What is the difference between quality control and quality assurance?

Abigail Sims

September 27, 2021

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Quality is king. A high-quality product, service, or experience is the fundamental foundation of a low-effort experience for a customer—and the goal of customer experience leaders everywhere. It’s so important that we have loads of processes dedicated to making sure that our deliverables remain in tip-top shape. These processes include quality assurance, quality control, and more.

But wait, you might ask. Those all sound pretty similar. What is the difference between quality control and quality assurance, anyway? 

The difference is subtle, but it’s there—and understanding that nuance can actually make a big difference in how you organize, manage, and analyze performance in your organization. It’s essential to understand this difference, especially if you’re working in a customer-centric area of the company like the call center, customer experience (CX), or quality assurance (QA) itself. 

Let’s take a look at the difference between quality control and quality assurance:

Definition of Quality Assurance (QA)

For the CX folks on board, QA is probably the most familiar term of the two. In call centers, service centers, and other customer-facing areas of the company, QA is the process that ensures customer service representatives are meeting certain standards and expectations for their role. This often means using proper greetings, language, and meeting an appropriate handle time. 

Quality assurance [in a call center]: The process whereby companies “audit” calls for how well a representative adheres to company-defined scripting and language during a customer interaction. Matt Dixon, Tethr’s Chief Research & Innovation Officer
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Fundamentally, quality assurance is the way we observe calls and decide whether the agent has done their job correctly. Now, if we’re not talking about call centers, this definition expands a little bit, but the principle remains the same. The goal of the process is to determine whether the product, service, or conversation meets certain criteria, usually set by leadership on a QA scorecard.

Definition of Quality Control (QC)

So, you might be thinking, “Well, that about covers it. What else is left?”

Quality control is a little different than quality assurance. According to TechTarget, quality control is, “A procedure or set of procedures intended to ensure that a manufactured product or performed service adheres to a defined set of quality criteria or meets the requirements of the client or customer.” In other words, QC is the checklist a product needs to meet before going out the door. 

Essentially, this means that quality control is one step deeper than QA. It is, in many ways, simply slightly more specific. Quality assurance is the overall umbrella term used to describe the process of going through a checklist of standards that need to be met; while quality control is used to refer to the more operational activity of actually inspecting products or services. 

Together, we make Quality Management (QM)

Both quality assurance and quality control are part of the same overarching concept of quality management (QM). By extension, this means that both are essential elements of providing a low-effort customer experience. Where QC often happens on the factory floor and is less likely to be customer-facing, the insights derived from QA data are still essential to the quality control process. Likewise, for call center agents on the frontlines of QA, their job is made easier by a product or service with fewer issues, as they will have fewer customer complaints to field in the first place. 

Together, these two concepts make up the larger one of Quality Management.

The difference between quality control and quality assurance is...

Simply put, the difference between quality control and quality assurance is that quality control is about identifying existing problems with your product—so you can work to fix them. Quality assurance, on the other hand, is about perfecting your process so that those problems don’t occur in the first place. 

  • Quality assurance refers to a process 
  • Quality control refers to a product

As a call center leader, you may not deal with quality control on a regular basis, and you might think that this conversation isn’t about you. That couldn’t be further from the truth! QC and QA go hand-in-hand, and if you’re not sharing insights with the product team, you’re actually making things harder for your own team. A better product equals fewer customer issues—which means fewer calls for your team to handle.

In conclusion

This is just a quick look at some of the major differences between quality control and quality assurance. If you’re serious about improving quality management at your company, be sure to take a look at the benefits of analyzing your processes before implementing a digital-first solution. While we love automation around here, we also love to work smarter, not harder. 

That’s why we created Tethr: A research-backed machine learning platform that analyzes your customer conversations and delivers actionable insights you can use to make smarter business decisions. Check out our platform page to take a quick tour of Tethr, or explore our solutions to see how we can improve your customer experience, upgrade your quality assurance processes, and more. 

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