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Quality vs. Quantity

There is a battle in Call Centers. The teams are Quality vs. Quantity; two performance factors that don't seem to get along.

? Representative Super Speedy says, "I've taken more calls than anyone on the team today. My average handle time is the lowest on the floor."

Coach Level Head breaks it down for him, "But your quality scores are below everyone else on your team."

? Representative Detailed Dan says, "My quality scores are top notch. I give every one of my customers the detailed attention they deserve."

Coach Level Head breaks it down again, "Your Average Handle time is through the roof, and there are customers waiting in queue for attention to their needs.

Where is the happy medium? True quality means being effective and efficient; meeting the customer's needs fully in a reasonable amount of time.

As a call center supervisor in a Customer Service department I managed a team of 20 representatives. Like many teams there were "top performers" or super stars, "middle of the road performers" or most of the team and "low performers" or the folks that needed help to the middle of the road. My goal was to work with everyone to bring them up to the next level and ensure quality and efficiency as a group.

I remember one team member who fell into the low performer category. She was very detailed, very good with customers and her quality scores were outstanding. So, what put her in the low performer category? The amount of time she spent on each call. In one work day she would complete only half the number of calls completed by her team members. Her average handle time was off the charts. We had to work on this as soon as possible.

I coached her on several occasions and we found ways for her to cut time off of her calls. She did more typing while she talked to the customer; she learned the system more thoroughly so she could offer the answers to the customer's billing questions. Still her efficiency was not there. So, we continued the coaching.

Her argument was that her quality scores were so high that the quantity should not matter. She would receive 95% to 100% on each monitoring score. She was providing the customer with a quality interaction. They would go away feeling good about the company and the services they purchased. So, why did it matter if she took a long time talking with each customer? This discussion changed my explanation of quality and quantity forever. I explained to her (and everyone else, on every team I ever coached going forward) that Quantity is not a separate goal from Quality.

Quantity is actually efficiency, and efficiency is part of Quality. Instead of focusing on the number of calls we took in a day, we must talk about this performance goal in terms of how efficiently we took those calls. Did we use the time we had with them appropriately? We can not say that we offered the customer a Quality Interaction if we kept them on the phone for 25 minutes trying to solve their issue. On each call we owe the customer courtesy, information, honesty, answers and EFFICIENCY. A customer who received the answer they called looking for in 3 to 4 minutes will be happier than one who reaches their answer after 10 minutes.

In addition to the individual call, the time one representative spends on a call with one customer can also affect the perspective of the customer who is waiting in queue. I'm not suggesting that team members rush through calls to answer the next, but it is important to be aware of the impact of the time you spend on each call. The more efficient you are on each call, the more effective the department will be as a whole.

We ensure the efficiency part of Quality by being prepared for each call. Preparation includes knowing the tools and systems we use to answer the customer's needs, being up to date on new products, services or issues the customers may be calling about, and having our best Customer Service attitude ready to talk to each customer.

All this has become my Quality message. I have been known to pull up a soap box in the break room and spread this good word. Quality is built on quantity or efficiency. Offer clear, helpful, efficient customer interactions. My team learned it and improved in each one of their performance goals.

Let the Quality vs. Quantity battle end. Your customers will thank you.

About the Author

Jenny Kerwin is a writer and member of http://www.CallCenterCafe.com

Members of http://www.CallCenterCafe.com have access to articles like Partnering for Performance and materials related to Call Center Management, Training, Human Resources and Quality. The Caf? is full of resources for Call Center Professionals including a staff waiting to answer your questions. Take a 1 day test drive starting today.

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