Your call center quality assurance checklist: 7 research-backed items to include

Madeline Jacobson

February 14, 2024

Creating a call center quality assurance checklist (also known as a QA scorecard) is often a set-it-and-forget-it activity. 

Your call center decides on 10-20 observable agent behaviors to track. It assigns each behavior a weight. QA managers check whether these behaviors occur in the calls they review, and supervisors or team leaders coach agents to adhere to these checklist items. Voila, you have a QA program.

But how much of an impact do those QA checklist items have on the outcomes your business cares about? Are they incentivizing agent behaviors that reduce operational costs, grow revenue, or improve the customer experience?  

If the answer is no, it’s time to revisit your QA criteria. 

“QA scorecards have traditionally been designed for manual review processes with supervisors evaluating less than 1% of an agent's interactions per month,” says Don Davey, Tethr’s Senior Director of Customer Success. “So that an agent’s performance can be compared from month to month with these small volumes, the questions in the scorecards tend to focus on things that can be observed in most interactions, such as, ‘Did the agent use the proper greeting?’ Unfortunately, this means the agent behaviors that happen less often but have big impacts end up getting overlooked.”

Below, we’re sharing 7 items Davey recommends adding to your call center quality assurance checklist based on his work with Tethr’s customers and research shared in The Effortless Experience, The Jolt Effect, and Tethr’s The State of the Customer Experience.

Since the behaviors below don’t happen as often as other QA checklist items, Davey suggests adding points to the agent’s score if the agent demonstrates the behavior in a relevant scenario or if it’s non-applicable. QA managers should only detract points when the agent didn’t demonstrate the behavior in a relevant scenario. This means agents aren’t punished if the behavior was non-applicable to an interaction and are incentivized to demonstrate the behavior when it is applicable.

7 impactful items to add to your call center quality assurance checklist

<span class="anchor" id="advocacy-statements" data-anchor-title="Advocacy statements"></span>

Advocacy statements

Include on: Customer service QA checklists or scorecards

Example: “Did the agent use approved advocacy statements to let the customer know they were addressing their issue?”

Why include it:

Advocacy language demonstrates the agent doesn’t just empathize with the customer’s issue but is actively working to resolve it. Examples of advocacy statements include “I can help you with that” and “I can provide more information.”  

Research from Tethr’s State of the Customer Experience report shows advocacy language has a bigger impact on customer satisfaction than any other agent behavior. It has also been shown to increase the conversion rate of sales, collections, and saves (i.e., preventing a customer from churning).

<span class="anchor" id="expectation-setting" data-anchor-title="Expectation setting"></span>

Expectation setting

Include on: Customer service QA checklists or scorecards

Example: “Did the agent follow guidelines for setting expectations about next steps with the customer?”

Why include it:

Missed expectations are one of the most common reasons customers express dissatisfaction in service interactions, according to Tethr’s research. And unfortunately, agents often fail to set clear expectations. When benchmarking call center data, we found that the median rate of expectation setting in service interactions was just 18%.

By adding this to your QA scorecard, you hold agents accountable for setting appropriate expectations about next steps–increasing customer satisfaction and reducing the likelihood of repeat contacts.  

<span class="anchor" id="offering-further-assistance" data-anchor-title="Offering further assistance"></span>

Offering further assistance

Include on: Customer service QA checklists or scorecards

Example: “Did the agent ask if they could assist the customer with anything else before closing?”

Why include it:

According to research from The Effortless Experience, the worst question a service rep can ask is, “Have I fully resolved your issue today?” This prompts the customer to say yes, even if they’re not sure their issue was fully resolved. 

Instead of using some variation of “Have I resolved your issue?”, agents should offer further assistance (i.e., “Do you have any additional questions for me?”) as part of their attempted closing. If they don’t let the customer bring up any other issues or questions, the chance of a repeat contact goes up (which also increases operating costs for the contact center).

<span class="anchor" id="powerless-to-help-language" data-anchor-title="Avoiding powerless-to-help language"></span>

Avoiding powerless-to-help language

Include on: Customer service QA checklists or scorecards

Example: “Did the agent use a powerless-to-help statement?” (If the answer is yes, the agent receives zero points for this item on the scorecard, and if the answer is no, the agent receives the full points for this item.)

Why include it:

Powerless-to-help language, such as “I can’t help” or “There’s nothing I can do,” frustrates customers and damages your brand reputation. In some cases, an agent can’t complete a customer’s request due to company policies or system issues. But you can still train agents to avoid powerless-to-help language and focus on what they can do for the customer.

Davey recommends adding powerless-to-help language to your QA scorecard as a negative category to incentivize agents to avoid this behavior.

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<span class="anchor" id="rebuttal-to-objection" data-anchor-title="Rebuttal to an objection"></span>

Rebuttal to an objection

Include on: Sales or collections team QA checklists

Example: “Did the representative use an approved rebuttal to a customer’s objection?”

Why include it:

It might sound obvious that sales reps should give a rebuttal to an objection, but it doesn’t always happen. Research shared in The Jolt Effect found that while objections show up in 69% of sales calls, rebuttals only show up in 52%–a 17-point gap. 

It’s important to hold sales reps accountable for using approved rebuttals because this behavior makes a huge difference in win rates. Working with Tethr customers, Davey found that conversion rates are between 75 and 260% higher when sales reps respond to a customer’s objection versus when they don’t. Davey reports seeing similar conversion rates when collections teams use approved rebuttals to customers’ payment objections.

<span class="anchor" id="asking-for-the-sale" data-anchor-title="Asking for the sale"></span>

Asking for the sale or payment

Include on: Sales or collections team QA checklists

Example: “Did the representative ask for the sale?” or “Did the representative ask the customer to submit a payment?”

Why include it:

Adding “asking for the sale or payment” to the QA scorecard for your sales or collections team is an easy win. Davey has seen Tethr customers improve their conversion rates by 60 to 200% when this behavior is present–with one customer improving their conversion rate by over 300%. 

Because this behavior has such a big impact, Davey recommends weighting it heavily on the QA scorecard.  

<span class="anchor" id="offering-paperless-billing" data-anchor-title="Offering paperless billing"></span>

Offering paperless billing

Include on: Sales QA checklists for businesses that send monthly billing statements

Example: “Did the representative ask the customer if they wanted to enroll in paperless billing?”

Why include it:

According to Davey’s research, the number of newly opened accounts on paperless billing is 70% to 100%+ higher when the agent offers to enroll the customer in paperless billing than when they don’t. This is a quick update to your QA scorecard that can have a huge effect: paperless billing saves your company about $6 per year on postage and handling for the lifetime of the account. Those savings quickly add up across thousands or millions of customers.

<span class="anchor" id="thinking-differently-about-qa" data-anchor-title="Thinking differently about QA"></span>

Thinking differently about quality assurance

All of the checklist items above are objective and based on the language the agent uses. While they can be tracked manually, they can also be automated using a platform like Tethr. 

Tethr uses machine learning to analyze customer conversations and identify when call center quality assurance checklist items occur. This means your call center can automatically review 100% of its conversations and evaluate agents based on all their customer interactions. 

Automating QA requires thinking differently about the quality assurance process–you’re removing subjectivity from the equation and expanding your ability to measure impactful agent behaviors, and your results will look different than they would with a traditional quality assurance checklist. But adopting this approach allows you to transform QA from a set-it-and-forget-it activity to a means of improving agent coaching and driving the business outcomes that matter most.  

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