Contact Center Quality Assurance: From Negative Stigma to Team Success


Often, perception is everything. That’s been my experience managing the Quality Assurance (QA) department within Grand Canyon University’s (GCU) contact center. It can be so easy for QA teams to gain a harsh reputation because it’s their job to ensure other departments follow through. Within larger organizations, it can be scary. It may feel like QA is the “man behind the curtain,” making judgements about performance without feeling informed about who is making these decisions.

My team experienced this when our department was first established. The running joke was that my staff didn’t want to share a break room with the rest of the call agents because they wanted their food to be where they left it (in the fridge) when it came time for lunch. It can be hard to shake a negative stigma, even if you’re doing everything right. My team and I do our best to be positive, uplifting, and make time for coaching, but a positive attitude and diligent performance can only go so far when your processes and software are woefully out of date.

Transitions Without Tools: Making the Grade

We were in the middle of a company restructure when the manager of the new QA department left GCU. They needed someone to fill in, so I took on that role for a few months before my maternity leave. I was supposed to go back to my previous position when I returned, but I asked if I could stay in QA because I felt there was so much more to be done.

Early on, we used a reporting system that forced us to run our reports from Excel spreadsheets to figure out which calls we needed to evaluate. This was very inefficient, as our QA specialists had no method to determine which calls to grade. Some agents may have been evaluated on four calls, others on just one.

Our existing reporting software had major issues since we were on an outdated version. It wasn't user friendly or accessible, we were often unable to pull the appropriate report, and we just couldn’t keep the data clean. On top of all that, the software would often crash. Then, when we reached out to the provider’s support team, they told us, "Well, you have to update your software for it to get better." Of course, the update came with a hefty price tag, and we were hesitant to move forward with a system update because the vendor hadn’t been willing to fix our pre-existing issues.

We felt like small fish in a large pond. We had to make a change; otherwise, we would end up using Excel spreadsheets forever. At that point, we decided to look for a different call recording service provider.

Enter Calabrio: Our Supportive Solution 

In our searches, we found Calabrio. The platform is web-based call center software that provides features like call recording and analytics to help us make better, more efficient QA decisions. Calabrio embodies the open-minded, collaborative approach we wanted to set as a QA team. Our system needed to help us with our overarching goal of reducing the negative stigma surrounding QA and help GCU’s other departments understand we’re here to help. 

The web-based aspect made an immediate difference for us. All the calls we are responsible for evaluating could be easily accessed in Calabrio, and the search capabilities were a vast improvement from our previous vendor. It's also incredibly user friendly and intuitive.

.@Calabrio is designed for people who need to quickly find specific data to get the job done.

Calabrio is designed for people who need to search calls and get the job done. The dashboard tells the agent exactly how many calls have been graded, how many calls they've had, and their average score. Calabrio gives them that type of information without forcing them to hunt for it. Our agents simply never had this level of insight before. 

Efficiency, Collaboration, and Consistency: Our QA Success

We’ve made several significant changes since we implemented Calabrio, including the addition of a call library that houses hundreds of examples of high-quality calls. They’re segmented because there are multiple ways to do a strong call opening, and we want those model examples to be readily available across our departments. There’s no need to focus on the bad when you can demonstrate how a good call is done.

The QA team started with a handful of QA specialists and one manager and have now grown to include one assistant director, one manager, three analysts, and eleven QA specialists. During this growth, I have tried to make everything more efficient and consistent. At first, we only evaluated calls for the enrollment department, but now, we evaluate 19 departments within the university. We’re a proactive QA department because we set up meetings to educate other departments why it is important for the QA team to listen to their calls. It’s not like that in other organizations—usually it’s the other way around.

Originally, we completed about 3,000 evaluations per month and now we're completing over 5,000. Some of this is due to growth, but Calabrio’s ease of use has helped greatly with our efficiency.

When we hire a new manager, the QA Manager sits one-on-one with them, teaching them how to use Calabrio and about what the platform can do for them. We try to make everything more personal, because otherwise you're just the person behind the curtain. We also started implementing QA into our training. We've done a lot to try to make things more fun and enticing. It's our job; it's what we have to do to ensure compliance across the university. 

Acknowledging and rewarding strong performers builds incentive and momentum for high performance. #QA @Calabrio

I also implemented a program called the QA 100 Club awards for those doing outstanding work. Those who get a score of a 100 on their calls for the month receive a congratulatory email from me. You'd be surprised at the feedback—people thank me for simply recognizing their efforts and their work. We also hand out physical awards and certificates to consistent performers who maintain an average score of 100 on a quarterly basis. Since implementing that practice, about seven people have consistently maintained 100 for more than two years.

Championing a New Approach to Quality Assurance

When it comes to feature requests, I appreciate Calabrio’s continuous, open-minded approach to improvement. We had some issues with Calabrio about two years ago and we brought them to the support team, who was having trouble finding a resolution. We then went to Calabrio Customer Connect, their annual conference, and sat down with CEO Tom Goodmanson and his team. We emerged from that meeting with a personal guarantee they were going to make this right. Within two weeks, our issues were resolved. 

Calabrio does a great job of getting customers involved with the software. For example, I love Calabrio’s Champions Network—it’s a place for customers to stay engaged with each other. The online community is a huge incentive, because it’s gamified learning where my teams can unlock rewards for good performance—just like what I’ve done with the teams here at GCU.

Calabrio does a terrific good job of setting you up for success. If they don't know something, they work to find you an answer. The team’s ability to take feedback and have meaningful discussions makes Calabrio a fantastic example of how you should not only treat your customers, but how internal departments can work together despite feeling completely unrelated.

Clearing the Air and Looking to the Future

Working with a team like Calabrio has changed everything we do in QA. We’re excited to pursue more gamification using points and rewards. We want to take the QA 100 Club Awards online and start moving away from the original model of paper certificates. It suits our needs and the team’s digital-first mindset. In a similar vein, we’re looking forward to adding new features to our software, such as a screen share function.

An organized #callcenter helps create a proactive #QA team. @Calabrio

We’ve come so far since the early days where QA had this negative stigma hanging over it. Now, we spearhead performance excellence through strong feedback and coaching while bringing modern tools, like Calabrio, to the university. Everything we do is to help bring each department along for the ride as we all move to prepare the university for the future.