A quality form or rubric that outlines the criteria for successful customer interactions is a core component to contact center quality management. When we review customer interactions and coach our agents using that criteria it ensures customers consistently receive excellent service.

Creating a quality form can be a daunting task for contact center leaders. How long should the form be? What questions should I include? What scoring method should I use? How should it differ for the various support channels? How often should I update it? These are all great questions to be asking, and if your goal is a great customer experience, these eight tips will put you on the right path.

1. Begin with the customer experience in mind

One problem with typical quality forms is that they become an extensive checklist of everything agents did wrong in a customer interaction. The form becomes a mechanism to ensure the wrong behaviors never, ever happen again. While that’s important, it can breed a “checklist mentality” where agents are more focused on following a checklist than making the experience great. And customers can absolutely hear (or read) when agents are following a checklist.

Here’s an example. At the end of a phone call many agents are trained to ask, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” So often they are hoping the customer says “No” so they can end the phone call. One of my favorite customer service speakers, Chip Bell, encourages us to rephrase that to an open-ended question asking, “What else can I help you learn today?” That’s a great sentiment, right? Rather than trying to push a customer off the phone, we’re making every effort to ensure that we’ve completely resolved their issue so they can successfully do business with us.

As you begin this process of creating a quality form, beginning first by thinking about the customer experience you want to deliver makes the rest of the process much easier.

2. Keep the form as simple as possible

Mark Twain once said, “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

These wise words also apply to quality forms. As you make your list of questions here are two pieces of advice I often give:

  • Focus on including only those behaviors that you want to track for improvement over time.
  • Remember that the longer the form, the longer it will take supervisors to complete.

Wherever possible, create themes that encompass multiple behaviors. For example, rather than having separate questions for grammar, spelling, and use of brand voice, create a question called “Communication Skills” that includes all of these behaviors.

In a later post I’ll talk about a quality definitions guide that allows you to expand your definition for each of your questions. The next three tips are general categories that are critical to every customer interaction. This should help you build out your form.

3. Focus on human connection

Here are some behaviors you might include under the human connection category:

  • Greeting - The initial greeting on the call with the appropriate branding might also include natural use of the customer’s name during the conversation. All of this should be delivered with an upbeat tone.
  • Listening and Acknowledgement - It should be clear that the agent correctly heard the customer and acknowledged what they said.
  • Empathy - The agent should recognize the emotional state of the customer, positive or negative, and respond appropriately.
  • Communication Skills - The message should be communicated clearly and effectively. Typos, grammatical errors, talking over the customer, and annoying filler words detract from that message or alter it.
  • Taking Ownership - The customer needs to be confident that the agent is taking control and ownership of their issue until it’s resolved.
  • Closing - The close of the interaction should be friendly, communicate gratefulness for the customer’s business, and shouldn’t occur until the customer agrees it’s complete.

4. Focus on correct and complete answers

Incorrect or incomplete answers mean the customer either has to contact support again or they become upset and find another company to do business with. Either way, this costs significant time and money. Here are a few important behaviors under this category:

  • Accurate and complete information - Giving correct information is one thing. Take it a step further and encourage agents to fully educate customers so they don’t have to contact your support team again.
  • Troubleshooting and tool usage - Part of any good quality process is evaluating the troubleshooting steps and processes agents are following and making sure agents effectively and efficiently use the tools available to them. A quality management system with screen recording for visibility into the agent’s screen is incredibly valuable here.
  • Documentation - Case notes, tagging, dispositioning, and other activities are important for reporting purposes but also for ensuring that, if the customer contacts your support team again, they don’t have to rehash everything.

5. Focus on security and compliance

Depending on the nature of your business, security and compliance could be the most critical category because of the severe threat to both the customer and to your business if not followed. Here are some common items:

  • Authentication- The process of verifying the customer before discussing sensitive account information.
  • Other Compliance- You may have any number of other important processes that agents must follow. This could include:
    • Announcing that a call is being recorded.
    • Processing payments in a PCI-compliant manner.
    • Protecting a customer’s personal health information per HIPAA
    • Not providing financial advice if not licensed to do so.

6. Keep your scoring simple

There are so many different scoring options but I recommend simple yes/no scoring model. The agent either performed the behavior up to the standard that was set. If they don’t meet expectations, they need to be coached on how to achieve the standard next time. You may also include NA in this model if there was no opportunity for the behavior. Finally, questions that are more critical, especially for security and compliance, can be weighted more heavily. Some contact centers will use the concept of an automatic fail where the score for a category or for the entire review is set to zero to communicate the severity of missing a certain step in the interaction.

While I’m a big proponent of the yes/no scale, especially for compliance and correctness of information, I’ve often supported a small rating scale for human connection skills. For example, an agent may earn partial credit for honest attempts at a desired behavior and may just need to refine their approach a bit. A simple 3 or 5-point scale may be used in these cases, but be sure to define what agents must do to earn each rating. And beware that the larger the scale, the more difficult each number is to define and the more time is spent haggling over numbers rather than quality coaching.

7. Build for omnichannel

A simpler form will naturally lend itself to omnichannel, meaning that the details of each behavior might differ between a phone call and a text-based channel, but the basic goal remains the same. Communication skills are a great example. They are critical regardless of channel but written communication is very different from spoken communication. These differences can be spelled out in greater detail in a definitions guide.

Also, when considering omnichannel, it’s important to grade the entire interaction. For example, if a customer calls but then the agent sends a follow up email, evaluate the call and email together. If a customer tweets, then sends a text, and the agent ultimately calls the customer to resolve the issue, evaluate the whole interaction.

8. Allow it to evolve

A quality form isn’t a set it and forget it sort of thing. As you track these behaviors you may find that certain questions aren’t achieving the customer experience you desire, or perhaps there are other behaviors that you later find are important. I’ve often found that updating and refining your definitions guide can suffice but there may be times where you change the weighting of a question or add or remove questions from the form.

Bonus Tip: Use a Quality Management platform

When it comes to building and managing your quality form complete with scoring system, this can be administered a variety of different ways including some combination of forms and spreadsheets. You’d be well served, however, to evaluate a quality management system which can make creating and updating a quality form, and the rest of your quality process, a snap. If you’d like to learn more about 8x8 Quality Management or just want to talk quality forms in general, don’t hesitate to reach out.