Call Centre Improvement Series:

No 1. Call Outcome – how to monitor and evaluate calls.

by Niels Kjellerup, Senior Partner Resource International. December 22nd 1999/Updated January 17 2008.(A list of Digital Monitoring vendors is found here).


Once, you as a Call Centre manager, has decided to move away from call production as your main measurements, you’re confronted with the daunting task of establishing measurements which reflect the quality and out-come of calls ( Personal note – don’t believe the vendors who tell you this is easily accomplished by installing a CRM type software. In fact Forrester published a scathing report in June 1999 " The demise of CRM" which clearly documents the inadequacies of current CRM software applications. The recent Data Monitor report Quality Management 02.02 identifies 3 action point : 1) The need to turn cost centres into Profit Centres, 2) Vendors need to move from Quality Monitoring to Quality Management in order to provide realistic ROI's for their clients & 3) CRM vendors should partner with Recording vendors who provide QM solutions.

Call evaluation is the key to improve Call Quality & Outcome and should include a program to improve the skills of each individual CSR (Note this applies as well for Tele Sales Reps TSRs). It involves Call Monitoring, Call Evaluation, CSR Appraisal & Relationship skills training.

Let’s take a closer look at each component:

Call Monitoring :

The very time consuming task of listening to live calls are probably taking up more supervisor and management time than any other single task. Thankfully digital technology is now making it easy to record calls and retrieve them, so the old days of live call monitoring does not have to stay with us. Again we have seen several ( 6-7) vendors promising great productivity gains for supervisors and managers investing in such digital recording equipment. Alas unless you formulate a Call Evaluation program such recording machines will only become yet another whip in the hands of The Galley Slave Master and will further deteriorate CSR morale and productivity.

In addition to the recording devices you need a sophisticated software which not only allows for easy retrieval, but also includes such features as Scoring on an individual basis, Preselecting Calls of specific CRS, Allowing CSR to mark calls for evaluation and help etc.

Some vendors are trying to sell the idea that the length of the call is an indication of its quality and delivers software that automatically identifies calls over a certain length. Surely if you’re running a Galley Slave Call Centre and base you’re measurements on call length and call numbers, this is manna from heaven. Now you can identify the offenders and take action. Monitoring is sometimes used to comply with a companies ISO 9000 quality program. Such companies only monitor 1,5-2% of all calls, not to improve Call Outcome but to be able to sign off on their ISO 9000 program. This folly has no merit if you’re looking for Call Quality Improvement.

The real value of Digital Recording: Of course call recordings are useful in conflict resolution and complaint handling. It can be useful to collect ‘thank you’ calls or to provide feedback to other parts of the organisation. However the real usefulness is to help improve CSR call quality. The key to successfully implementing digital recording in your Call Centre is to draw up guidelines of use ( make sure you CSRs take part & the unions buy into it). In my view the recording of calls gives us a far better and fairer basis for appraising a CSR, than randomly selected calls on a bad day.

Guidelines must include respect for privacy, detail how monitoring is going to be used & give the CSR the possibility to select other calls if selection is found to be non-representative. The Guide lines should be under constant improvement as experience demonstrate the need for refinement.

Call Evaluation :

Wether you’re listening to live or recorded calls the key here is to have a well defined standard of a quality call and a pre-agreed scoring method, so the CSRs is not kept in the dark as to the basis of the scoring and subsequent appraisal.

Few digital recording vendors have any idea of the ingredient of a Quality Call and the software they provide is focussed on Galley Slave Applications, i.e. focussing on ‘long calls’.

The Call Evaluation Model «* defines the 9 key ingredients on which to base a call evaluation. These, in my view, constitute the base elements of all communication and relationship building skills needed in a CSR.

Listed in order of importance to call Outcome:

  1. Honesty. This is a tough, but crucial one. The honesty level of the CSR acts as the carrier wave of the entire conversation. Falseness or pretended friendliness are danger sign posts.
  2. Attention. Is the CSR paying attention to the caller or mentally doodling. You can hear this clearly when the CSR starts using empty phrases such as ‘no problem’ or ' Won't be a moment'. Mentally the CSR is elsewhere and is playing a mental IVR message.
  3. Interest. Is the CSR showing interest and identifying the customers needs and helping.
  4. Duplication. Is the CSR actually hearing what the customer said. An example would be the customer mentioning his name and the CSR later ask for the name.
  5. Assumptions. Is the CSR making assumptions or actually listening to the caller. When you take hundreds of similar calls its very easy to assume that situations described by the customer is identical to an earlier call. Assumption prevent the CSR from showing interest and finding actual needs.
  6. Responsibility. Did the CSR take responsibility for the conversation and the situation.
  7. Call Control. Did the CSR take control of the conversation or let it wonder aimlessly around.
  8. Friendliness. We’re looking for empathy not sympathy. And sincerity not pretence.
  9. Professionalism . Did the CSR act according to the companies guidelines for professional behaviour. Easy.

This Call Evaluation Model «* has the advantage over other models- it works well and is based on common sense – but there is much more to these 9 key factors than immediately meets the eye, but for now this will suffice.

To ensure uniform Call Evaluations each evaluator needs to be trained & have a good understanding of both Relationship- and Communication Models and why and how these 9 key elements interacts and decides call outcome. The scoring is done for each call and the software will then add up the averages for each CSR. In our experience a Call Evaluator can be trained in a matter of 2-3 weeks.

 CSR Appraisals :

Many factors other than Call handling and Call quality should be looked at when appraising a staff member. But here we will look at the role of Call Evaluation. A person is not a born communicator or natural relationship builder, such personal traits are learnt skills and provided you have the right training materials can be mastered by most individuals. This means that the right training with the right materials can markedly improve a CSRs skill set for working with customers on the phone.

It also means that Call Evaluations are never death-sentences but simply point to the areas where a CSR needs to learn to overcome own barriers to improve performance. Basic training in The Relationship- & Communications model will allow the CSR to understand why the scoring on the 9 key ingredients came out that way. In fact we have found, that it’s the duty of the Manager to point out to the CSR areas in need of improvement and then provide the time & the training to do so. So the appraisers job is to encourage the CSR to improve and use the Call Evaluation Model to help the CSR identify own shortcomings by discussing in detail what happened in specific calls.

This is very personal and is only effective in the presence of a high degree of trust & willingness to learn. Thus it would never work in a Galley Slave Call Centre environment. One of the result of the CSR appraisal would be a list of areas where the CSR needs to improve skills with a recommendation of what training should be undertaken..

CSR Relationship Skills Training :

Unless Call Centre management understands that CSRs can improve relationship with training the whole monitoring, evaluation and appraisal cycle becomes rather meaningless. Very few Call Centres have Relationship & Communication Skills training and in most cases the training is education, i.e. the CSR learns what is expected and now you’re supposed to’s. Training, to be effective, must help the CSR address own barriers to actually doing what he/she is supposed to do.

Training materials and training drills need to designed, so the CSR gradually learns to overcome own barriers, not the imagined barriers, but those identified in the Appraisal and agreed to by the CSR.

As an example we (Resource International) have developed 100’s of simple, easy to do training drills, all aimed at improving one or more of the 9 key relationship building ingredients listed above.

Conclusion :

We can improve Call quality & Outcome provided a program is in place which encourages the CSR to improve. The implementation of such a program have a technical component, the installation of a digital recording system with sophisticated software. But primarily it has to be part of a coaching program which encourages CSRs to better their Relationship building skills and help identify weaknesses & barriers to communicating better and more freely with customers.

PS: Here's something to laugh about ... this list of Evaluation & Appraisal Comments are meant as a joke. (click here).

* The Call Evaluation Model is registered trademark of Resource International. Article ęCopyright 1996-2016 Niels Kjellerup, All right reserved. 


Back to Top of the Page, Call Center Improvement Series or Managers Files or  Home Page