Part 4: The contact centre’s quality control programme

Performance of the contact centre for Work and Income.

The requirements for an effective quality control programme are:

  • a clear quality framework with clear objectives, well-defined staff roles and responsibilities, and specified resource requirements; and
  • quality checks with explicit standards and clear and consistent checking procedures.

We looked for evidence that the contact centre’s quality control programme met these requirements.

Main findings

The contact centre has a well-designed and comprehensive quality control programme, with clear objectives, roles and responsibilities, and assigned resources. Clear standards and assessment criteria support consistent procedures for checking quality.

Quality checks showed consistently high results.

The quality framework

The contact centre has a well-designed and documented quality framework with clear objectives. The quality framework has two parts: the induction process, which we discussed in Part 3, and the ongoing quality assurance programme, which we discuss in this Part.

Responsibility for carrying out the quality control programme is divided among a variety of staff in the contact centre operations team and at the five sites. All these roles are clearly defined at a national, site, and team level.

A national quality assurance manager co-ordinates and monitors the programme.

The site manager has overall management responsibility for quality at each site.

Quality is also a primary concern for service managers, who are responsible for the performance of CSRs in their teams. Quality checks of CSR calls are carried out by quality coaches in collaboration with service managers. Quality coaches also organise and deliver coaching and training.

A designated service manager at each site collates the results of quality checks and forwards those to the national quality assurance manager. A contact centre quality report summarises the results of quality checks for all sites. Results from this report are fed back to sites.

The designated service manager for each site monitors that site’s performance against the contact centre’s national targets. They also work with the operations analyst at the site to schedule time off the telephone for CSRs when quality checks show the need for coaching or training.

Resource requirements for induction are specified as part of the definition of staff roles.

Figure 6 shows a summary of the contact centre’s quality checks.

Figure 6
Quality control procedures undertaken by the contact centre

Quality controlFrequency assessedAssessment performed by
Call evaluation (listening to and scoring recorded calls)5 calls a month for traineesQuality coaches on site
15 calls over 6 months for qualified CSRsQuality coaches on site
SWIFTT checking (checking CSRs’ actions in the Work and Income client and benefit database)All actions checked for traineesQuality coaches on site
20 actions over 6 months checked for qualified CSRsThe Work and Income Central Processing Unit
Mystery shopping (a quality control person calls the contact centre in the role of a client and records the service they receive)This programme is currently on hold

Quality checks

We assessed whether there were clear objectives for the quality checks set out in Figure 6, and whether they were based on clear criteria. We also looked at checking procedures to see whether they were clear and well documented. Finally, we expected to see evidence that the results were analysed, and used for performance reporting and training.

Call evaluation

Call evaluations assess how well CSRs handle calls. Quality coaches on site, using a sample of recorded calls, carry out call evaluation. For qualified CSRs, 15 calls are evaluated in a six-month period. For trainee CSRs, five calls are evaluated every month. A consistent procedure is followed. CSRs are scored against each of the criteria, and any coaching needs are identified.

The criteria for the assessment of call quality are clearly documented and available online.1 A user guide serves as a useful reference for quality coaches and CSRs in interpreting checking standards and ensuring that calls are evaluated consistently.

We were told that the contact centre is reviewing its call evaluation framework to take account of the different types of calls CSRs are now handling, such as outbound calls.

SWIFTT checking

SWIFTT is a Ministry database holding data about income support management and payment. SWIFTT checks assess whether a CSR’s changes to that database are accurate, have been processed correctly, and are consistent with policy.

Procedures for SWIFTT checking are clear, consistent, and well documented.

A quality coach on site checks all SWIFTT actions performed by trainee CSRs. For qualified CSRs, the Central Processing Unit within Work and Income checks 20 actions in a six-month period.

Different types of action are checked, as is the quality of notes made by the CSR in the client’s file.

Procedures for giving feedback and evaluating results are clear and consistent.

Results of the checking, any corrective action required (such as a change to the client’s record), and any identified learning and development needs are sent to the relevant CSR for confirmation.

Errors that affect the client are classified as critical, while others are classified as learning and development issues. Critical errors may have a bearing on the assessment of the CSR’s performance.

Policy changes or new initiatives pose a challenge for CSRs until they become familiar with new tasks and processes. In our view, the Central Processing Unit could more intensively monitor and report on the actions of CSRs when such changes occur. This would provide useful assurance about CSRs’ skills and identify any need for better guidance or further training.

The results of quality checks

Call evaluation and SWIFTT checking data we examined showed consistently high results. Each site’s results for both measures were close to the target of 95% of calls and SWIFTT actions meeting acceptable performance levels.

The results of call evaluations and SWIFTT checks are held on each site’s database for coaching purposes and are also used for the six-monthly assessment of CSR performance.

Monthly quality reports are compiled for each site. These reports contain an overall percentage accuracy rating, identify areas of risk, list common errors and trends, and make recommendations for improvement. These reports are reviewed by the national contact centre operations team as well as site management.

Relationships between the contact centre and the Central Processing Unit

A good understanding of what a CSR does is important for the work of the Central Processing Unit. Central Processing Unit staff have visited contact centre sites to better understand the nature of CSR work, and the Central Processing Unit manager was planning to visit contact centre sites.

Mystery shopping

Mystery shopping involves a quality control person calling the contact centre in the role of a client and recording the service they receive. This is one of the quality control mechanisms identified in the contact centre’s quality programme.

We were given a copy of what we were told was the last mystery shopping report, completed in November 2005. We understand that the contact centre intends to continue with mystery shopping, and that it was put on hold while a new appointee took over the role of national quality assurance manager. In our view, the mystery shopping programme would be a useful supplementary tool to test the contact centre’s processes.

1: In this report, we use “online” to mean information that is readily available on CSRs’ computers – a networked system of applications and databases that CSRs can access while talking on the telephone.

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