queries should validate at 90% accuracy to be considered functional as it will reduce the amount of false positives and missed hits.
What is an ad hoc search?
An ad hoc search is a custom search performed within the SA tool. This is the exciting aspect of speech analytics as your options for what you can search for are relatively limitless. Ad hoc searches are the core of any SA program because they allow your organization to deep dive into the heart of your customer-agent interactions. Generally the best way to ad hoc search is when they are run concurrently with an existing relevant query within the system to vet out the best results. Keep in mind that you will need to validate the accuracy of your results to ensure that you are gathering the most relevant results for your ad hoc search. Further elaboration on the ad hoc search process will be discussed in the next article.
As you can see there is a lot of power that a good speech analytics program has to offer. There is an increasing need for contact centers to deliver better customer experiences along with reducing cost and improving agent performance. People are now starting to understand that a customer interaction is a revenue generating asset that contains a vast amount of insight data that needs to be tapped into, understood and acted on.
See you soon in part 2 of Adventures in Speech Analytics when we take a closer look at queries and the ad hoc search process and strategies within a speech analytics tool.
Written by: Diana Aviles, Operations Manager, Speech Analytics at BPA Quality