Contact Centers: Calibrate! Calibrate! Calibrate!
Tune up your contact center.
A contact center without calibration is like a car without a tune-up: The car still runs, but not at peak performance. Calibrations are an opportunity to gather your team, tune in to your customers’ experience, and make sure everyone shares the same expectations of your representatives. Calibrations are a contact center’s tune-up.
Calibration sessions ensure your team connects the vision with the reality. While quality assurance should lead the discussions, all frontline supervisors, floor leads and representatives should be included. Input from reps is critical, since they can help contact center managers understand why boardroom strategies fall short when implemented.
Some managers run two different calibration sessions. The first meeting standardizes the monitoring of a rep’s performance, while the second identifies new opportunities to improve the customer experience. Standardized monitoring ensures your guidelines are executed consistently. Identifying new opportunities allows your strategic vision to remain competitive and appropriate for your customer base.
Consider using the following two calibration outlines:
Calibration for standardization in performance measurement. The objective of this initial meeting is to enforce standards in scoring a rep’s performance against predetermined guidelines. Typically, monitoring forms are designed to evaluate both technical skills (objective) and soft skills (subjective).
Objective performance is simple to calibrate because it’s mechanical. Did the rep use courtesy words, verify customer information and offer coordinated items? Subjective performance is more challenging because it’s opinion-based. Did the rep exude a positive tone of voice and a personable demeanor? Did the customer seem satisfied? The focus in this session should be to ensure fair and consistent scoring in both types of skill sets.
Your quality assurance team and frontline supervisors should be involved in performance management. The J. Crew apparel catalog uses randomly selected, prerecorded calls for calibration, according to J. Crew’s instructional director, Karen Thomasson. “That way,” she says, “you can replay when necessary during your discussion.”
Take the calls one at a time and allow each participant time to score independently. Compare notes before moving on to the next call. Replay sections of the call in which interpretations deviate. Keep discussion focused on the interpretation of how each skill was performed, not on the legitimacy of the guideline. After the meeting, collect the forms and record the scores by individual observers to identify repetitive deviations from the standard from meeting to meeting.
Apply the same technique to e-mails and chat transcripts. A consistent customer experience, regardless of the method of shopping, is crucial to customer retention. Aleta Childress, contact center director at the Crutchfield consumer electronics catalog, suggests using the same form for all contact types (phone, e-mail and chat). “Just because the method of contact is different doesn’t mean the expectation of the experience is different,” Childress says. Holding these sessions weekly for about an hour should suffice.
Calibration to identify improvements in the customer experience. The purpose of this meeting is to identify opportunities in the customer experience relative to script flow, personal shopping service opportunities, order-entry system efficiencies and the validity of established guidelines on the monitoring form.
As for who should partake, the group should be diverse; include frontline supervision, the quality assurance team, select contact center representatives, the marketing team and your IT team. By pulling together this diverse group, you’ll accomplish both buy-in to the proposed initiatives as well as support and understanding of how to execute changes.
No one individual should be allowed to dominate the conversation, and this time shouldn’t be used as a gripe session about your existing guidelines on quality assurance. Set these ground rules up front.
Allow ample room and support for your contact center reps’ participation. Encourage them to speak up. As you identify changes in your script flow, allow them to pilot the changes before full deployment to your entire staff.
Pay careful attention to your IT team, and be considerate of the challenges it finds in your proposed order-entry changes. Its commitment to the identified needs and time lines are critical to a successful programming change.
Some changes may reduce average handle time. Rather than focusing your meetings on saving money, focus instead on the customer. When you find ways to save handle time, replace the saved time with innovative ways to enhance the customer’s shopping experience. These sessions should be held biweekly or monthly for one hour.
It’s easy, in a hectic work week of meetings and strategic planning, to side-step calibration sessions. Make it a priority, and others will follow suit. These sessions ensure associate retention through fair performance reviews and a consistent customer experience. When put together, the divergent agendas are a recipe for success.
Angela Wolfe is the former contact center operations manager for The Orvis Co. She established and maintained a national share group of three dozen contact center managers that continues to meet periodically. Contact: (540) 819-5239 or firstname.lastname@example.org.