Australian Contact Centre Quality Standards
Contact Centres have traditionally been good at measuring performance metrics such as Average Handling Time, call volumes, Average Speed of Answer etc but when it comes to measuring quality, they’ve often come up short.
There are a number of reasons for that, including:
- Quality can be highly subjective, everyone’s interpretation of quality is different
- It can be hard to document
- A focus on quality can lead to unintended impacts on others areas of performance
- It’s often difficult to link to training
But documenting your Contact Centre Quality Standards (aka Contact Centre Quality Framework) isn’t just a nice-to-have.
It’s an essential component of any successful contact centre, and they should form the backbone of how your contact centre delivers on your business objectives and be interlinked with training, coaching, and efficiency as they directly impact on your performance, employee engagement and business success.
The Australian Contact Centre Quality Standards contain five core competencies and 18 different behaviours that are applicable to any contact centre and directly correlate to improved customer experiences and business outcomes however you measure it (e.g. NPS, CSAT, Sales Conversions, etc.).
The Cost of Poor Quality in a Call Centre
There is no shortage of stats that can prove the impact a poor customer experience can have on your business.
And for a lot of businesses, talking to a contact centre employee may be the only interaction a customer may have with the business.
So it’s an understatement to say that it’s an important interaction!
If the call centre interaction is poor, there are a whole host of potential outcomes, including:
- You may lose a potential sale or the customer may leave your business (lost revenue).
- It can take longer for the customer to get the information they need (increased costs).
- The customer may need to call back to get further information (reduced efficiencies).
- The customer may choose to tell others about their experience (brand damage = less customers = lost revenue)
- And a whole host of other implications!
As you’re about to learn, ensuring your contact centre employees know what’s expected of them with regard to quality will help your employees, your customers and your business so you can avoid all those issues listed above!
The Difference between Quality and Compliance
Before we go into too much detail about the Australian Contact Centre Quality Standards there is an important distinction to make – the difference between quality and compliance, as often the two get very mixed up.
A Compliance Standard is a definitive measure with only a yes or no outcome.
They should be applied to every interaction and achieved the same way by everyone regardless of skill, experience etc.
In short, it MUST happen on every call.
Examples of a compliance standard include:
- Verified the customer.
- Provided a reference number.
- Paused a recording for a credit card payment.
Compliance Standards are typically unique to your business and can be used to ensure you achieve legal compliance (i.e. ID checks) or to ensure desired outcomes are achieved on every single call.
Whilst not a practice we subscribe to, a common example is ‘use the customer’s name three times during the call’. As a compliance standard, it’s a yes or no check – they either said it three times or they didn’t.
Quality Standards are used to measure how the conversation was handled and can be deemed more subjective in nature as they allow for more room for variability in performance and often include a scale of performance.
Examples of quality metrics include:
- Used Active Listening throughout the conversation.
- Expressed confidence with the products and services.
- Showed empathy and acknowledged the concerns of the customer.
Quality Standards are used to drive the desired quality you’d like to provide for your customers.
The ‘magic’ with having Quality Standards is that you can ensure everyone knows what is expected of them and what ‘good service’ actually looks and sounds like. This can be achieved by having a documented Quality Standards Framework or ‘Bible’, which is explained further below.
What does good quality sound like for your business?
Having documented Quality Standards is the magic glue for any contact centre to drive the desired customer experience for your customers, the engagement of your frontline employees, how Team Leaders coach, training programs and lots more.
By defining what great quality means for your business, Contact Centre Quality Standards ensure everyone ‘is on the same page’ and there are no secrets to what frontline agents are meant to do when on a call with customers.
Typical considerations when developing Contact Centre Quality Standards can be answering questions like:
- What does a good job look or sound like?
- How accurate, or how good, is acceptable?
- What is the difference between good and poor performance?
- What would be unacceptable for your brand?
- Are there legislative or regulatory requirements that require strict adherence?
If you randomly asked any contact centre employee the questions above, would they truly know the answers?
There really aren’t any off-the-shelf quality programs/quality standards you can purchase that will be tailor-made for your business as what’s desired for one business might be completely unacceptable for another.
For example, if the contact centre represents a prestigious brand with high-end customers, it might be desired to have a very formal tone that refers to customers as sir or madam, there is no friendly banter etc – it’s all strictly professional.
Yet for a hip, trendy brand, the exact opposite might be required – warm, friendly, refer to people as ‘mate’, etc.
Banks, for example, may require an ID check on every single call, whereas no ID checks may be required with other contact centres.
There is no right or wrong – what’s important is defining what is right for your brand and ensuring your frontline employees know what is expected from them so they know what good is supposed to look and sound like.
There are, however, some core principles and techniques that are proven to be effective when it comes to communication with customers over the telephone and these should be reflected within your Quality Standards as well.
Does your Contact Centre have a Quality Bible?
It’s critical that each of your quality components/behaviours etc are documented so everyone knows the standard that is to be achieved.
The Quality Handbook is often referred to as the ‘bible’ because it contains the expected behaviours required of all employees to achieve the defined quality the business requires – it’s the single source of truth that provides the ‘secret’ to achieving great results.
After all, we want our agents to succeed so why not give them the requirements on exactly what they need to do in order to achieve it?
Each quality component would typically have:
- A description of the standard
- Some examples of how it would be used/applied in your business – this could be written and/or audio recording(s).
- How it’s scored (there are various methods used across the industry but typically this would include):
- What’s required to achieve the top result.
- What constitutes the standard not being met.
- How the score/rating is applied
This needs to be completed for each of your quality standards, that overall, form your Quality Handbook/Bible/Guide.
The key purpose of documenting a performance standard is to ensure your frontline employees know what is expected from them, your Team Leaders know how they should be coaching and your Quality Assurance team/person knows exactly how to consistently score.
This is an example using the ‘Intent’ behaviour as part of the Engage competency.
A strong, definitive statement of intent, purpose and/or ownership to trigger relief and confidence in the customer.
It should convey a clear sense in the mind of the customer that “you’ve got this” and that they’ve “got one of the good ones” in terms of the type of agent they hoped to deal with.
The statement should contain strong, proactive language such as ‘absolutely’, ‘definitely’ or ‘certainly’ or any other action-oriented and equally strong phrases. Examples include “I can certainly have a look at that for you”, “Absolutely, let me see what I can do” or “Let me get some details so I can help you with that”.
Negative or colloquial auto-responses such as ‘not a problem’ or ‘no worries’ need to be avoided as they don’t promote a premium level of service.
How to Achieve it
- Must be a definitive phrase or statement (not single words) that conveys ownership and/or intent
- Needs to include positive, proactive language
- Be delivered with energy in a clear and natural manner and must include a pause after delivery to resonate
Standard Not Met
- Single word responses (e.g. “sure” or “ok”) rather than a cut-through statement of intent
- Negative, casual or colloquial language or phrases
- Rushed or unclear responses or no attempt at all
About the Australian Contact Centre Quality Standards
As we’ve outlined above, defining your own Contact Centre Quality Standards is the only way to ensure your contact centre will deliver the required performance for your business.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t help you and steer you in the right direction!
If you’d like to learn how to develop your own Quality Standards, we have a great course on how to design your own quality standards framework that will walk you through the key steps and provide you with lots of different ideas, concepts etc.
Whilst nothing beats defining your own Quality Standards, there are some consistent standards and behaviours that we believe are required to deliver consistent customer service/sales regardless of the business/sector the contact centre is serving.
As part of our Contact Centre CX Benchmarking, we assess the quality performance of a contact centre using five core quality competencies that are outlined below, and these are the same competencies we use to rate contact centres in the Australian Contact Centre Rankings Report published each month.
These standards have been developed and refined over 30 years and when businesses consistently achieve high ratings in these core competencies, there is a direct correlation to improved business metrics however you measure them – Sales Conversions, NPS, Customer Effort Score, improved efficiency, reduced AHT etc.
Five Core Quality Competencies
The Australian Contact Centre Quality Standards consist of five core competencies and 18 behaviours as outlined below.
Developed and refined for over 30 years, these standards are applicable to any contact centre providing customer service or sales over the phone.
When employees consistently achieve above our ‘Meets Standard’ score (above 75%), your performance metrics will improve however you measure them – improved NPS, conversion rates, Customer Satisfaction etc.
The ENGAGE competency is measured across four different behaviours:
- Welcome – A natural and vibrant introduction to the call that creates a strong first impression and encourages the customer to reveal their enquiry.
- Intent – A strong statement of intent and ownership that triggers relief they have reached someone good.
- Name – Seek and use the customer’s name to instantly personalise the interaction
- Bridge – Manage their expectations around the method you will use to help them make a buying decision (sales) or resolve their enquiry (service).
The DISCOVER competency is measured across three different behaviours:
- Converse – Drive open conversations that allow customers to express themselves around what they wish to achieve & why.
- Listen – Active listening & mirroring of what customers reveal to let them know they are being heard.
- Confirm – Demonstrated identification and understanding of key needs & buying triggers.
The EDUCATE competency is measured across four different behaviours:
- Inform – Fully inform with relevant information & benefits matched to their needs to make it easy to evaluate.
- Checks – Consistent checks for understanding, comfort and suitability whenever key details are provided.
- Seek – Seek to confirm the customer’s commitment to buy or to progress to the next stage of the buying process (sales) or that resolution is achieved (service).
- Confidence – Confidence in knowing & communicating required product, service & process information.
The CLOSE competency is measured across three different behaviours:
- Check – Proactively initiate the close of the call with a strong check for any final questions they may have.
- Gratitude – Show gratitude by expressing appreciation for their time, call, patience and/or consideration or your product or service.
- Farewell – A warm and simple farewell with thanks or thankyou that triggers the customer to hang-up.
The ENERGY competency is measured across four different behaviours:
- Vibrancy – A consistently vibrant and natural tone to show warmth, interest, & care to avoid monotone delivery.
- Empathy – Acknowledgement & validation of customer desires, needs, concerns or objections.
- Control – Proactive control of the call with efficient call management and transparency.
- Delivery – Appropriate language, pacing, phrasing & clarity that makes it easy to both hear and understand what is communicated.
How to Fast-Track Quality Improvements in your Contact Centre
If you’d like to use the Australian Contact Centre Quality Standards in your contact centre to fast-track your quality performance, we have a range of options for you to consider.
Test yourself against our Standards
If you’ve got an existing call centre and you’d like to test yourself against the ACXPA Quality Standards, we have two key options for you:
Contact Centre CX Benchmarking Service
We’ll conduct Mystery Shopping calls into your call centre and assess the experience across the five core quality competencies and 18 behaviours.
We’ll also assess the experience in trying to connect to a live agent – wait times, IVR performance, hold experience and more.
And as well as gaining powerful insights into the experience of your call centre, you’ll also be able to compare your performance to FIVE nominated competitors.
Customer Service Benchmarking Service
If you’d like us to test you using specific scenarios, or you’d like to send us recorded calls for us to assess against the Australian Contact Centre Quality Standards, we offer a fully customised customer service benchmarking service.
Training for Frontline Employees to improve Quality
If you’d like your frontline employees to learn the skills they need to deliver a great customer experience, we have courses specifically designed to equip them with the skills they need to improve outcomes for your customers and your business.
Put simply, completing the training will result in improved quality scores being delivered by your contact centre.
So whether you just want to experience an improvement in quality, or you’d like to see your scores improve if your contact centre is part of our Contact Centre CX Benchmarking Service or is included in the monthly Australian Contact Centres Rankings report, by having your frontline employees complete the training course you will see an improvement in your scores.
There are two key types of training we offer (sales or service) and each has an essentials course (1 x 3-hour training) or professional (3 x 3-hour training sessions).
Training for Team Leaders to improve Quality through coaching
It’s often cited as the most important role in a contact centre, so ensuring your Team Leaders know how to coach and support your frontline employees to improve quality is critical.
We have specifically designed a course that will teach your Team Leaders how to coach employees to improve quality using the Australian Contact Centre Quality Standards.
So if you’re serious about improving the quality scores for your business, this course is essential for any Team Leader/Supervisor/Manager that is directly accountable for improving the performance of employees.
Please note that to ensure Team Leaders understand the Quality Standards, we recommend Team Leaders first complete a Frontline Employees training course (above), as the Team Leader course focuses more on the coaching, rather than the details of each quality competency.
Purchase the Quality Standards Framework
If you don’t have any Quality Standards in your contact centre, a great way to fast-track you quality performance is to purchase ours!
You can either use our Quality Standards ‘as-is’ or you can tweak some or all of the components to specifically align with your business objectives.
Purchasing the Quality Standards includes:
- The complete Quality Handbook containing the definitions for the Five Core Competencies and the standards for each of the 18 specific call handling behaviours.
- The assessment & scoring template used to score individual calls and to generate overall results for individuals and/or teams (including guidelines on how to score).
- Training/Coaching to assist you in refining and implementing the standards (optional).
The Quality Standards are supplied in various formats (i.e. Powerpoint/Word/Excel) to suit your specific requirements and allow you to customise as required easily.
If you’d like to purchase, please contact us.