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The art of conversation—4 brands that use quality assurance for personalized interactions

Really great customer conversations can’t happen when agents are bound to a script—it just isn’t possible. Conversations are, by their nature, unique and unpredictable, so a company’s customer service agents must be empowered to think outside the box and make decisions based on the situation at hand. Customers know when an interaction doesn’t feel authentic and if they sense that they’re talking to someone whose hands are tied, then any sense of getting real help diminishes on the spot—affecting other metrics, like satisfaction.

Of course, conversation is an art form and creating a performance metric around customer experience isn’t as straightforward as other metrics. Measuring for quality of conversation raises other questions, too: if you want agents to have great interactions, how do you actually define what it is that you want them to do? And how do you train and scale a team to create experiences that are, hypothetically, different each time?

Conversations are, by their nature, unique and unpredictable, so a company's customer service agents must be empowered to think outside the box and make decisions based on the situation at hand.

The good news is that some brands have already figured this out. Here’s how four companies are leading the way in measuring quality for things like creating customer trust or adherence to brand values.

1. Peloton uses quality management to drive customer satisfaction—without scripts

Peloton trusts its agents to interact with customers without a script, and also to empower front line customer service agents with the ability to solve every problem. For some organizations, this sounds risky, but it’s better for both the customer and the business in the long run. When the agent can resolve a problem fully, without placing a customer on hold to get additional permission or escalate the issue to someone else, the customer is served much faster and with less frustration.

Peloton focuses on giving agents the tools to do their jobs, and also to recognize those moments when they can go above and beyond to create amazing experiences for customers. And they also keep track—of all the times an agent surpasses customer expectations, but also when they miss an opportunity to do so. Peloton support managers undergo customer experience training to assess agent interactions and provide coaching around a simple, open-ended question that’s part of the team’s quality assurance rubric. Peloton’s Director of CX Laura Mundell explained, “We have rubric questions that ask not only, did they do what we wanted them to do on paper, but also, did the agent recognize when they could have gone above and beyond?”

Peloton focuses on giving agents the tools to do their jobs, and also to recognize those moments when they can go above and beyond to create amazing experiences for customers.

2. Zola has figured out scorecard best practices

Zola also focuses on empowering its support team. “We try to put as much power as possible into the hands of our agents. No customer wants to be on hold while you go speak to a supervisor. When an agent does escalate something, we coach through the conversation and ask the agent what they think is appropriate and a great solution,” said Rachel Livingston, director of Operations at Zola.

This emphasis on enabling agents to represent the brand is reflected in the team’s quality assurance scorecard, which asks generally: Did the agent create an experience that represents our brand? The scorecard then drills in and asks more specific questions like: Did the agent greet them by name, if they knew their name? Did they show empathy and sympathy?

These subsequent questions help outline and set expectations for what representing the brand actually means to Zola. It’s less a checklist that the agent has to follow and more a framework to guide the general tenor of customer interactions, based on the actual conversation the agent has with the customer. Depending on your company’s customer service solution, for example, the agent may already know the customer’s name and details about their journey toward contacting support.

“We’ve got a bonus question in our rubric that asks, ‘Does this interaction make me proud to work at Zola?’” Livingston said. “We want our agents to aspire to think about the level of service that makes them love being able to work here.”

[Related read: Simple and sophisticated: the "mullet" imperative of seamless CX]

3. FullStory empowers customer experience agents to impact brand

FullStory has a simple mission—they believe that everyone benefits from a more perfect online experience and have some brand values in place meant to guide employees toward improving customers’ online experiences.

It's less a checklist that the agent has to follow and more a framework to guide the general tenor of customer interactions, based on the actual conversation the agent has with the customer.

These values are empathy, clarity, and bionics. While these values provide a framework for the entire company to use when making decisions, guiding the product roadmap, and informing how they operate internally, they also inform the support team’s quality assurance rubric.

The support team at FullStory wanted to make sure that everything they were doing was in line with what marketing, sales, and product were focused on, all to the end of having a perfect online experience with FullStory’s own site. ‍

FullStory explicitly built their QA rubric around their brand values. Instead of telling agents exactly what to say to a customer in any given situation, agents are empowered to act flexibly within a framework. Instead of asking, “Did the agent say XYZ to greet the customer?” their rubric measures whether the agent was empathetic toward the customer. This leaves a lot of room for personalization and creativity within the span of a single conversation.

Instead of telling agents exactly what to say to a customer in any given situation, agents are empowered to act flexibly within a framework.

4. MOO focuses on agent experience and impact

One way that the MOO support team drives customer love is to focus their quality and agent coaching around the impact that agents have on the customer, the agent and colleagues, and on the business at large. This looks something like this in practice:

  • Impact on customer:

    Did the customer feel heard, did the solution build confidence or trust with the customer?

    Was the query efficiently resolved, with empathy?

    Does the customer have to contact us again for exactly the same reason? And did we make the customer do any extra work?

  • Impact on agent:

    Has the agent made themselves work harder, or their teammates work harder?

    Was the solution overly complicated for the agent or the team?

  • Impact on the business:

    How did we represent the brand?

    Did we represent our core values, did you sound like we want MOO to sound?

    And were we reasonable in the solution that we provided in terms of time and resources?

Framing the rubric and agent conversations around impact and values creates agent reviews that are more of a discussion and less of a duplicative prescription. This goes a long way in getting buy-in for a quality assurance program. Managers can ask agents about their thought process around what they did relative to these three pillars of impact as well as their core values, and have an engaged conversation around each customer interaction.

[Related read: Lessons in CX from 3 thriving brands]

Do it yourself

Giving agents maximum power is scary, but guiding them with frameworks and values can help create really magical customer experiences (the kind that we’d all want to have).

These frameworks can work a myriad of miracles, such as:

  • Training a higher level of awareness in agents around how their actions translate into an impact on the customer experience
  • Fostering a growth mindset that helps agents and coaches dig deeper during training. For example, not asking “was this the right thing to do?” but “Did the agent recognize when it was the right time to take this action?”

These four companies are great examples of CX organizations that have empowered agents to take free rein in their customer experiences, then scaled up through robust quality assurance programs.

By Shauntle Barley

Shauntle Barley was the first marketer at MaestroQA and is now Head of Growth. Her favorite part of her job is talking to customers and telling their stories. If you like what you see, check out her greatest storytelling initiative to date: The Art of Conversation.

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