A wonderful group of contact center quality assurance and training professionals converged on Nashville, Tennessee from September 17 to 19 for the 2019 QATC (Quality Assurance and Training Connection) Annual Conference and I was pleased to be in attendance. Aside from the live music, amazing barbecue, and a rousing round of Contact Center Jeopardy (my team won), the conference featured compelling keynote presentations, relevant breakout sessions, and plenty of opportunities to network and share ideas with other professionals who are laser-focused on improving quality and training in their organizations.

In this article, I'll share a handful of insights I found particularly helpful over the course of the week.

“When coaching, focus on 2-3 target behaviors…”

Always interested in the ingredients of effective coaching to drive exceptional agent performance, I attended a session facilitated by Deelee Freeman, Founder and Director at Call Center Training Associates. She shared some incredible tips on quality coaching — one of which was the importance of focusing on a few key behaviors that agents need to improve. When reviewing a call, especially a difficult one, it can be easy to nitpick everything about that call. Instead, Deelee encouraged us to focus on the 2-3 behaviors that can most significantly improve the quality of the interaction.

“Leaders care about the vulnerabilities of the people they lead…”

The first keynote presentation of the conference came from Penny Tootle and I must say, I’m totally her biggest fan. With her impressive background in change management, Penny implored contact center leaders to care for the people they’re leading. She said, “The most rewarding thing you can do as a leader is to care about the vulnerabilities of the people you lead.” She talked at length about our multigenerational contact centers that now employ Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials and gave helpful tips for connecting with each of these groups.

Speaking of change management, I later attended one of her sessions and was reminded of the importance of change management as an important skill in quality management. For example, if we change a quality form, we are effectively changing the way agents are evaluated and this needs to be done with care and deliberation.

“The contact center is fertile ground for customer experience…”

At some point during the conference, I was struck with the thought that quality management can get really boring, really fast. That is if we’re geeking out over quality forms, scoring methods, and such, without tying it back to a greater purpose. Determined to inject life into this critical contact center function, Nate Brown, Co-Founder of CX Accelerator, challenged contact center leaders to keep their eyes focused on the customer experience and think about ways they can make a difference.

While it’s nice to think about taking care of customers from an altruistic standpoint, Nate argued that it’s also better business. But what’s the responsibility of the contact center in this? Given that contact center agents are interacting with customers all day, every day, we need to be truly listening, gaining insight, and working to help the rest of the business to improve the customer experience.

An open forum…

One of my favorite things about the entire week was hearing about the challenges and questions leaders wrestle with — and I found that these varied depending on the size of the contact center and the industry. I attended both an open forum on quality forms and a breakfast round table discussion for quality leaders in large contact centers. Here are some of the key topics leaders we discussed with my commentary:

  • Shortening and simplifying quality forms - A number of folks advocated combining certain questions and creating a robust quality definitions guide to support those questions.
  • What’s important on a quality form? - Some groups significantly devalued or have done away with quality scores. Others talked about getting rid of people skills (AKA soft skills) on the form and just focusing on the quality of information and compliance with policy and procedure. There was also discussion around using a yes/no scale for the compliance items but more of a 3 or a 5 point scale for the people skills. I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong answer here but it’s always a fun topic to discuss.
  • Effectively using auto-fail questions without causing agents to “check out” - Automatic fails should be handled with care so agents don’t give up trying to provide great customer service. That being said, certain critical behavior issues might be best addressed outside of the quality process.
  • Handling the disputes process - Many contact centers tie quality scores to compensation in one form or another which makes a dispute process important for ensuring that interactions are scored correctly and fairly. One manager shared that they have a “1 to pass, 2 to fail” policy where multiple people will review difficult interactions to ensure that the scoring is fair.
  • Quality efforts interrupted by “emergencies” - Quality management is always a priority until a bigger priority arises. Emergencies constantly arise in contact centers and there was much discussion on the importance of not letting them derail quality efforts.
  • Large calibration sessions - A calibration process is a big deal in large contact centers — especially if they have multiple vendors where as many as ten people might participate. I was reminded of the importance of a strong calibration process to make sure everyone is scoring interactions the same way.

As I conclude, this was a wonderful week. For anyone involved in contact center quality and training, QATC is your people — a community to which you can take your quality and training problems and challenges, find solutions, and rekindle your passion for great customer experiences.

If you attended the conference, take a moment to share some of your favorite insights and takeaways from the week. And on that note, check out this insightful webinar where conference keynote speaker, Nate Brown and I go into a bit more depth about the event.