From Checklists to Competencies: Transforming Quality in the Contact Center
August 05, 2019
By: Paul Chaney
Interview with Robert Gofourth, Vice President, Operations Strategy & Performance, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina
Providing better customer experiences should be every contact center’s number one concern. With customer satisfaction with contact centers in steady decline, according to the Contact Center Satisfaction Index 2019, the need to improve CX is more critical now than ever.
For Robert Gofourth, Vice President, Operations Strategy & Performance, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, that meant focusing on process improvement regarding quality.
“When I arrived at Blue Cross of North Carolina, we had the typical quality process found in most contact centers, many of which are aligned to checklists,” Gofourth said in an interview. “I’m sure all of us as consumers have called and gotten a robotic response from an agent who was going through the steps. It often results in a very unsuccessful transaction and resolution to a problem.”
Gofourth added that it’s not uncommon for the contact center agent to wrap up a call by saying, I hope you were satisfied with what I was able to do for you. Is there anything else I can help you with?
“That’s a question that should not be asked,” he remarked. “People call into contact centers for help, seeking resolution to a problem. They may be satisfied with the interaction but dissatisfied with the resolution or lack of it. When we put phone agents in a box, we take away their ability to make good decisions to help the customer in a more natural and dynamic way.”
The metrics supported his assertion:
- Industry-wide, 44 percent of customers do not trust health insurance companies;
- Blue Cross NC’s NPS was far behind the 30+ seen by health insurance experience leaders;
- FCR was in the bottom 25 percent of health insurance companies.
“We decided to go with improving the quality process,” Gofourth said. “Handcuffing agents and not allowing them to help customers would further hurt the FCR score and lower trust and confidence even more.”
When asked why he chose to focus on quality first, he said, “We saw that our quality scores were really high but FCR wasn’t where it needed to be. It was an indicator that people are calling back because they don’t have confidence in the answer they received or the problem wasn’t correctly diagnosed on the first call. Those data points supported us doing the work in this area first.”
Gofourth’s team worked with an outsourced consulting firm and looked at 27 best practice competencies design to lower customer effort and increase customer experience. From that list, they choose six that reference the quality framework:
Issue Diagnosis – Understanding customers underlying issues and identifying the right solutions;
Proactive Guidance – Actively guiding customers throughout the issue resolution and call interaction;
Issue Resolution – Providing a complete and accurate solution that resolves the customer’s issue;
Personality Flexing – The agent adjusting his or her personality to meet the personality of the caller;
Resilience – The ability to recover from a bad call and deliver a consistently positive experience in subsequent interactions;
Education – Giving the customer new information they can use in the future.
“If you look at the checklist form, the education piece won’t exist,” Gofourth said. “Agents will only do the bare minimum because they are afraid their quality score could go down and they will lose points. We felt it was important that we include education to enhance the customer experience.”
Transitioning from the contact center-focused checklist mentality to a customer-centric mindset that empowered agents to own and drive the resolution of customers’ issues proved to be the right decision.
When surveyed regarding issue resolution, customers gave the contact center a greater than 90 percent satisfaction rating. Also, FCR increased by 14 percent, employee engagement rose six percent, and reduction in voluntary termination increased eight percent.
The change was so significant, one agent remarked, “I struggled with the previous program. The purpose of Quality finally makes sense to me.”
In an article written for Enterprise Services Outlook magazine, Agent to Advocate, Gofourth said that quality assurance programs are one of the most powerful tools a contact center has to help improve employees and ensure a great experience for the caller.
From his viewpoint, that means companies must move out of their comfort zones (i.e., use of checklists) and be willing to innovate.
“The pressure for innovation is much tougher now,” he said. “Folks in the industry know that they aren’t only competing against another company in their sector but against Amazon and other high-performing, innovative organizations.”
His advice to companies: “Dedicate the financial and human resources necessary to make process improvements. Better mousetraps are being built all around us, so if we don’t innovate, we will be left behind. Pilot a couple of innovative programs that will please your customer and make your business better.”