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Quality assurance: An essential and definitional guide

Quality assurance can reduce customer churn, identify opportunities to improve team performance, and cut operational costs. Increase confidence in your QA process with our guide.

Par Hannah Wren, Staff Writer

Dernière mise à jour May 2, 2024

What is quality assurance?

Quality assurance (QA) is a systematic approach designed to ensure that products and services consistently meet customer expectations, achieve service targets, and adhere to industry standards. In customer service, QA involves reviewing all support interactions, whether a customer is talking to a customer service agent or AI agent. This provides critical insights into how to improve the performance of your support team, helping build customer loyalty and, ultimately, drive revenue.

A patient cannot understand medical practices and guidelines without years of education. They might say that an appointment has gone well without knowing that the doctor has missed a vast amount of the diagnosis. Similarly, customers do not know product and process information in full or certain communication guidelines. Therefore, customer feedback (like patient feedback) isn’t enough when making improvements.

QA helps teams understand performance compared to all standards, processes, and protocols. It can also account for nuances, industry regulations, and the level or tier of an assessed agent. Quality assurance can improve customer loyalty and brand trust by maintaining service integrity and alleviating quality issues. Use our guide to understand the importance of quality assurance and build exceptional QA processes today.

More in this guide:

The role of QA by industry

Almost every industry can improve the customer experience through quality assurance. Some industries depend on technical QA to set and uphold standards for developing or manufacturing reliable products, while others implement quality assurance processes to ensure the delivery of high-quality service to customers.

These industries listed below could suffer massive losses without accurate QA processes:

  • Manufacturing: After formalizing the discipline, manufacturers now use QA processes to avoid and detect defects and meet product standards.
  • Software: Software companies test products for internal failures or develop QA software designed for other industries.
  • Food production: X-ray systems detect and alert organizations to food contamination before products leave the production facility.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Across each drug development stage, QA teams review documents and training, approve equipment use, and investigate market returns and manufacturing records.
  • Medical: Hospitals, laboratories, and all other medical facilities develop organizational QA processes that abide by industry standards.
  • Aerospace: QA teams—also known as product assurance teams in this industry—work with project managers and engineers to test product capability and durability.
  • Customer service: Customer service quality assurance teams evaluate customer interactions and identify service standards that meet customer expectations.

In summary, software testing focuses on identifying defects in developed products, while customer service QA evaluates the quality of interactions, not physical products. Both practices are essential within their respective industries to meet customer needs, ensure satisfaction, and foster loyalty.

The importance of quality assurance

According to The Customer Service Quality Assurance Benchmark Report:

  • 77 percent of teams agree that conversation reviews are useful for team members’ professional growth
  • 76 percent of organizations agree that conversation reviews help improve customer satisfaction scores
  • 74 percent of support teams agree that conversation reviews help onboard new agents

Customer service QA consists of four main principles:

  1. Review conversations: Assess conversations for compliance and ensure agents meet quality standards.
  2. Get data-driven feedback: QA tools can help synchronize review assessments and eliminate bias from quality service ratings.
  3. Provide team coaching: Improve agent performance and encourage accountability with actionable coaching.
  4. Track progress: Track and review data in real time to continuously improve customer service.

What is the difference between quality assurance and quality control?

People often mix up QA and quality control (QC), even though they describe distinct processes.

Quality control specifically targets physical products, concentrating on adherence to quality requirements through operational techniques and methods.

In contrast, quality assurance is a more encompassing term that applies to both products and services, including customer service. Focused on customer perception and needs, QA in customer service can cover customer interactions across all support channels.

Quality assurance vs. quality control

Quality assurance
Quality control
  • Encompasses a broader quality management practice for products and services
  • Includes customer service quality assurance
  • Refers to the regulations on physical products
  • Focuses on a product’s quality standards

4 customer service quality assurance methods

Customer service quality assurance uses systematic methods to evaluate interactions and coaching to enhance customer experience (CX). These four methods of customer service QA help teams manage service quality:

  1. Manager reviews: Managers or team leads review the customer service interactions of their direct reports and provide actionable feedback to team members.
  2. Peer reviews: Peers review other team member’s customer service interactions to increase team consistency, unity, and knowledge sharing.
  3. Self-reviews: Personal reflections on specific customer service interactions help team members identify patterns and brainstorm solutions to problematic interactions.
  4. QA specialist reviews: QA managers focus on identifying holistic process improvements and providing feedback on customer-agent interactions.

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, and some teams incorporate a combination of several.

A person surrounded by paper airplanes is accompanied by a list of quality assurance methods.

Prioritize quality over quantity

Customer service quality matters just as much as software or product quality. Invest in the caliber of your services by learning more about Zendesk QA today.

The QA team

The composition of your QA team will vary based on your industry and the specific goals of your QA program. Here’s a breakdown of common QA team roles and their organizational responsibilities, ranging from specialists to managers.

  • Specialists: Focus on strategy and QA alignment while working with the QA manager.
  • Managers: Use quality management software to manage quality planning, control, and improvement in accordance with a business’s goals and objectives.
  • Engineers: Manage system, product, and service quality testing while developing and adapting QA standards.
  • Analysts: Analyze current standards and testing practices to suggest improvements and ensure QA compliance.
  • Automation testers: Develop automation scripts and code designed to test software quality and production automatically.

Five icons represent five essential quality assurance roles, including specialists, managers, and engineers.

QA best practices

Whether your QA standards are simple or complex, there are certain best practices all organizations should follow to ensure consistent quality across products and services.

To implement effective quality assurance:

  • Create a quality assurance team. QA processes can be complex or require in-depth data. Assigning individuals to a team can streamline processes and create a group of subject matter experts for other team members to approach with questions.
  • Define processes clearly. Document processes and quality standards and distribute records across an organization to ensure consistency.
  • Set quality objectives and standards. Agree on measurable standards and objectives that tie directly to organizational goals.
  • Adhere to customer expectations when setting standards. Consider customer insights when setting quality standards to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Invest in ongoing training and development. Regularly train team members on new or updated standards to guarantee quality.
  • Prioritize transparent communication. Support organizational goals by informing teams of changes, expectations, and quality standards.
  • Develop personalized interactions based on customer feedback. Collect and analyze feedback and use data about customer needs and expectations to inform quality standards.
  • Conduct regular audits. Assess compliance, identify improvement opportunities, and invest in internal growth.
  • Analyze and understand team performance. Quickly identify knowledge gaps on the team, tier, and agent level.
  • Leverage AI to streamline the QA process. Automatically monitor and review processes or interactions to cover every support interaction to ensure no areas for improvement are overlooked.
  • Collaborate with team members. Encourage internal collaboration to help all team members claim responsibility for quality and service standards.
  • Regularly review and improve processes. Consistently review current processes to identify areas for holistic improvement.

2 quality assurance examples

Not all quality assurance processes are the same, but organizations benefit from individualized practices. By investing in customer service quality assurance, Found and Liberty have seen significant improvements in service quality and standardization.

Found

At Found, a weight care program, maintaining exceptional customer service is a necessity. Managing and improving the performance of more than 100 agents while maintaining support quality without standardized customer service quality assurance processes was complex—until Found invested in Zendesk QA.

Automation improvements and the software’s assignments feature lighten the organization’s QA lift by allocating review assignments across teams. Standardized review cycles, automatically designated assignments, and standardized agent scoring simplify and streamline Found’s quality assurance processes.

The AI-powered conversation discovery feature also automatically highlights complex agent-customer interactions, marks them for review, and accentuates coaching opportunities. For any organization investing in quality assurance, this Zendesk QA feature pinpoints QA needs at their first appearance, allowing teams to adjust standards before experiencing the effects of poor quality and bad customer service.

Liberty

Similar to Found, the renowned luxury department store, Liberty, found that prioritizing customer service QA enhanced their holistic customer service experience. With Zendesk QA, their teams systematized the QA review process, allowing reviewers to regularly assess how Liberty agents adopted and used the brand’s tone and voice.

Liberty reviewers also standardized all feedback to flow through one system, reinforcing the need for consistency and regularity throughout all stages of service and review. The team at Liberty now conducts monthly calibration sessions to ensure QA is properly conducted and recorded.

Frequently asked questions

Improve your customer service QA process with Zendesk

Prioritize consistent support quality and create lifelong customers by investing in Zendesk QA, an AI-powered QA solution that automates service reviews and reduces CX operational costs. With our software, you can also foster agent engagement, track real-time KPIs, and improve service efficiency.

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