Beware Liability of the Written Word

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How many times have you heard customers say this on the phone: "Put it in writing."


With call centers changing their names to contact centers, and with communication with customers migrating from voice to e-mail and chat, you must be aware of the liability the industry has been handed.


When people ask for it in writing, I usually respond, "You know the recording you hear when calling a toll-free number that says this call may be recorded or monitored for quality assurance purposes? Well, that's us."


The response I have been getting recently from this statement is, "Gee, I sure hope all of my calls are being recorded."


Customers have a desire for accountability when communicating with service providers, which is why you see more customer interaction migrating to the written word and why for many years digital recording has been a part of the call center landscape.


With accountability comes liability. The same standards and systems that you apply to a phone call need to be applied to the written word.


In this process you can tear a page out of the manual from your direct mail colleagues, yet remain true to your call center roots. The spoken word is quite different from the written word, and the process of quality assurance monitoring that you use in voice centers should be applied to e-mail and chat.


Everyone in telemarketing preaches that most people do not use proper grammar on the phone. Nor should you impose that standard in a script. You want your agents to sound conversational.


With the huge volume of custom e-mail and chat being generated from customer contact centers, how do you ensure that the standards you apply are being delivered?


The process is the same as developing a quality assurance initiative for a voice center. The standards must be developed and implemented in the center. All the agents must buy into the standards and the process for measuring adherence. The scoring process is the same as in voice centers. An application must be deployed to enable detailed analysis with timely feedback to the centers and agents. Once a technology has been deployed for measurement, the next hurdle is to choose the method by which agents are monitored.


There are basically three methods for a quality assurance representative to gather the data from agents in contact centers.


The first and most difficult method is to enable the quality assurance representative to remotely access the agent's desktop, which is called shadow monitoring.


Though there are many technology packages to facilitate this, it can be a challenge if using a third-party quality assurance firm, and it will require time and resources from the center to accommodate the process. The upside is that full agent coverage is assured, enabling a much more accurate reading of how well a center is performing.


The second method is list seeding or mystery calling. In this scenario a quality assurance representative pretends to be a customer. The call center agent then communicates with the quality assurance representative. The interaction is saved and evaluated. The feedback and quality score can be sent to the agent.


The advantage of this scenario is that it requires virtually no technical interface with the center and the feedback to the agent can be provided seamlessly.


The deterrence effect is also quite pronounced with this application because the agents will share the results with their peers, causing a water cooler effect. If there are compliance issues, the feedback will filter through the center rapidly with this method.


The final system for e-mail compliance and quality assurance is also quite simple. The contact center will need to establish a system by which a fixed number of e-mails from each agent are blind-copied to a quality assurance center without the agents' knowledge. The e-mails are scored, and feedback is shared with the center and agents. This method provides quick feedback and deterrence without the major technical headache of shadow monitoring.


We recommend that clients use at least two of the three methods to achieve a comprehensive quality assurance initiative for e-mail and chat. Any one of the methods by itself does not give an initiative the balance of statistically valid results with a feedback mechanism that is crucial in producing change. If all you do is measure results without facilitating improvement, then the point of the quality initiative is lost.


The next time you are on a monitoring session and you hear a customer say, "put it in writing," be sure you have the confidence that the follow up e-mail does not come back to bite you. Be sure that written correspondence accomplishes the following:


• First and foremost, it protects the brand.


• It delivers accurate information.


• It communicates clearly.


• It is written in a courteous, helpful tone.


• It must be grammatically correct.


If these five components are accomplished, you will have happy customers who do not need to call back multiple times, thus saving your company substantial dollars.


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