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Customer Service Quality Assurance (QA): The Complete Guide

Quality assurance14 MIN READOct 27, 2023

Customer Service Quality Assurance - The Complete Guide

Customer service quality assurance (sometimes called support QA or customer service quality control) has become a standard practice for ambitious businesses. Though simple in nature, it improves retention, drives customer loyalty, and increases revenue. 

What is customer service quality assurance (QA)?

Customer service quality assurance (QA) is the practice of reviewing customer conversations to improve your support team’s performance and increase customer satisfaction.

Why is quality assurance important in customer service?

Customer service quality shows how well your support team meets and exceeds customer expectations, industry standards, and customer service goals. Excellent customer service can boost your revenue and customer retention, while bad customer service experiences can only drive churn. In other words, customer service quality has a huge impact on your business results! 

Not convinced? Take a look at these numbers:

  • In addition to price and product, 83% of consumers find good customer service important when making purchases (as discovered by Khoros). It’s clear to see that customer service is one of the main reasons people decide to do business with you.
  • It is not uncommon for customers to churn and take their business elsewhere after a poor customer service experience. After a bad experience, more than half of the surveyed consumers would immediately switch to a competitor, while 73% would make the switch after more than one support incident (according to Zendesk).
  • At the same time, research from Zendesk shows that 70% of customers are willing to spend more when buying from businesses that offer quality service.

Bottom line: Customer service shouldn’t be seen as a cost center anymore. Support-driven growth is a thing, and it’s high time for your business to improve customer service quality

Crossing things off a quality assurance checklist.

What are the benefits of customer service QA?

Depending on your goals, customer support quality assurance can offer multifaceted benefits. For most support teams, the top 9 benefits of customer service QA include:

  1. Providing visibility into agent performance: External quality metrics like Customer Satisfaction Score, Net Promoter Score, or Customer Effort Score only tell you half of the story. They reflect how satisfied your customers are with what you do. They say nothing about, for example, how well your agents followed the internal guidelines, or even if they provided a correct and full solution to the customer’s inquiry.
  2. Facilitating support career growth: 77% of teams agree that conversation reviews are useful for team members’ professional growth. QA for customer service comes in many forms — manager reviews, QA specialist reviews, self-reviews, and peer reviews. The latter has proven to be one of the most efficient ways of identifying personal growth opportunities, as fellow customer service reps are often the best people to notice these aspects thanks to their first-hand experience.
  3. Improving customer satisfaction: 76% of organizations agree that conversation reviews help improve Customer Satisfaction Scores. You can target the interactions where the customer was dissatisfied to understand, identify, and get better at solving customers’ issues.
  4. Identifying product or service improvements: Customers give feedback to the product and company, not just customer service. For example, customers tend to express their disappointment for declined feature requests in customer surveys, even if the case was actually handled nicely by the support rep. Going through a randomized sample can help you spot growth opportunities for your product or service.
  5. Streamlining support processes: Review complex tickets to streamline internal processes, find weaker links in your support team’s performance, improve agent productivity and onboarding.
  6. Revealing churn reasons: You can review all the conversations you’ve had with churned customers to understand what went wrong and avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
  7. Speeding up the onboarding process: 74% of support teams agree that conversation reviews help onboard new agents. By focusing on new agents’ conversations, you can double-check how well they’re doing and leave actionable feedback.
  8. Making coaching more effective: 44% of the surveyed teams use conversation both review & customer feedback in 1:1 meetings and coaching sessions with support reps. By using QA reviews as a starting point, managers can train and coach agents with precision — and track results with regular reviews over time.
  9. Measuring quality in BPOs: 42% of teams use customer support quality assurance to measure the performance of BPOs. Outsourcing customer service gives you access to a specialized workforce without distracting from your core business competencies. But your customers don’t know – or care – if you use a BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) to communicate with them. They still connect the quality of support they receive from this external provider with your value as a business.

Klaus can make a difference for customer service quality (he promises he will).

Customer service QA metrics: Do you offer quality customer service?

These days, most companies track at least some of the external customer service QA metrics. Customer support quality assurance can definitely help to improve key performance indicators (support KPIs) like CSAT, First Contact Resolution, or Average Handle Time. That’s precisely why it’s worth keeping an eye on them.

But numbers alone won’t tell the full story. Being data-driven means understanding where those numbers are coming from — what your agents are doing right, and where there is room for improvement.

If you truly want to measure customer service quality, you need to combine the following:

  • External evaluations (collected in customer surveys like CSAT or NPS) that reflect your customers’ attitudes toward your product, support, and company in general.
  • Internal evaluations (i.e. conversation reviews measured with IQS) that rate customer interactions based on your internal quality criteria.

Internal Quality Score (IQS) measures customer service quality and tells you how well your team performs based on your own standards. Conducting customer service reviews and assigning QA scores is the only way to find out your IQS — but we’ll get to that!

It’s important to measure your support quality from both of these perspectives because:

  • Customers don’t know your quality standards. Often, they’ll use feedback surveys to express their attitudes towards other parts of the business, such as the product, instead of reviewing their support experience.
  • But analyzing your support interactions without taking into account how your customers feel might mislead you. Customer surveys help you stay on track toward your end goal: making customers happy.

External evaluations are important, but there’s no way of improving your customer service quality without setting and measuring the IQS with QA reviews. 

How to do (and improve) QA customer service?

1. Define your support vision and goals. In other words, define what “quality” means to your team. All companies have a unique concept of what matters most for their business and customers — some focus on delivering personalized customer assistance and upselling their products, while others might prefer to keep their interactions short and speedy.

2. Communicate the new customer support quality assurance process to your agents. Explain the reasons for doing conversation reviews — if your team is on board with your customer service goals and what you’re aiming for, they’ll understand that internal reviews will help them achieve those objectives.

4. Pick rating categories for your QA scorecards. Based on your support vision and goals (see point 1 ↑), write down guidelines for your support agents to follow in their customer interactions. Use these criteria for your support QA scorecard to see how well your team’s responses meet your QA standards.

5. Choose which conversations to review. Most teams review random samples of their customer interactions and/or take a look at all tickets rated by their users to see how their internal quality standards align with those of their customers. If you use quality assurance software, though, AI can do the heavy lifting and choose the most relevant conversations for you.

6. Plan calibration sessions. Support reps should receive the same quality of feedback regardless of who reviewed their customer interactions. QA calibration helps reviewers synchronize their assessments and eliminate bias from quality service ratings.

7. Measure customer service quality & improve your QA process. What you do with the QA program results is as important as doing customer support quality assurance in the first place. Track your support team’s performance over time, discuss the progress in support team meetings, and provide individual feedback in regular one-on-one sessions.

You can only improve what you measure. So, if you regularly analyze your agents’ interactions and give feedback to them, your support team will become better at what they do and your support quality will improve. Stay around for your customer service quality assurance checklist!

What is an example of quality assurance in customer service? 

All companies have their unique customer support quality assurance program based on their internal standards and goals. Different teams have different QA scorecards, and prefer different types of reviews: some hire QA specialists, and others use manager, peer, or self-reviews. There is no right or wrong way. Instead, choose the format that suits you best.

If you’re not exactly sure how to set up your quality program, see how others have done it — and follow the customer service quality assurance checklist at the end of this article.

Examples of customer service quality assurance programs:

  • Pipedrive evolved its customer support quality assurance program to increase CSAT & IQS;
  • Glovo maintains high-quality support across BPOs and borders;
  • Wistia conducts regular peer reviews in groups of three to include a third-party facilitator in all feedback sessions;
  • Geckoboard uses agent feedback to increase proactive help to drive product engagement and upsells;
  • Agorapulse involves the entire support team in the process of building their quality scorecard and standards.

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When to switch to customer support quality assurance software?

All quality-oriented support teams will, sooner or later, find themselves in a position where they need to start assessing the quality of their support interactions by doing internal conversation reviews. Quality gets harder to manage as you scale. And there is no other way of knowing whether your agents deliver the same customer experiences across all support channels.

So, the question is not whether or not to do conversation reviews – it’s how to do them. Teams have to decide whether to review in spreadsheets or invest in a dedicated customer service quality assurance tool.

Spreadsheets are usually enough for small teams with low conversation volumes, as long as the maintenance of the document doesn’t take up the largest part of the time dedicated to internal feedback.

As the team and number of conversations grow, manual copy-pasting and reporting can become a bottleneck in your customer service QA. For large or growing teams, data management can eat away more than 70% of the review time, which is why they often opt for dedicated QA tools.

Spreadsheets might work for a small (<10 support agents) team, but the moment your team grows beyond that I would absolutely recommend switching to a dedicated tool. For one, you’ll not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to calculations and data visualization. It’ll also help with just keeping track of things and if the tool is AI-based, it will also reduce the workload for your CSQA Specialist.
Ines van Dijk
Ines van Dijk
Quality in Support

More and more customer service teams switch to quality assurance software that:

  • Automatically pulls in conversations from customer support tools (no more manual copy-pasting!);
  • Allows custom filtering to detect the interactions that need your attention right now;
  • Has smart filters to offer you the best review sample;
  • Notifies customer service agents about the feedback they’ve received;
  • Prepares relevant reports and calculates the Internal Quality Score for you;
  • Uses AI-driven features to provide data insights and speed up the QA process. 

The bottom line is that you will get a lot more out of your customer support quality assurance efforts if you use a tool to help. From coaching teams to finding the right conversations to review, it is all a lot easier when you have a solution that works.

If you’re ready to ditch spreadsheets and want to get going with a proper customer support quality assurance tool, check out Zendesk QA (formerly Klaus). 

Automated vs manual quality assurance

Even if you start using a customer service QA platform, manual reviews will still play a crucial role in your QA program. The human element — like your QA specialist — is crucial for interpreting complex situations, offering detailed feedback, and realizing the full potential of automated quality management & AI. Because of that, automation and manual efforts aren’t mutually exclusive.

However, there’s no doubt that automated reviews can analyze a large volume of interactions — and do it fast. In fact, automating customer support quality assurance can amplify your conversation review capabilities by up to 50 times, offering 100% coverage. This allows you to gauge the overall customer sentiment and team performance without the dedicated QA team opening each individual ticket, irrespective of the volume of interactions.

Sentiment Filter in Klaus.

Not to mention that many of your customer interactions are quite routine. They don’t contain the level of complexity that needs individual examination. For example, a simple exchange between an agent and a customer to resolve a common issue doesn’t provide new insights into support processes. Spending time to review and rate such a conversation on a scorecard with numerous categories is inefficient.

Support quality management platforms get better and better at reducing time and effort to find relevant customer interactions and scoring all your interactions automatically.

Your customer service QA checklist

To recap, follow this customer service QA checklist to deliver great customer service:

  1. Understand why customer service quality assurance is important for your business.
  2. Define your support vision and goals.
  3. Now, it’s time to measure your service quality! Start with communicating the new quality assurance process to your customer service team.
  4. Decide who will review conversations (with time, you might want to set up a dedicated quality assurance team).
  5. Pick rating categories for your QA scorecards based on your customer service goals. 
  6. Choose which customer conversations to review (or rely on QA tools to do it for you). 
  7. Plan calibration sessions to align QA scores.
  8. Combine internal and external evaluations. 
  9. Track and review data to continuously improve your QA process and the customer support team’s performance.
  10. Take advantage of AI to have all your conversations reviewed in less time, without missing hidden gems of information. 

Even when your customers think you’re amazing, you can do better. We’ve seen industry leaders who constantly deliver CSAT of 95% find ways to continually push their quality higher than they thought possible. It’ll work wonders for you, too.

Download The Future of Conversations [ebook]

Originally published in January 2022; last updated in October 2023.

Written by

Berenika Teter - Headshot.
Berenika Teter
Berenika is actively trying to bridge the gap between cat and dog people. So fur, she’s been more successful at managing SEO content at Klaus.

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