A career in customer service can be challenging, and service agents' efforts are often under-appreciated across the organization. New Qualtrics research found that 60% of customer service agents said customers became more rude and aggressive during the pandemic, and one in five (20%) think about quitting every week.

While many agents indicated their bonus or commission was a strong factor in their desire to remain at their company, only 41% said they were incentivized to offer personalized, empathetic experiences to customers — two key drivers of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Perhaps most striking, the research found that 33% of customer service agents felt their performance was not even fairly evaluated.

The reason? Quality assurance practices today are typically costly, manual, slow and biased, relying on statistical sampling of 5% or less of all customer interactions on average. This not only harms the customer service agent, but ultimately the customer experience as well. Agents don’t receive the proper training and feedback, the wrong behaviors or outcomes are prioritized, and many solid agents end up leaving when they disagree with how their performance is graded.

Below are three areas companies should focus on to create modern quality assurance programs that improve both customer and agent experiences.

Include Comprehensive Quality Assurance Across Channels

Quality assurance managers must analyze data from across all service channels, including digital, to identify, quantify and prioritize the macro-level issues affecting the customer experience and operational efficiency. Incorporating and analyzing call data with chat, email, and other internal customer data can uncover new insights on customer pain points, drivers of repeat calls and opportunities for agent coaching and process improvement when compared to viewing each data set in a silo.

With digital channels expected to outpace phones as primary interaction methods, companies risk taking a hit on customer satisfaction and loyalty if they neglect to review the quality-of-service delivery and accountability over their digital channels.

Related Article: The Key to CX Success? Planning the Entire Customer Journey

Uncover the True Drivers of Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

If a company wants to understand what is truly driving their CSAT or NPS scores, manually reviewing a few random calls a week will not provide many eureka moments. Companies should focus on automating the quality assurance process and analyzing 100% of their calls and customer interactions. This will help teams identify the key attributes that most correlate to customer service success — such as problem resolution, friendliness or compliance.

A company might discover, for example, that projecting empathy is statistically a key driver of improved CSAT and can update their agent evaluation forms accordingly.

Learning Opportunities

Uplevel Agent Skills and Engagement

As with any human-driven task, manual QA processes can also be biased or subjective. If a QA manager doesn’t encounter a coachable moment on one of the few calls they review, no coaching happens, and managers have zero visibility into critical service trends and patterns. This is the reason some agent evaluations haven’t changed in years.

However, when you automate the QA process, you eliminate cherry-picking, and coaching recommendations or exemplary calls become clearer to agents and managers. Businesses need to show agents they are not leaving their performance scores, and sometimes bonuses, up to chance.

Many leading companies are giving their agents the opportunity to also review their scores in real-time, so they know precisely where they need to improve to meet their goals. As a result, these agents are less likely to leave due to performance evaluations they don’t agree with or friction with their manager, saving companies thousands of dollars in churn and training costs.

Related Article: A Deep Dive on a Customer Experience Priority: Customer Understanding

Conclusion: Quality Assurance Needs to Evolve

The bottom line is quality assurance needs to evolve. When nearly half (46%) of contact center agents do not believe their leadership invests in their team or function, and 38% believe they are not set up for success in their role, it's a clear sign that current practices are failing them.

The technology has finally caught up to its promise in this domain. It’s past time we gave customer service agents a fair shake.

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