Calibrating Your Call Center

Routine Calibrations & Maintaining Accurate Standards Critical to Quality Monitoring

“No One Ever Told Me I Was Doing Something Wrong.”

In a piece a few years back, Deelee Freeman at The Call Center School referenced some of the commonly-voiced things she’s heard from call center agents.

It’s something we also hear from call center front line personnel confused about a lack of direction from higher-ups. In fact – it’s a common refrain in workplaces generally… and a sign that clear communication of goals and expectations in the organization may be lacking.

Calibration Gets Everyone on the Same Page
To avoid misunderstandings and lack of clear communication in the call center industry, we calibrate. Call center calibrations are intended to standardize the scoring environment to create an objective, consistent and accurate assessment of call quality.

In his post ‘The Art of Calibration,’ Colin Taylor defines it as: “…the art of being able to standardize the measurement of calls or transaction quality across and amongst those doing the work and those who review the work.”

Everyone seems to define calibrations a little bit differently. I find myself agreeing with many of them, as they each capture important roles that calibration plays in call center quality assurance. Here are a few of the descriptions of call center calibrations:

Calibrations:

  • “build consistency, agreement and alignment”
  • “create quantifiable, repeatable and actionable call quality standards”
  • “get all parties involved to agree and align themselves to the same objective”
  • “improve the precision and accuracy of judging call quality”
  • “get everyone singing from the same sheet of music”
  • “foster objectivity“
  • “create an objective scoring environment”
  • “standardize the evaluation and scoring process”

With so many ways to describe it, it stands to reason the benefits of calibration would be far-reaching, right? Absolutely. The calibration process:

  • Promotes consistency and fairness, eliminates perceived bias, and prevents favoritism in the quality program
  • Improves evaluation criteria & quality definitions
  • Continually re-evaluates internal procedures, processes & support technologies to ensure their relevance
  • Keeps monitoring skills fresh
  • Helps maintain the integrity of the quality program
  • Standardizes expectations, which improves agent satisfaction and allows coaching to focus on rec­og­niz­ing good per­for­mance and iden­ti­fy­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for improvement

In a nutshell, calibrations are a primary tool for building and maintaining accuracy & consistency in call scoring. They keep everyone on the same page, and they improve call center performance.

To Score or Not to Score Calls – That is the Question.
Its importance to call center quality assurance isn’t in question – it both works and matters. At issue: some companies worry about ‘managing scores rather than skills.’

At CSR Inc., we’re big proponents of the adage ‘what gets measured, gets managed.’ Agent goals are established to allow the individual to concentrate on appropriate skill development, while overall improvement and trends can be measured over time.

Call Scoring: Group or Individual?
Call scoring, the practice of rating (‘scoring’) an agent’s performance, is a cornerstone of call center calibrations. The two primary ways to score calls are Group scoring and Individual call/skill scoring. At CSR Inc., we perform a combination of these two methods with our quality clients – preferably at least monthly.  Anyone who is coaching front line staff members should participate. We typically prepare the calls and host the call, and function as the “keeper” of the performance standards. (Performance standards describe each skill and behavior expected of the contact center team. It’s important to remember that standards are dynamic and may need adjusting to take changing priorities into consideration. These needed changes often come to light during calibration sessions.)

In the group, we listen to a call and each supervisor individually scores the call. Then, skill by skill and behavior by behavior, we discuss how participants scored each skill. We invite discussion if someone has an alternate perspective, but have controls in place to facilitate needed changes and prevent changing too many definitions of skills or behaviors.

Call Center Calibration – How Often?
“How often should we hold calibration sessions?” is a commonly-asked question. It’s pretty widely-known that calibrations keep everyone evaluating with the same criteria. The goal, however, is to make sure that everyone in the company is on the same page and evaluating consistently over time – which requires routine, consistent calibrations.

Over the course of my career in the call center industry, I’ve worked with companies that performed monthly calibrations. I’ve also worked with those who chose to perform weekly calibrations. Generally, the more frequent the calibration – the more consistent the scoring. Choosing how often to calibrate will likely depend on a number of factors, including: the number of agents and supervisors/scorer turnover, # of call types, product, program or service offering changes, etc.

How often does your call center perform calibrations?