Call Calibration Best Practices To Ensure Blue-Ribbon Service Delivery

By: CJ Stafford, President

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if customer service excellence just…happened? If Call Center Managers could simply submit a requisition to HR and an army of talented and charismatic customer service professionals came through the door, ready to deliver world-class service to your organization’s most critical stakeholders day in and day out? Here are some call calibration best practices to help your team ensure blue-ribbon service.

If only.

Customer service isn’t easy. Frontline agents are tasked with a lot. In addition to retaining knowledge about products and services; complying with processes and policies; navigating customer relationship management (CRM) tools; and documenting activity flawlessly, they’re expected to master the complexities and nuances of multi-channel client engagement. That’s a very tall order.

Therein lies the power of call calibration.

Calibration sessions allow key players within the call center operation to evaluate the quality of interaction between agents and customers against established performance standards. They’re an essential component of blue ribbon service delivery, as calibration helps to bridge the gap between an agent’s initial training and customer satisfaction.

Ensuring a successful calibration session requires forethought and careful planning. Before scheduling your first – or next – session, be sure to:

1. Define “Best”

What constitutes WOW service in the context of your organization’s customer experience management? As a first step, your program/campaign’s Manager, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), and Quality Assurance (QA) Representatives should meet to define and align on call-handling expectations. Ensuring mutual understanding of best-in-class service; the details of your scorecard questions; and conventions in scoring across this core group is essential.

2. Commit to a Format

Determine what structure best suits your team. Distributing your call recordings prior to the session, for example, allows attendees more time to evaluate the interactions and listen to each recording multiple times, if they deem it necessary. On the other hand, allotting time during the meeting to listen to the recordings as a group ensures each attendee actually listens to them, since busy calendars can make it challenging to do so beforehand. This also helps keep the calls fresh in the listeners’ minds. Whatever your method, budget at least an hour; prohibit open laptops and multitasking during the session; have adequate blank scorecards on hand (unless completed scorecards were submitted prior); and allow time for notetaking before discussing each interaction.

3. Be Selective with the Guest List

Try to keep the group as small as is productive (the larger the group, the more challenging it is to achieve calibration), and ensure everyone present deserves a seat at the table. Each attendee should, in some way, directly influence the organization’s customer service function and have some relevant expertise (e.g. Managers, Supervisors, Subject Matter Experts, Trainers, and Quality Assurance Representatives).

4. Align on goals

At the start of your session, set a tone of objectivity and respect, both for every attendee and for each agent monitored. Calibration sessions can sometimes unintentionally skew negative with frustration over repetitive agent mistakes; impromptu competitions to identify the highest number of errors/imperfections; an impulse to defend direct reports and the like. The intent should always be to curb certain habits, reinforce others, and elevate the overall quality of service. Also, be clear and decisive on what is and isn’t within scope (e.g. “The focus of this meeting is quality assurance, not disciplinary action.”). By the end of the session, the group should be closer to alignment, and the agents’ Managers and/or Supervisors should have a handful of constructive, specific, digestible, and actionable pieces of feedback to deliver to them.

5. Designate a Facilitator

During the calibration session, one person should assume responsibility for playing the call recordings (or distributing them prior to meeting); collecting individual scores or scorecards; and soliciting input from all attendees. It’s the role of the facilitator to be mindful of time, moving the conversation along where necessary and keeping everyone on topic. This person also ensures calibration within each performance area, serving as a tie-breaker when needed.

6. Commit to a Regular Schedule

Don’t kick the can down the road. Calibration sessions should be framed as mandatory by Senior Leadership, be scheduled to recur on at least a monthly basis, and hold a prominent place on every attendee’s calendar. Too often, shifting priorities and competing demands shunt these critical meetings to the periphery.

7. Measure Group Calibration

Use well-developed scorecards to determine how “calibrated” the group is: that is, how similarly and consistently all attendees weigh and interpret expectations and agent performance. There should be an individual (“before”) and a consensus (“after”) scoring of each call, with meaningful dialogue in between. The QA Representative should track overall calibration over time, as the group works toward an ideal variance of 5-10 percent between initial individual scores and the consensus score.

8. Utilize the Output

All this time, attention, expertise, and observation … now what? Each calibration session should have a built-in one-to-one debrief between every agent monitored and a Supervisor or QA Representative who attended the meeting. Also, individual and collective patterns and repetitive behaviors should inform new training opportunities and reference tools. Finally, scorecards should be revisited regularly to ensure relevance and optimization.

Introducing a better, more streamlined quality assurance process

With the intricacies of call center programs, many times organizations do not have the bandwidth to ensure the quality of communication between their agents and customers or patients.

Let Stafford Communications be your quality assurance partner. We’ll enhance your internal call center’s performance with monitoring, coaching, training and other quality improvement initiatives.

Visit our contact page to get in touch.

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CJ Stafford
About the Author: CJ Stafford
President / Owner
Stafford Communications was founded on CJ’s unique expertise in science, compliance and consumer affairs. 20 years ago, CJ built Splenda’s call center from the ground up, and was the first to integrate customer service, quality, compliance consulting services and marketing. Stafford Communications has been growing ever since.