DELTA DENTAL OF MICHIGAN BREATHES NEW LIFE INTO QUALITY MONITORING

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1 performance matters / jan 2014 DELTA DENTAL OF MICHIGAN BREATHES NEW LIFE INTO QUALITY MONITORING A center s quality transformation journey is built on trust, honesty and heart. By Rebecca Gibson, Interactive Intelligence Pipeline Articles

2 Rebecca Gibson Interactive Intelligence If you suspect that your quality monitoring program could deliver more value, you could focus on using technology to improve efficiency, fine-tuning your measurements or hiring a dedicated team of objective evaluators. Or you could take a page from Delta Dental of Michigan s (DDMI) Tristate Call Center playbook and focus on uncovering your employees passion for delivering quality service. According to Toni Roberts, Regional Operations Customer Service Director, the call center leadership team s quality vision began evolving in 2011: We determined that our quality scorecard was too detailed and was causing us to be too nitpicky in our evaluations. We weren t showcasing when people did things great, and we wanted a scorecard that was more positive. Manager of the Technical Administration Command Center Carmen Schmuecker adds, We also knew we needed to build trust and buy-in among all the contact center s stakeholders agents, supervisors and the quality specialists and better collaboration between the Quality and Operations Teams. With trust and collaboration as the program s cornerstone values, Roberts, Schmuecker, and the Quality and Operations Teams formed a new entity: the Quality Transformation Team. This crossfunctional team spans two DDMI locations and consists of Schmuecker, Roberts, three quality team members, six supervisors, and five frontline analysts and agents. We carefully chose team members who were passionate about quality, who would give us honest feedback and who we knew could stir some real excitement about quality, Roberts explains. The team began a Phase 1 project to review and revise every aspect of the existing quality evaluation process, using two guiding questions: Does this support our goals to be more positive and more collaborative? Will this encourage ownership and commitment? As a result of the Quality Transformation Team s work, the DDMI contact center implemented a more behavior-focused quality evaluation form, which eliminates numeric scores in favor of a color-based system; established shared supervisor/quality specialist accountability for evaluation, calibration and performance improvement; and created a process which ensures that all contact center stakeholders have skin in the game. How did they breathe new life into their quality program? In November 2013, DDMI s Tristate Call Center Quality Transformation Team came together to reflect on their shared journey and offer some tried-and-tested advice for contact center leaders looking to transform their own quality initiatives. Start at the End Vague pronouncements of improving quality won t steer your team toward the right decisions. A clear vision of what you want to accomplish is imperative, according to Roberts and Schmuecker. We knew we wanted quality to be something that everyone owned, not just the Quality Team, so we wanted better collaboration and communication between Operations and Quality. We also knew we wanted the program to be more positive for all stakeholders and for agents to be more engaged in the process. This vision of a collaborative, positive, engaging quality program wasn t just a lifeless corporate mantra. Once the Quality Transformation Team formed, everyone on the team had to agree to how critical it was that we change how we did things, says Customer Service Supervisor Stephanie Rule. We had to spread that message and gain the buy-in of the other supervisors. During 10 months of planning, the Quality Transformation Team worked to define what they wanted the end game to look like and how to review the current process to make that vision a reality. 2

3 DDMI Quality Transformation Team members This self-analysis required facing some hard truths the dedicated Quality Team felt like they were carrying the quality program alone and were cast as the bad guy in the quality process. Supervisors had distanced themselves from the process, and agents felt it was something done to them, not for them. From the beginning, we knew that a critical component of the new program would be to get more people involved and to make quality a shared responsibility across the department, says Schmuecker. It was up to the Transformation Team to work together to identify the best way to do that. Positive Quality Program Attracts Participation and Commitment The Quality Transformation Team was committed to designing a quality program that encouraged agent behaviors that were important to DDMI s customers, highlighted agents accomplishments, and involved agents in the process. The frontline agent perspective played an important role in the program design, including the bold move to remove numeric scores from the quality scorecard. Why take such a drastic step? As Customer Service Advisor Paula Michals explains, Scripts, having to say a customer s name a certain number of times, scores these are all hindrances when my focus is on the customer experience. If I m focusing on all these factors, there s no way to focus on the customer. With insights from the quality process stakeholders, the team took the following practical steps to foster a more positive approach: ADJUST THE QUALITY SCORECARD CRITERIA TO FOCUS ON BEHAVIOR The first step was to evaluate the scorecard criteria to ensure the focus was on the desired behaviors, instead of a checklist of behaviors to avoid. The goal was to create more flexible 3

4 criteria that encouraged agents to interact more authentically with customers. REVISIT THE SCORING APPROACH After collaboratively revising the scorecard criteria using the input of the Quality Team, supervisors and agents, the team revisited their scoring approach. As Customer Service Supervisor Glen Fleischhacker explains, Our old scorecard started the score at 100. When an agent did something wrong, their score was lowered. The new form literally starts from the bottom and we add points/colors when the agent meets the standards, correctly services the customer, or goes above and beyond. And, yes, the Quality Transformation Team really did remove scores from their completed scorecards. While the scorecard still uses individual ratings, which tabulate into scores behind the scenes, agents and supervisors use a green/yellow/red/blue categorization to talk about quality results. While the green/yellow/red scale may be familiar, an additional blue level was created to indicate a Blue Ribbon call, an achievement awarded when an agent demonstrates behaviors that go above and beyond the defined quality criteria. According to Roberts, the color-coded evaluation system makes it easy to showcase when people do the right thing. It wasn t easy to let go of the comfort of numeric scores, she concedes, but you have to take the leap of faith. The buy-in and the engagement that has resulted from that decision can t be measured. Customer feedback is one way she measures the success of the Quality Transformation. I now receive 15 to 20 complimentary letters about our service each week. We get letters from customer who weren t happy with an outcome, but who were happy with the service. That s how I know it s working. ADD SUPERVISORS BACK INTO THE PROCESS In the past, the Quality Team passed completed evaluation scorecards to the supervisors for coaching. This placed the supervisors in the role of messenger rather than coach. Today, the Quality Team and supervisors both complete evaluations and work together to provide agent feedback and development. This requires ongoing calibration to ensure consistency between the Quality Team and supervisors. Increased communication between the two teams is an added benefit of these calibration sessions, solidifying quality specialists and supervisors commitment to their shared purpose and goals. REALIGN THE COACHING MODEL As the new scorecard revisions focused on what the agent did right, the team decided coaching needed to align with the new scorecard. The old scorecard marked every minute thing you did wrong, and that s how we would deliver the feedback to the agent, recalls Fleischhacker. Now when we evaluate and coach, we look at the call from the customer perspective. Was the customer happy or not happy? Rather than be so strict about pointing out what the agent did wrong, we coach toward here s how you can take it to the next level. Ignite Involvement and Ownership with Crossfunctional Participation In 2011, the Quality Team owned the quality program and was responsible for establishing and maintaining the program, evaluating calls, communicating the data to supervisors, and tracking improvement and communicating results. It s not that the Quality Team members weren t effective, Roberts and Schmuecker agree, but for the quality program to be successful, more team members needed to take ownership. This required the participation of three key stakeholders: 4

5 Quality analysts. The Quality Team s challenge in the transformation required that they reconsider their entire function. Rather than owning the entire quality process from start to finish, today the Quality Team is responsible for supporting and educating contact center quality stakeholders, encouraging supervisor and agent ownership, and facilitating the quality program. As members of the more inclusive Quality Transformation Team, Quality Team members transformed themselves into the contact center s trusted advisors and coaches (and bearers of the coveted blue ribbons!). Supervisors. By adding supervisors back into the process, supervisors fostered interest and commitment within their teams, and they became the critical connection between Quality and Operations. Supervisors love the change because they feel it creates opportunities to build stronger bonds with agents and facilitate their professional development. Agents. As the process was redesigned, the Transformation Team arranged a series of development meetings in which proposed changes were explained, additional agent insight was gathered, and agents had the chance to test out the new quality criteria and color-coded scoring approach. These periodic meetings, in addition to agent representation on the Quality Transformation Team, and the shift to a more collaborative coaching model all encouraged agents to understand that they own the quality process. According to Customer Service Advisor Paula Michals, The transformation was a team effort quality, supervisors, agents, analysts all working together. Continuous Communication Builds Trust and Creates Excitement From the time the Quality Transformation Team started their work in 2011 to the present, continuous communication with all contact center stakeholders was a critical element in maintaining a positive, transparent, inclusive culture. Because agents and supervisors were represented on the Transformation Team, they were continually sharing information with their peers about the team s work and asking for peer input. Once we got to the final process, we designed an entire public relations campaign with posters and other communications to make sure that everyone was ready to go, says Transformation Team member and Supervisor Fleischhacker. During that time, the Transformation Team facilitated a number of call center-wide development sessions for all quality stakeholders (agents, supervisors, quality specialists) to educate them about the changes and provide them the chance to evaluate and discuss recorded calls using the new criteria and scoring. As Director Roberts observed, It was amazing to see agents stand up in front of their peers and talk about how a call was handled. As the new program rolled out, the Transformation Team delivered more training to explain the mechanics of new quality program, such as how the blue ribbon awards work, and conducted additional call calibrations in a small-group setting. The team s efforts to be transparent and inclusive paid off. The feedback throughout the process and after the launch was overwhelming. Even though the program is significantly different from what agents were accustomed to, they have embraced the changes, are more connected to the goals of the call center, and are more committed than ever to their mission to serve DDMI s customers. What s the takeaway for others who want to find utility in the Delta Dental of Michigan s (DDMI) Tristate Call Center story? If there s one unifying theme, it s about finding the trust, honesty and heart that s at the core of DDMI s Quality Transformation journey. And that theme directly contradicts the foundation on which many of us establish our contact center s quality 5

6 program, using strict guidelines, top-down scoring and a right versus wrong punitive approach to achieve our objectives. While the specific design elements of DDMI s quality program might not be right for every call center, the process of transformation is a lesson and a challenge for any contact center leader. Is taking on the challenge worth it? I asked a few of the DDMI team members, and the following are their responses. Sure, we spend more time, but the time we re spending is more effective. Think of it this way, when you spend time with your family, is it just time sitting around the TV, or are you conversing and focusing on each other? Before, we were just sitting around watching football. Now we re having dinner. Glen Fleischhacker, Supervisor Customer Service What we have now is a really positive way to be able to accept the opportunities to grow as an advisor. It has increased my ability to take ownership on the customers experience. It s easy to accept because it s more positive. Paula Michals, Customer Service Advisor The biggest accomplishment we had was the heightened buy-in, and an understanding of the value proposition to every single person. The awareness was unbelievable. Toni Roberts, Regional Operations Customer Service Director Rebecca Gibson is a Strategic Consultant with Interactive Intelligence. (317)

7 About Contact Center Pipeline Contact Center Pipeline is a monthly instructional journal focused on driving business success through effective contact center direction and decisions. Each issue contains informative articles, case studies, best practices, research and coverage of trends that impact the customer experience. Our writers and contributors are well-known industry experts with a unique understanding of how to optimize resources and maximize the value the organization provides to its customers. To learn more, visit: Online Resource This issue is available online at: ContactCenterPipeline.com Pipeline Publishing Group, Inc. PO Box 3467, Annapolis, MD (443)

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