Reviewing support conversations is an important ingredient to any quality program invested in support rep growth. You likely measure CSAT, CES, and/or NPS, but the only way to consistently help your support people to grow their skills is through specific feedback on real cases.
But who should be doing those reviews? Actually…
Should reviews be part of the team manager’s responsibilities?
Should you invest in a dedicated reviewer position?
Can you involve senior support reps in some kind of mentorship activity?
How do peer reviews fit into this logic?
The answer depends on the type of change or impact you are looking for.
There are four possible formats for customer service QA:
- Manager reviews
- Peer reviews
- QA specialist reviews
They each have their advantages and disadvantages, and some teams incorporate a combination of several (or all!) in their customer service QA program.
Let’s claw into the pros and cons of each.
Manager reviews: holistic advice for team members
Manager, or team lead, reviews are currently the most widely used form of providing feedback. Because they are responsible for the excellent quality of their support agents, it’s logical for managers and team leads to assess customer interactions.
The team manager or team lead (hopefully!) already has regular one-on-one meetings with each team member. If (or while) working in a remote environment, these meetings should be at least bi-weekly. This means the manager already knows the team member and can put reviews into a broader performance context.
As a result, the feedback and advice from a manager can include recommendations that cover areas outside the specific customer support tasks. Topics like productivity, time management, engagement with colleagues, and overall career development can all be enriched with insights from reviews of their support conversations.
Reviewing all team members regularly also means that the team lead gets a complete view of quality across the team. Some topics might be relevant for group feedback, instead of siphoned into one to ones. Team-wide or smaller group coaching sessions can be devised – onboarding programs will benefit from this knowledge also.
- Regular feedback cycle between manager & support reps
- Aligned scores for each team (only one reviewer)
- Takes time and focus away from other responsibilities
- It may not be their top priority
- Scores could vary across teams (if you have multiple teams and therefore managers/team leads)
This top-down approach is a good option for stable small or medium-sized departments. We do not recommend it for growing teams or teams in which managers already have a long list of priorities, though.
Peer reviews: exchanging knowledge
Peer reviews are a complementary tool for top-town quality control. The focus here is not on discovering problem areas or creating training programs. Instead, peer reviews help to increase coherence within the team and reduce the barrier to knowledge exchange. Formal training can provide the basics for customer support, peer reviews help to create a joint understanding of how this works in practice.
Peers are more likely to share and recognize suitable explanations, creative workarounds, or superb conflict diffusion. At the same time, peer reviews increase appreciation across the team. They unite everyone with a common purpose. It is the one place where every support rep sees past conversations solved by someone else and realizes that everyone is struggling with similar things.
- Creates open & collaborative feedback culture
- Support reps learn from each other
- Leaves managers free for other responsibilities
- It’s time-saving to have many reviewers
- Support reps need to carve out time in their day
- Peers are less comfortable giving negative reviews
- Scores can vary
This top-down approach is a good option for teams who want to promote a flat structure. But it is vital to set review targets so that you don’t have to micromanage the process. Calibration sessions are also a good idea to make sure everyone is on the same page. Find out how peer reviews helped Geckoboard take their QA efforts to the next level.
Self-reviews: building trust inside the team
Self-reviews are one of the best ways to encourage professional growth. Reflecting on one’s own performance helps agents understand their communication patterns and revise how they interact with customers. You’re spending a good amount of time on hiring and finding the right people — so it makes sense to trust them to review and critically evaluate their work.
- Excellent for personal growth
- A proven method to improve NPS
- Gives your support reps a voice on what quality means
- Some people find self-evaluation a struggle
- Ineffective as a solo format
On their own, self-reviews are less effective — this method is far more successful for quality improvement when combined with regular 1:1s where agents can discuss results with managers.
QA Specialist reviews: process and product feedback
More and more teams are hiring quality assurance specialists to avoid overburdening the managers and to dedicate more time to conversation reviews. 50% of teams who do not have dedicated quality professionals plan to hire for these roles in 2023.
QA managers are usually in charge of the entire support division, or specific functional areas. As such, they are not responsible for the support reps’ overall development outside of support quality. Their focus tends to be on process improvements and product feedback, and less on the professional development of individual people.
QA managers need to be intentional about what to rate and review to make sure they can understand existing trends and areas for improvement. While their feedback on specific conversations will necessarily go back to the support reps, they will also create reports on categories, comment tags, or root causes to understand the health of the entire support organization.
This also means that the conversation selection is especially important for QA managers. Random conversation reviews won’t do the trick!
- Aligned, expert feedback
- Doesn’t detract from anyone else’s time
- Meaningful insights
- Higher analysis of trends and better reporting
- (Usually) not a possibility for smaller teams
Improving customer service quality and keeping it at a consistently high level requires a long-term strategy. With a dedicated specialist to handle the review workload, they can make it a much more meaningful endeavor — analyzing key performance indicators, sculpting training, onboarding programs, etc. However, this isn’t an option for smaller teams with fewer human resources.
So, who should be sitting in that reviewer chair?
The answer depends! I know, not very specific, right?
Think about your quality program’s main focus: do you want to target…
- People? If your focus is on the people in your team, the manager or a senior colleague should be involved.
- Product? If you want to dig into support-wide issues or would like to get insights into product feedback across the org, then a dedicated QA team is the better option.
Some companies combine manager reviews with self-reviews, while others combine peer feedback with QA specialist assessments. The form that suits your company best depends on your aim, available resources, team setup, and ticket volume. They all serve the same purpose – growing quality through feedback.
For smaller teams, we recommend a combination of self-reviews and peer reviews. Larger and growing teams should consider hiring a QA specialist or allocating enough time for team leads/managers to conduct reviews.
Want to learn more about setting up the perfect customer service QA program?
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