Identify the importance and use of calibration, which ensures a consistent approach to interpreting performance and determining coaching priorities. Learn the four levels of calibration and how calibration supports coaching and facilitates performance improvement. Acquire a four-part model for effective coaching.
- Quality standards come to life when they guide behavior and enable us to deliver consistent high-quality service. But if you and I both lead teams, do we have the same understanding of what our quality standards mean? Are we interpreting results the same way, and are we coaching on the same things? Here we'll identify the four levels of successful calibration. Calibration is the process in which variations in interpreting results and the steps that follow are minimized. When high levels of calibration are achieved, it won't matter who does the assessment scoring or who facilitates coaching.
The approach and outcome will be the same. Calibration is an important tool for ensuring consistency in interpreting performance. It also makes coaching far easier. It allows the coaching process to focus on achievements and improvement, rather than concerns around whether scores are accurate or fair. A common way to begin calibration is to have those who do quality evaluations independently score several of the same interactions. If you're part of a contact center, these can be recorded interactions.
If you don't have recorded interactions, you can use alternatives, such as role play scenarios or observations. You then compare results. First check for overall agreement on how the interaction went. That's the first level of calibration. And then compare scores on specific quality standards. The second level of calibration. If at this point there's disagreement, if scores vary, you'll need to discuss interpretation. If that doesn't get you there, you'll need to revamp standards or descriptions of them until you reach consistent interpretation.
The third level of successful calibration, one fewer organizations achieve, is in consistency and effectiveness of coaching. If completely different conversations take place, efforts to establish quality standards and gauge performance begins to break down. Research shows that customer service representatives want to know what's expected of their performance. They want to know where they stand and how they can improve. And this spans all generations, including those just entering the workforce.
Coaching's not a prescription for poring over scores per se, it's much more. The best coaches build relationships of trust, respect, and accountability. They help clarify goals. They serve as role models. They're developing their team members. But coaching has far more impact when it's supported by clear quality standards that are understood and interpreted consistently, and when those doing the coaching use a proven coaching model.
ICMI recommends a simple but effective approach that can be remembered by the letters SAFE, or SAFE. S is summarize observed behavior in the context of quality standards. A is ask the service representative for their input on how things went. F is formulate a plan with them for addressing performance gaps and improvement opportunities. And E is express thanks for their time and input. We've included a summary of the SAFE Model in the Exercise Files.
It's an easy to use reference for this approach, and you're free to share it with others who do coaching. Now there's a risk that any approach like this can become formulaic, so your coaches will want to convey these things with their style and personality. But it's essential that there's agreement on what will be coached, the third level of calibration. Calibration's possible when you have clear quality standards. And when coaching is calibrated, your quality standards can also provide powerful insight into hiring and training.
What are the skills, knowledge, and behaviors you're looking for in job candidates? And how can you best focus training on ensuring your team is ready to go? The fourth level of calibration is to compare internal assessments with customer input. Do they align? Are you on the same page in terms of what's important? Few organizations achieve complete agreement of internal and external scores, but the scores should at least move in the same direction. You want to ensure that your priorities reflect those of your customers when you're shaping and using quality standards.
My recommendation is that calibration be an ongoing activity. The most effective organizations have working calibration sessions at least quarterly, and some monthly. They use them both to refine standards and to interpret them more consistently.
Watch and learn how to establish quality standards in customer service, and improve loyalty, revenue, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement. Brad Cleveland divides the lessons into three chapters, covering quality and customer service definitions, quality standards for individuals, and quality standards for the overall organization. Along the way, he shows how to implement a process, measure progress, and effectively coach employees.
- Defining quality
- Ensuring standards count
- Measuring individual performance
- Coaching customer service professionals
- Creating quality standards for the service organization