Quality assurance and quality control: What's the difference?

Madeline Jacobson

April 5, 2024

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 and contact center leaders everywhere. It’s so important that we have lots of processes dedicated to making sure that our deliverables meet customers’ needs and expectations. These processes include quality assurance and quality control.

But wait, you might ask. Those sound pretty similar. What is the difference between quality control and quality assurance, and why does it matter? 

The difference is subtle, but it’s there—and understanding that nuance can make a big difference in how you organize, manage, and analyze performance in your organization. Understanding these differences is essential, 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 how we define quality control and quality assurance:

What is quality assurance in a call center?

Quality assurance (QA) is a call center process that involves reviewing customer conversations to ensure agents are meeting quality standards. Some call centers have dedicated QA managers responsible for this process, while others rely on team leaders to evaluate their agents’ interactions. QA managers or team leaders typically listen to or read the transcripts of a small sample of each agent’s calls on a weekly or monthly basis. They use QA scorecards or checklists to evaluate the interactions on consistent criteria, such as whether the agent used the proper greeting, verified the customer’s identity, or asked if they could provide further assistance.

Call centers typically only complete manual QA evaluations for about 1-3% of each agent’s conversations because it’s a time-consuming process. Fortunately, QA automation technology now makes it possible to automatically complete the objective criteria on QA scorecards across 100% of customer conversations. This allows managers to identify trends in agent performance at scale and provide fair, data-driven coaching.

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What is quality control?

Quality control (QC) is similar to quality assurance, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. However, the term “quality control” may also refer to the set of processes a business uses to ensure its products or services meet a documented set of quality criteria. While quality assurance is a narrowly defined activity in the contact center, quality control is used more broadly. It’s also more commonly used within product departments: for example, teams may conduct quality control tests to ensure there are no defects in new products.

But that doesn’t mean quality control is irrelevant in the call center. Quality control may also refer to the operational activities call center leaders perform to maintain the quality of service delivery. It might include making changes to processes, systems, or agent training to reduce compliance risk, improve agent performance, and enhance the customer experience.

Call centers can also support product-related quality control by sharing customer feedback on product issues. Conversation intelligence software can help call centers to categorize and quantify the product issues customers are bringing up. By funneling these insights to the product department, the call center can help their company make informed product improvement decisions and catch potential defects quickly.

The differences between quality assurance and quality control

There may be some overlap between quality control and quality assurance activities in a call center, as both aim to ensure high quality standards. However, the main difference lies in their focus and approach. Quality control focuses more broadly on ensuring both the products and services a business delivers meet customer needs and expectations. Quality assurance (in the context of the call center) focuses on analyzing agents’ performance to ensure they’re meeting the expectations of the business in their service delivery.

Final takeaways

As a call center leader, you may not deal with product-related quality control regularly, and you might think that this conversation isn’t about you. But 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 and a better overall customer experience.

While quality assurance in the call center is important, your focus on quality shouldn’t stop there. You’re hearing directly from customers every day, and the call center can be a valuable source of product and service insights. You have the opportunity to help improve quality at every stage of the customer journey.

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This blog post was originally published in September 2021. It was most recently updated in April 2023.

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