Call Center QA: Avoid These Five Common Performance Criteria Mistakes

Customized Performance Criteria Help Measure Development in Call Center QA Processes


In call center operations, properly-defined performance criteria are critical for measuring the professional growth & development of front line personnel and the success of the call center. Performance criteria are used to measure and evaluate the execution of given tasks.

Performance Criteria – Knowledge is Power.
They define the skills and behaviors you want your customer service agents to display when interacting with your customers. Performance criteria also define the assessment measurements, outline the KSAs, (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) required and establish baseline performance expectations for given tasks. Wondering what issues you need to watch out for when designing a successful call center QA program? Give some thought to these five common performance standard mistakes we’ve seen at CSR.

Mistake #1: The "Undefined Standard.” Not documenting performance criteria, or not clearly defining them. 
Where there are no standards, there is very likely to be a performance vacuum. Without standards, performance can’t be measured, it can’t be improved, and it can’t be targeted towards helping the organization’s mission. Be aware that extremely vague performance criteria are often no better than a complete absence of standards. Poorly-crafted or poorly-defined metrics aren’t inconsequential and unimportant, though. They can negatively impact your call center operations.

Mistake #2: The “Irrelevant Standard.” Crafting performance criteria that aren’t in alignment with the organization’s core business goals. 
Businesses shift their objectives constantly, as they adapt to market conditions, threats or opportunities. In some cases, the performance criteria you’ve had in place may no longer reflect the objectives of the position, or align with the company’s vision. Performance criteria are easily overlooked during periods of change or shifts in business focus.

Performance standards are also viewed as irrelevant when they measure the wrong criteria – something commonly seen when generic standards are used.

Mistake #3: The “Confusing Standard.” Not translating the performance criteria into logical goals that make sense to front line team members. 
Standards can confuse front line personnel when they are illogical, or don’t fit with the assignments given to front line personnel. Standardized, only-partially-relevant criteria frequently confuse team members rather than provide them with clear, attainable objectives.

Performance criteria must make sense to front line personnel. It doesn’t matter if there are changes in focus (see above) or wrong measurement criteria are being used. Asking them to meet performance criteria without clear tasks and goals puts front line morale at risk and usually leads to subpar performance.

The volume of calls handled by an agent, for example, is certainly an important measure for call center managers to understand, but it can’t be viewed in a vacuum. The outcomes of those calls – positive, negative or neutral – are equally important (and perhaps even more important) when assessing agent performance.

Mistake #4: The “Too Complex Standard.” Designing front line personnel performance criteria that are too complicated, or require too much effort to meet. 
Even with logical goals, performance criteria can be unrelated or not specific to a front line rep or support personnel. They may also be too elaborate and time-consuming. KPIs and target objectives should be clear, attainable, and complexity-free. In some cases, front line call center reps may feel that meeting certain overly-complex performance criteria would be detrimental to their overall job objectives, in which case the standard will likely be ignored.

Mistake #5: The “Impossible Standard.” Crafting performance criteria that are impossible (or nearly so) to meet.
300 calls per hour… a 99.6% sales close rate…what were they thinking? Ridiculous standards that aren’t attainable leave personnel with a “why even try?” attitude. And if the standards can’t be taken seriously, how will your staff react? Will they make best efforts for your customers or clients? Will they take your organization seriously?

As with some of the other mistakes outlined above, impossible standards often result from a lack of understanding what front line personnel should accomplish in order to achieve the Company’s definition of success.

Designing customized performance standards requires an understanding of front line personnel tasks and the requisite skills needed to best meet those tasks. Remember that designing ‘best practice’ performance criteria also demands careful consideration of the organization’s objectives, whether they are bottom line-driven, customer satisfaction-focused, or geared towards some other call center objective. The key to avoiding these all-too-common mistakes is simple: define and develop clear, measurable customer service and sales performance standards. If front line personnel know what you expect of them, it becomes a heck of a lot easier for them to deliver it. What common performance standard mistakes have you experienced?