What makes an Effective Call Auditing Program
Sven Menssen : December 9 2020
Why a Call Auditing Program?
We have all heard the phrase “This call is recorded for quality assurance and training purposes.” But without an effective auditing program behind it, this may just be a statement to satisfy general compliance requirements. When companies look past the simple need to record their calls and do something more than just place call recordings into some archive, they can begin to take advantage of measuring call quality and turn the results into training opportunities.
When a call auditing/monitoring program is set up effectively, companies will see good results from it! After all, every organization wants to ensure that their agent-customer interactions are helping the business and not hurting it. In other words, we want our agents to be as professional and effective in their customer service and sales approach as possible, while staying 100% compliant to existing rules and regulations!
But how will you know that your agents are meeting, if not exceeding, your expectations of them? And how will you know what struggling agents are not doing if you do not take full advantage of reviewing their calls?
Beyond just listening to calls
If we want our quality auditing program to be effective, we need to go beyond just listening, filling out a form, and providing a score. Effective call auditing programs combine the reviewing and scoring of prerecorded calls with the monitoring of live calls, where real-time feedback can be provided (more on that below).
In addition to simply scoring a call based on established criteria and then communicating the score to the agent and/or their supervisor, effective call auditing programs turn call reviews into learning opportunities (i.e. the “training purposes” mentioned in the call recording disclaimer).
Instead of agents viewing their calls being listened to as a negative (as in “I hope I am not going to mess up so I don’t get a bad score…”) they get to see it as a chance to become better at what they do.
What are we listening for?
Setting up the right call audit criteria starts with defining the right expectations. What is it we want the agents to accomplish and how do we want then to go about it? A successful audit program is set up to not only catch agents doing things not quite as desired but equally focuses catching them doing things well!
One recommendation is to not over-complicate things. A program that is too granular with its criteria is hard to calibrate! Listen for and score the big things: Customer service, sales ability, and compliance!
A Dual-Approach: Customer Experience vs. Compliance
We recommend that agencies set up two separate call audit processes. One that is focused on the customer experience (how does the agent connect with the customer? Is the agent controlling the direction of the call? Is the agent listening to the customer? Are they uncovering needs? Are they offering real needs-based solutions, etc.) and the other strictly for compliance.
Best practices is to keep those two “disciplines” separated. You do not want overlook a compliance infraction just because you are focused on how great the agent is connecting with the customer. Several agencies have implemented this two-pronged approach by having one group of call auditors strictly focus on compliance (from call inception through the enrollment process) and another group of auditors focuses on reviewing the call for the quality of the customer experience.
The Training-Monitoring-Feedback Cycle
As we mentioned above, before an auditing program can be set up successfully, organizations need to know (a) what it is they are expecting their agents to do on each call, and (b) how they want their agents to go about it. This has to be communicated very clearly, preferably in training when the agents are onboarded.
Once agents have been trained and are aware of the expectations, their calls are monitored to see well they are implementing everything.
The next, and arguably the most important, step is to provide timely feedback and coaching to the agents. We recommend auditing calls that are no more than 48 hours old (or Friday calls reviewed on Monday) and providing initial feedback as soon as possible (e.g. at the end of the shift).
Another recommendation is to allow the agents to review their own call (or parts of it) so that feedback and coaching may be more impactful.
Another important aspect of an effective call auditing program is how the grading criteria are set up. Are some items weighted more heavily than others? Do you go with a simple YES/NO/NA approach or do you use a scale (e.g. 0-3, where 3 is “exceeds expectations” or “excellent,” 2 is “needs work,” 1 is “poorly done,” and 0 is “not done”)?
Some organizations start every call at a score of 100% and take off points for certain things that were missing or not done well, while others use an additive approach where the call starts at 0 and points are earned along the way. I do not necessarily have a strong opinion on this as long as the “training-monitoring-feedback” cycle is implemented well.
Another hotly debated item is whether to implement an “auto-fail” for certain things. In my experience overseeing the call quality and compliance monitoring efforts of several organizations, I have found that auto-fails work best when an agent has either done something blatantly unprofessional (organizations should determine what that means for them) or they have had a major compliance infraction on a call (e.g. outbound enrollment of an MA or PDP plan, etc.).
Call Auditing and Compensation
Some agencies tie in their agents’ call auditing results with their compensation. I have seen organizations taking an approach where compensation is only negatively affected when agents fail to reach an expected average score over a certain time (e.g. a 3-month rolling average). On the other hand, I have seen agencies that reward agents with bonuses when they have a score that is better than average over a given time period or if they have a 100% on all of that month’s compliance monitored calls.
I believe that a good call auditing program should include an incentive plan to reward good behavior. After all, agents want to be caught doing the right thing!
Benefits of Live Monitoring
As mentioned previously, live monitoring should be another important part of the overall call auditing strategy. I have seen first hand the benefits of implementing this into the overall strategy. I recommend that live call monitoring be done by a sales supervisor or manager with sales experience in the industry.
The foremost benefit for live call monitoring is that call outcome can be influenced in real-time. Feedback should be provided using a tool like Slack™ or other instant messenger program. I have witnessed a number of situations where a call was rescued when the agent said to the customer the things recommended by the person listening to the call!
Whether it is to give correct information when the agent has just misstated a fact, provide information to the agent when they do not know it or do not know where to find it, or to provide hints on how to present, close, or effectively handle an objections—live monitoring can make all the difference.
I can’t stress enough how important it is that everyone engaged in the process—from those whose job it is to review calls to those who lead the agents—is calibrated. This should include frequent (once a week) calibrations for just the call auditing department members and then frequent calibrations that include supervisors and managers. Weekly meetings with all relevant stakeholders to discuss call trends and issues related to call monitoring should be part of the overall program.
The only required technology of any call auditing program is the call recording and playback system. Many organizations simply rely on spreadsheets to keep track of call scores. While this can work for smaller agencies, we recommend taking advantage of dedicated applications for that purpose that can be customized to your agency’s specific needs. Some dialers or call recording programs include add-ons for call scoring. And of course, there are also standalone applications that agencies can fully customize to their needs.
For more information about Medicare Agency Resources visit my website at http://medicareagencyresources.com/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org