By Scott Weddle, Director, Quality Assurance at HighPoint Global.
This article was originally published by GCN.
Government agencies have doubled down on improving how they interact with their customers by enabling self-service options and streamlining citizens’ interactions with agencies. Agencies can further improve experiences, particularly in digital channels, by dedicating time and resources to quality assurance.
Let’s take a look at three best practices that can help create a highly functioning QA process.
Agency leaders must decide what function QA will play. If the agency wants to use QA to help individual customer service representatives improve their skills, then it might consider an internal training program that includes QA process. If, however, agency leaders want to analyze QA on a broader scale, they should consider a separate QA contract.
QA programs that are on separate contracts incorporate insight into how customer service representatives and their agencies are performing. In this type of contract, quality analysts are subject matter experts looking at whole processes. They are not evaluating every single interaction with customers. They are instead looking at a statistically significant sample of interactions to get a sense of how CSRs interact with citizens and how these interactions can be improved.
Contact centers are sometimes locked into viewing specific operational metrics, such as wait time, time to answer calls, first-call resolution and so on. If centers focus solely on those metrics, they may lose insight into how representatives are handling calls, if they are giving up-to-date information, how citizens are receiving information and more.
A healthy separation from the agency ensures accurate reporting of metrics, a long-lens view of operations and dedicated, expert QA analysis from professionals who know the subject matter and industry from top to bottom.
An early seat at the table
QA professionals offer the best return on investment if they are included in the design phase of a new project all the way through launch. Here, QA teams can pose important questions, such as what is driving the need for the new channel? What is it being designed to solve? What standards is the project being held to? Asking and answering these questions in the design phase sets up metrics against which agencies can measure outcomes after the project has been released.
QA teams can also help determine how to evaluate outcomes. They have insight into whether a metric is quantifiable or should be measured in a more narrative way. Then, once initial metrics are set, QA teams determine if the project is living up to expectations. If not, they offer suggestions for improvement. These suggestions then come from a place of deep insight, since QA has been a part of the project since inception.
Some agencies might try to reverse engineer QA processes after launching a new project or channel. In this case, they should be prepared to answer a spate of questions about the point of the project, what has happened so far and what has been tried to remedy anything that isn’t working. This approach can be costlier than bringing in a QA team initially. It takes a while to bring a QA team up to speed. Doing so can pull developers away from other projects, which can have a negative effect on other project outcomes.
In the end, agencies should consider quality analysts as highly qualified subject matter experts. If they do so, QA teams can take ownership of assuring quality from the moment a new customer experience process or channel is announced.
Collaboration creates best QA outcomes
When QA experts don’t have a seat at the table at the outset of a project, QA may gain a reputation as the “contact center police.” Agency leaders can head off that attitude by encouraging employees to embrace the collaborative nature of project development.
By nature, good quality analysts ask a lot of questions. They want to understand a project’s purpose and design and know what is expected of them. Leaders should advise whether QA teams should look at individual or agency performance or a mix of the two. Teams work best when they have a clear understanding of expectations.
Collaboration between QA, development and design also helps avoid “thinking silos.” For example, developers may have a particular view as to how a project or channel should work. Designers may favor a different approach after considering the nature of information to be communicated. Experts on QA teams lend insight into how the product or channel that has been built is being used.
Let’s say an agency wants to launch a new self-service channel for citizens. Developers decide on the most effective code to use for the solution. Designers populate what the developers have built. QA then looks at the traffic on the channel. Are customers using the channel to take care of transactions themselves? Or are they using it as another way to contact CSRs? Is it driving more traffic, rather than helping customers become self-sufficient? If so, QA can offer insights into what citizens need that they aren’t getting. They close a feedback loop.
QA is a key part of any process that serves customers. Incorporating QA teams early and often will help agencies fulfill their missions to give citizens the excellent service they deserve.