Quality Assurance

Most call centers have implemented a quality assurance program that involves recording a conversation between the customer service rep and the customer. The purpose is to identify areas of improvement for the customer service rep, as well as to ensure that the customer is truly satisfied with the answers they were given. Generally speaking I agree with this method.

There is no better training tool than actual incidences of customer service reps behaving unprofessionally, inappropriately, or even rudely. But let’s not leave out the good. Listening to a conversation between a World-Class customer service rep and a customer is a treat and an excellent method of showing someone what is expected of them.

It is possible, though, to go overboard in quality assurance.

I know of customer service reps working in conditions that succeed in frustrating them, tying their hands in terms of assisting a customer, and overall taking the responsibility of solving a customer’s problem out of the customer service rep’s hands.

How? By monitoring a call, every 15 minutes, checking a list to make sure the customer service rep uses the right phrase, making a mark on another list every time the customer raised their voice. Then taking a day’s worth of monitoring into a private meeting with the customer service rep and pointing out the details of where they went wrong. Pointing out those areas where they could have said a word the company prefers, or a ‘phrase of the day’ to support the company’s current promotions.

The supervisor or manager that does this to a customer service will effectively cut off that rep’s ability to provide the kind of service the company wants. Why? Because they’re completely discounting the training and education that the customer service rep has received from you, the company.

A properly trained customer service rep wants to provide World-Class service. They also want to accept responsibility for assisting their customer. They understand the importance of making sure the customer is satisfied, while staying within the guidelines and policies of the company they work for.

So, I ask all supervisors and managers this simply question. If you believe you have invested quality training in your customer service reps, and have hired quality people, why do you need to micro-manage the quality assurance to such a point that you negate everything you invested into your people?


Talk to any good or excellent customer service rep and ask them what they most desire in their work and they’ll tell you – training.  They thrive on improvement because they know it will ultimately help their customer.

All companies provide initial training for their customer service employees. Actually, the training provided is along the lines of company policies, instruction on how to use the computer software and telephones, a settling in period of getting familiar with products.  Very few companies have an in-house training program that supports the customer service department. What a shame, especially with the sheer numbers of customer service people begging for more training.

Oh for gosh sakes!This is truly unbelievable.

The findings of this recent study by SMB DigitalScape and reported by BIA/Kelsey and vSplash are astonishing:

  • 6 out of 10 SMB websites in the U.S. are missing either a local or toll-free telephone number on the home page to contact the business.
  • 74.7% of SMB websites lack an email link on their home page for consumers to contact the business.
  • 65.7% of SMB websites lack a form-fill option to enable consumers to request information.

And they fair even worse when it comes to social media:

  • Only 19.5% of SMB websites have a link to a Facebook page
  • Even fewer have links to Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • 93.3% of SMB websites are not mobile compatible and will not render successfully on mobile devices or smartphones.

Gone are the days when a potential customer would open up their Yellow Pages to find your phone number. Customers now turn to Google, and more importantly your website. If they have no way of contacting you, then they will not hesitate to head straight to your competitor.


If you have a website then you MUST have contact information for your visitors. World-Class Customer Service depends on the ability of the customer to communicate with you, your ability to listen and respond to them, and ultimately the partnership between you and the customer that develops from the relationship.

Stop being obtuse!

Stop wondering why your website isn’t bringing in the sales leads.

Stop arguing with your marketing department about the site not supporting your sales people.

Take charge and make your site all about customer service. How do you do this?

Contact your webmaster and ask that your company telephone number be placed prominently on your site. It should be on the Home Page, About Page, Services Page and every gosh darn page you have on that site.

Next, you must have your webmaster place a small Contact Form on each page of your site. Not the full fledged form found on your Contact Us Page, but a small one somewhere on each page that encourages your visitor to ask a question or contact you.

Next you should consider a Live Chat option for your website. And don’t have it manned by someone who isn’t trained! We’ll go into that in another post.

Finally, think of your website as the ONLY time the potential customer will meet you. If you don’t provide World-Class Customer Service there, then your visitor won’t believe that you’ll provide it in person.

Don’t have a webmaster?

Here’s a recommendation for you to consider: Search by Burke is a full service online marketing agency that works closely with SMB to ensure that their website and digital marketing is effective, efficient and ultimately provides the type of World Class Customer Service you want to provide your own customers. Call them today.

Motivating co-workers, colleagues and staff to deliver excellent customer service can be daunting. With customers becoming more and more demanding, customer service reps handling higher workloads due to layoffs and cutbacks, and managers feeling overwhelmed with the tasks of managing tired professionals…becoming a cat herder sounds more doable than this does. And yet, some companies are doing it. They’re motivating their front-line people and providing consistent customer service.

Here are five strategies that are working for the successful companies, and they should work for you, too.

1. Get Excited

Managers have to first be excited and motivated themselves. Because employees look to their managers for guidance on what is acceptable behavior, if a manager shows their motivation by smiling, encouraging positive communication, saying a thank you as a pat on the back, getting excited when a customer service rep successfully works with a customer – this is priceless motivation to the employee. Emotions communicate on a deep level, from inside out. If the manager isn’t motivated, the employees won’t be either.

Don’t fake it, either. Every human being is equipped with B.S. detectors – some are better than others – but everyone has it. There is nothing more demeaning to an employee than to have a manager fake their appreciation for quality work, or to be recognized for great service inside a staff meeting but ignored by management the rest of the month. Respect your employees enough to be real, be honest, be ready to communicate your excitement about their successes.

2. Hire Motivated Professionals

If you aspire to have a world-class customer service staff, then hire people motivated by the same goal. They’re not that difficult to find, but they may be difficult to detect – unless you involve a world-class customer service person in the interview process. It’s not just skills, i.e. ability to answer the telephone appropriately, can do data entry at the speed of light, can file correctly while blindfolded, etc. Nor is it just a smiling face, pleasant countenance or willingness to learn the company’s product or service.

Motivated professionals have the “IT” factor. That intangible yet distinct desire to be of service to others. To be helpful. To want the other person to walk away with their needs fulfilled. These professionals get tremendous satisfaction from solving their customers’ problems. They are out there. They are looking for a team just like yours.

3. Empower Your Team

The most difficult part of managing a customer service team is empowering them to make the decisions that will serve the customer well. Too many companies have upper management people that simply don’t trust their front line employees. What a shame. They’re willing to have these people as the first contact for customers, but aren’t willing to let them help those customers fully.

Consider this: a customer calls with a complaint, but the person answering the phone must escalate that complaint to a supervisor. The supervisor is working with another customer service rep, so is unavailable to assist the customer. The customer then gets put on hold and is transferred to a voice mail system, and encouraged to leave a message about their issue. No matter what is done from this point forward, no matter how well the supervisor is able assist the customer…the customer will be annoyed and less likely to do business with you again.

If a well-trained, professional customer service rep is given authority to make decisions that can assist their customers, they will be loyal to the company and the bottom line, and the customer will believe you when you talk about providing excellent customer service.

4. Measure

Are you wanting a world-class customer service team…for real? If you’re serious about motivating your employees, training the professionals, empowering the front-line customer caretakers, then you should be serious about measuring what works and what doesn’t.

Measure something, anything, that is relevant to your employees, your customers, your bottom line. Performance measurements with rewards can focus an employee’s energy faster than knowing the CEO is coming to visit.

Employees get motivated by measurements for many different reasons. Knowing these reasons will be helpful to you when determining what and how to measure their performance. Are they competitive? Do they thrive on being distinguishing their performance from others’, or are they more interested in comparing this month’s results to last month’s? Make this distinction and they will move mountains to reach the wanted results. Keep in mind, though, that there are employees that are not competitive…at all. These are the employees that are motivated by duty and will focus their energy on whatever is the priority they are told to focus on.

5. Reward with Money

If you want to motivate employees even more, tie the measurement to a reward.

Sales professionals receive commissions based on their measured results: sales and sometimes repeat business or renewals.

Administer customer satisfaction surveys to every customer. If the team meets or exceeds a predetermined satisfaction rating, they all receive a bonus in their paychecks.

If the customer service department is set up to provide custom product quotes to customers, then set a goal of % quotes closed/sold for each customer service person. Reward with a bonus in their paycheck.

Because each customer service department is different, it is important to note that money does not always work. There are some companies that reward with catered lunches, others that reward with bonus points to be ‘spent’ on personal time. Being creative will only serve to enhance your customer service team’s relationship with the company and their customer.


To motivate employees, act like you want them to act. You will attract and hire motivated professionals.

Focus employees’ energy through measurement and reward strategies.

Then…listen for the “Wows” from your customers start to come in.

Whether you’re in retail, wholesale, manufacturing or non-profit, December is downright brutal to all customer service reps.

Now is the time for all managers to step up and lead their teams to greatness. Remove or minimize any obstacles your people face – from corporate to co-workers, from software to telephones.  Then get yourself in front of them and go. Stock shelves, file orders, decorate a window, pick up trash, answer the phone and engage the customer. Show your team how to be cool under pressure and they will rise to the challenge.

  • Laugh often and don’t be afraid to use your sense of humor.
  • Cut your team some slack (just don’t let them take advantage of you).
  • Bring a fruit/snack tray on the busiest days of the month.
  • Praise each team member often.
  • Have fun and encourage your team to have fun.
  • Jump in when you see a member get tired or in a jam.
  • Show your team that it is possible to deliver world-class customer service during the busiest, and sometimes most brutal, time of the year.

And don’t forget to say “Thank You” to your team members and each and every customer.

Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your customers.

How would you know?

It’s easy to measure the bad customer service, just review the complaints that come in. But I recommend that you not stop there. I’ve talked with supervisors and managers who have reviewed the complaints, taken action to rectify the issue and believed that by reducing complaints they’ve improved customer service.

This is simply not a good way to measure your customer service department. There are a lot of people who won’t complain if they get treated poorly. They’re just going to go away and not come back – and will probably tell several other people what a bad customer service experience your business provided.

There are many ways to measure customer service, and the best way is by asking the customer directly.

Customer service surveys that combine ‘level of satisfaction’ answers as well as open-ended questions can provide invaluable information to a manager. The surveys I’ve used all have helped me refine training processes, identify issues with a particular customer service rep, and also identify company policy issues that needed to be addressed to better serve the customer.

Surveys can be delivered to a customer in many ways. You can use an online tool that connects to your company website, send an email to a customer list and await responses. You can use a written survey sent via USPS, maybe postcard form to save on postage. If the survey is short enough, then a telemarketing effort would be a good idea. Why? It provides the customer service rep with an opportunity to listen to a customer and to provide additional service should it be warranted. In the end, nothing beats a personal touch. But, if the survey is more than 2 to 3 questions it can become too cumbersome to handle over the phone.

This is a general customer service survey example that you can use to get feedback about face-to-face customer service interactions; adapt it to your needs by adding other questions specific to your company if you wish.

Customer Service Survey

Dear Customer,
Our goal is to provide our customers with the best service possible. Please take a few minutes to complete the following customer service questionnaire. Your comments will enable us to see how we’re doing overall and find out how we can improve.

Customer Service Survey

                                                                                     Excellent  Good  Average Fair Poor

  • Staff was available in a timely manner.
  • Staff greeted you and offered to help you.
  • Staff was friendly and cheerful throughout.
  • Staff answered your questions.
  • Staff showed knowledge of the products/services.
  • Staff offered pertinent advice.
  • Staff was courteous throughout.
  • Overall, how would you rate our customer service?

Open-Ended Questions

  • What did you like best about our customer service?
  • How could we improve our customer service?
  • Is there a staff person you would like to commend?
  • Name:
  • Thank you for taking the time to complete our customer service survey.


I hope you can see that the combination of ‘level of satisfaction’ and open-ended questions can glean more information from your customers than simply asking if they believe the received good customer service.

Share the results with your customer service team. Ask them for input on how to improve in areas that become known through the survey. Remember, they’re on the front line and know your customers much better than you do.

Difficult Customers

Customers can be difficult. They can be pushy, aggressive, angry, annoyed, and sometimes even obnoxious. A world-class customer service rep is trained and confident in their ability to handle such customers. They understand the importance of being consistent and courteous, while also garnering the respect of their customer.

Here are some techniques you can employ the next time you have a difficult customer:

1. Neutralize your emotions

Do not take a customer’s negative comments or outbursts personally.  Remember, they hear a voice on the phone…they don’t know you.  Because difficult people can be emotionally challenging, the more your emotions are in check, the more you can be in control of the conversation and outcome of the call.  You can do this by committing to being polite and respectful to each and every caller, by having pride in your work and the company, and by not jumping to conclusions.

2. Listen to the caller to control the conversation

If they have reasonable complaints or requests, and are simply stating them in an unreasonable way (raised voice, curt sentences, demanding attitude), respond in a polite but firm manner by repeating their request or complaint.  Example “what I hear you saying is that the blade is not pretty, but is working just fine.”  Use this technique to clarify the customer’s request, but to also encourage the customer to speak in the same manner as you.

3. Offer a solution

Unless a customer is threatening or abusive, you have the ability to solve their problem.  Always respond with an attitude of “we can do this”.    Never blame a co-worker, never offer an excuse as to why something wasn’t done correctly.  Instead, let the customer know that you appreciate that they brought the matter to your attention and it will be investigated to prevent this situation from happening again.  Then, offer the solution to the problem.  It may be that you have to accept the return of a product, it could be that the customer is willing to purchase a different product, it may be that the product is acceptable but delivery time was not. 

Abusive, threatening calls

If a caller begins by being verbally abusive (name calling, derogatory remarks, swearing), in a calm voice state to the customer that if they stop this behavior you are willing to work with them.  But, if they continue to speak to you in this manner, you will hang up the phone.  If the behavior continues, hang up the phone.  No one needs to tolerate being verbally abused.

If, during the conversation, the caller becomes verbally abusive, get the caller’s attention and remind them that you are willing to continue the conversation if they will calm down and speak to you in an appropriate manner.

My opinion is that one warning is sufficient. Confirm your company’s policies and follow them if they are different than my own. I have always trained customer service reps to respond to abusive calls this way, and if the abuse continues, they are to let the caller know that they are hanging up because of their abusive behavior. Then the customer service rep is to note the incident by date, time, customer name and reason for initial call to be filed with the supervisor. This way if the customer calls back and brings in the previous customer service rep’s name, they can be transferred directly to the supervisor.