Quality assurance programs exist in many industries. In general a quality assurance (QA) program is a formal assessment of the overall value of a product or service with the goal of maintaining current quality levels or boosting future quality levels. But it’s not cost-effective to scrutinize every product; that would push prices too high. Instead a company may look at every hundredth product produced. If both are of the same high quality, then it is highly likely that everything made in between the two of them is also of high quality. In the call center industry QA looks at the overall professionalism and effectiveness of calls made or received by call center agents. Quality assurance specialists listen to or monitor calls. Then they evaluate them, score them, and share the documented results with the agent. Here are the highpoints of a call center QA program: The Process: A trained quality assurance specialist will listen to a certain number of calls per agent, per week. A good starting point is one call per agent per week. While a higher number of QA calls may produce more accurate results, if the pace is too aggressive then the QA staff won’t be able to keep up. The result is intermittent evaluations, which are of little value. Don’t focus on the number of calls as much as the consistency of the program and the quality of the results. The Timing: Though the initial goal may be one call per week, the time and day of when the call is recorded or monitored is critical. Always avoid selecting a call at the end of an agent’s shift or the end of his or her workweek. Also skip calls just before a break. These calls will not be accurately representative. In addition some QA managers advocate omitting the first few calls of a shift or right after a break, as this can skew results. The goal of QA is to pick a call during a time that will most likely be representative of the agent’s work. Also, never evaluate two calls for an agent back to back; even avoid considering two on the same day. The Assessment: Evaluate each call using a predefined checklist of parameters to score it. Two QA specialists should score any given call the same way. To make sure this occurs, QA training often involves members of a team scoring the same call and then discussing any differences that may occur. Aside from objective scoring, some programs have a more subjective element, which can also produce valuable insights, provided it is fairly assessed. The Follow-up: As soon as possible after the call is assessed, the QA specialist should go over the results with the agent. This should be a positive, stress-free experience during a time of minimal distraction. Reinforce positive traits, and correct any weak areas. It may be beneficial to replay the call for the agent. The process for higher skilled agents should be commensurate to their experience level. The Outcome: A successful QA program will have two tangible results. First the overall quality of the call center will be maintained—or improved, if needed. Second the individual quality of call center agents will be documented and developed. Indirectly, the results of a QA program is delighted callers, happier agents, fewer problems, a more successful call center, and increased profitability. Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider and consultancy that provides custom training solutions for all levels of staff in the call center and telephone answering service industry. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-901-7706 to learn more about arranging specific training for your organization.Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.