By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
You say and believe that your call center is good, but can you prove it? What you need is a credential. A credential is the verifiable recognition from an independent third party that you have earned and met a standard level of performance. Credentials fall under three, sometimes overlapping, classifications: agent testing, certification, and benchmarking. The following organizations provide one or more of these services:
BenchmarkPortal manages the call center database originated at Purdue University’s Center for Customer-Driven Quality. This data warehouse of call center best practice statistics includes thousands of call centers in 24 industry segments. These performance data are used to establish best practice call center goals.
With this information, BenchmarkPortal is able to offer a call center certification program. It is based on a quantitative approach, rather than a qualitative approach (where performance issues depend upon the judgment of a trained auditor). It begins with a thorough statistical comparison between the call center seeking certification and a peer group of similar call centers in the same industry sector.
The certification is based on a balanced scorecard approach, which assumes that certified call centers are able to manage calls at a high level of both efficiency and effectiveness. Specifically, it means that they deliver high quality in terms of results and do so at a low cost. Using established scientific methods to measure the achievement of certifiable best practices standards, the results pinpoint areas of high performance and quantifies gaps in areas of low performance.
The Call Center School supports industry testing and certification in several ways. Students may attend an entire track of Masters Series programs or one of their two-day classroom programs to earn certification in a given topic area from The Call Center School. Upon completion of coursework, students may to take a mastery exam to demonstrate knowledge in a subject area. Those students with a score of 80% or higher are awarded certificates from The Call Center School.
For some students, this certification is an end in itself. For others, it is an intermediate means of preparation for the industry-wide Call Center Industry Advisory Council (CIAC) certification testing. As an official Training Consortium Partner of CIAC, The Call Center School offers organizations the option to purchase combined training/testing packages for one-stop shopping for education and certification.
The Senior Partners of The Call Center School have been involved in certification since its inception in 1995, serving on the initial CIAC Board of Directors. The Call Center School is the only training organization where all its faculty members have earned the CIAC Certified Call Center Management Consultant designation.
CAM-X (Canadian Call Management Association) offers two testing programs addressing agent performance and quality. These are the Award of Excellence and the Call Centre Award of Distinction.
The Award of Excellence program, started in 1989, is a benchmarking tool to test call center agents at telephone answering services in telephone technique, call control, client knowledge, and overall service quality. Over a six-month period, participating organizations are called ten times by mystery callers. Independent judges listen to the recordings of the calls and assess a score. The average of all ten scores becomes the overall score. Those achieving a score of 80 percent or higher will receive the Award of Excellence, presented at the annual convention.
Call Centre Award of Distinction: The Call Centre Award of Distinction program was created by CAM-X in 2000 to meet the needs of members who serve call center and contact center clients. The program focuses on customer relationship management, courtesy, etiquette, and proper call techniques, providing unbiased testing for quality assurance. The Call Centre Award of Distinction operates in the same manner as the Award of Excellence, however the evaluation criteria is geared towards advanced call processes not covered by the Award of Excellence program.
Customer Relationship Metrics offers CATs® (Completely Automated Telephone surveys). CATs programs are cost-effective, have high response rates, and a fast Return on investment (ROI). They are designed to accurately measure the service performance of callers. The company’s proprietary, comprehensive reporting provides information regarding performance at the business unit, team, and agent levels. This provides a call center with an action plan for improving service, training, and coaching to exceed customer expectations. The program supports call centers in their efforts to improve customer satisfaction, increase operational efficiency, attract more clients, and develop best practices that are in alignment with customer needs.
CAT surveys provide higher value than conducting telephone interviews using a live interviewer. Also, with the national “Do Not Call” list, customer research using live callbacks is no longer an ideal method. CATs allow call centers to collect caller feedback automatically and in real-time (at the close of a call) that is statistically reliable and valid. In most cases, CAT surveys can do everything a telephone interview does while completing more interviews at a lower cost.
In addition to providing CATs to call centers, Customer Relationship Metrics can also benchmark your calls with those of other companies (they do tens of thousands of surveys every month). This is done at no additional cost each quarter; they can also provide monthly comparisons upon request. This program is a useful means to assess how one center compares to others.
JD Power and Associates offers a call center certification program. Call centers that become certified by JD Power and Associates can show that they are “process-oriented, professionally managed, and focused on providing high levels of caller satisfaction.” Further, this effort helps call centers to “improve caller satisfaction, increase efficiency, attract more clients, and develop best practice standards.”
Phase one of their certification includes evaluating a call center’s:
- Recruiting, training, and employee incentives
- Management roles and responsibilities
- Standards for performance measurement
- Quality assurance
For those centers that meet phase one performance standards, phase two is surveying a random sample of callers. The intent of the survey is to ascertain caller satisfaction. The survey results are quantified and compared to a national benchmark. Those operations achieving a score of 80% or higher may then become certified by JD Power and Associates. Certified call centers receive a trophy and relevant promotional material.
For more information, contact Jonathan Brookner at 203-354-4593 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NetReflector provides automated solutions for agent and contact center performance monitoring and benchmarking. The company integrates multilingual online survey technology with CRM (Customer Relationship Management) applications and incident management tools to measure caller satisfaction and loyalty scores in real time. NetReflector combines these quality indicators with internal call performance metrics to generate a series of balanced scorecards by geographic region and individual contact center, all the way down to workgroups and individual agents. This provides an accurate, up-to-the-minute picture of contact center performance and effectiveness – in any language.
These scorecards are delivered in an online reporting environment designed to fit the needs of all internal audiences, from agents to upper management. It provides the actionable, real-time insights necessary for successful change strategies to drive operational efficiencies and enhance company profitability.
NetReflector is a wholly owned subsidiary of GMI.
The National Certification Corporation (NCC) offers a variety of credentialing options for healthcare professionals. Although certification is limited to nurses, subspecialty examinations which lead to a certificate of added qualification are open to multidisciplinary populations including physicians, primary care nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, physician assistants, and others. More than 60,000 professionals have earned their RNC (Registered Nurse Certified) or certificate of added qualification.
Core examinations awarding the RNC credential are Telephone Nursing Practice, Inpatient Obstetric Nurse, Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse, Low Risk Neonatal Nurse, Maternal Newborn Nurse, Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner, and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner. Subspecialty examinations are Electronic Fetal Monitoring and Menopause Clinician.
Computer examinations are available throughout the year. There will be a paper and pencil examination administration on August 19, 2005 for institutions with six or more candidates for any exam mix. Exams are given at the institution sponsoring the opportunity.
SNUG (Startel National Users Group) has developed “a three-tiered educational program to provide members with certification levels covering the areas of their business with the focus on achieving 99.99% annual run-time,” said Dan L’Heureux, SNUG executive director. The three areas are CSR (customer service representative), supervisor, and site.
CSR Certification: The CSR certification program is designed for a telephone answering service to certify and accredit CSRs. The goal of the CSR certification program is to offer CSRs a professionally prepared program where they can be tested and accredited in customer service skill sets based on the features of the accredited telemessaging platform.
Supervisor Certification: Examination candidates are given problems and case studies to solve. They also answer questions in essay form about system operations and procedures. Supervisor Certification is as much a test of character as it is a test of knowledge.
Site Certification: The 24/7 site certification program sets forth nearly 60 criteria to be met or exceeded. These specifications represent a collection of the best practices and guidelines to which call centers must adhere. Certification specifications have been developed for Startel systems, the Amtelco Infinity system, the Telescan Spectrum, Professional Teledata’s PInnacle, and Alston Tascom’s Evolution.
Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Healthcare Call Center Essentials, available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News covering the healthcare call center industry. Read his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.