Third-Party Call Monitoring

By Scott Miles and Sharon Bohm

Growing competition in an open market has forced companies to take a more customer-centered approach to conducting business in addition to delivering high quality goods and services. A company’s interaction with their customers should be at the forefront as it helps shape the opinions and future purchasing decisions of customers.

Many companies’ only contact with their customers is through their call centers, be it in-house or outsourced. A bad interaction with a call center representative can sour a person’s relationship with a company. With companies wanting to find more efficient and cost-effective business solutions, many are seeing the advantages of outsourcing certain business processes. As many companies do not have the time, resources, or expertise to devote to quality assurance in-house, having a specialized third-party focus on service quality can benefit both the call center and its customers in several ways.

Independent, Unbiased Analysis: At some point in everyone’s career, an employee is given an evaluation, but how often are the evaluations free from personal bias? By its very nature as an outside entity, a third-party can objectively monitor and review an agent ensuring a greater likelihood for accurate reporting. Many companies have found their call center representatives prefer to be monitored by unbiased individuals, including outside vendors.

Providing Agent Feedback: Utilizing third-party call monitoring can provide timely regular feedback directly to customer service. This can help to improve overall service quality, while reducing training costs. Everyone needs feedback and direction in order to make changes. Within the call center environment where hundreds of calls are handled every day, receiving feedback both positive and constructive at regular intervals is critical to achieving and maintaining a positive customer experience. Feedback combined with coaching and training reinforces how to handle all types of customer contact situations.

Less Time, Less Money: In order to monitor calls, an investment in recording technology combined with additional staff to perform analysis, give feedback, and provide training is necessary and costly. The technology itself will not add value without a formalized quality assurance process to achieve the desired results such as improving service and identifying issues. The outsourced alternative can provide a lower implementation cost as there typically is no hardware to purchase. Most call center telephone equipment will allow for remote monitoring. Managers and supervisors can focus on operational activities, executing improvement strategies, and avoid hiring additional staff to execute monitoring. Third-party vendor quality analysts are familiar with the nuances of call quality analysis. They can provide insight and targeted feedback to your agents as well as identify center-wide trends.

Service Improvement: Ultimately, the objective with any quality program is to ensure exceptional service is provided to customers. Utilizing a third-party can help deliver service improvements beyond the mere assurance of quality by identifying specific areas within your customer interactions where service levels can be increased. This is the value you should expect from any vendor who evaluates your calls.

Regular Scheduled Reporting: One key element to any quality assurance program is timeliness of reporting and feedback, in order to make critical decisions and corrections. Without this element, information grows stale and opportunities to make a timely positive change are lost. Therefore, the speed at which analysis and feedback are provided is crucial. Third-party monitors can review calls, flag areas for improvement, and complete reports in a shorter period of time. This allows companies to respond and implement strategies and improve at a faster rate. Reporting can be robust and provide quality performance data ranging in detail from center summaries to agent specific reports.

Engaging a company to monitor your call center agents can free your staff to focus on implementing changes and managing day-to-day operations. To determine if outsourcing or co-souring call monitoring makes sense for your center, you need to consider several factors. First, evaluate the current quality assurance processes and technology. Second, review the current or potential cost of operating the quality assurance component of your operation. Finally, ask the question, “Is our quality assurance process meeting our objectives?” After reviewing your current situation, talk with potential vendors. Evaluate their service, cost, and how they would integrate with your operation.

Callers expect good customer service. They remember both negative as well as exceptionally positive experiences. Call monitoring and quality assurance activity, whether outsourced or maintained in-house, should have the goal of ensuring the consistent delivery of exceptional customer service. Competition, the high cost of gaining new customers, and the even more costly proposition of winning back dissatisfied customers makes quality assurance a priority. Providing superior service can set your call center apart from the competition. The resulting benefits of customer retention, building a reputation for great service, and developing new business are fundamental ingredients for creating long term business relationships.

Scott Miles is president of Sage Advantage, Inc., a call monitoring analysis and hosted analytics services. For more information, call 480-941-0094.

[From Connection Magazine May 2005]