By Rashad Issa, PMP, CQP MCQI, Director Operational Success at Workplace Options
Whether you hear the term “quality” in your organization, as in your manager says you must produce quality work, or you encounter it as a consumer of a service or a product, the term can be interpreted differently depending on the scenario. In this article, I would like to explore the term “quality” and what it means for us at Workplace Options, a global employee wellbeing provider with a mission to help people and strengthen their workplace performance.
Before I proceed, let me define the term quality to ensure we all reflect on it in the same manner: “The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.” (Oxford Dictionary)
When an organization sets up its’ mission, vision and values, the work that takes place on the ground should reflect those things. Of course, when executed appropriately, the reward is high. At Workplace Options, our mission is to help people emotionally, practically and physically. The type of support we offer is catered to the unique situation shared by the individual. Because individuals typically reach out to Workplace Options telephonically to receive support, the majority of our interactions with individuals, at least in the beginning, are over the phone and not face-to-face.
This is an important factor, because communication is considered most effective when it is delivered within three dimensions (body language, tone of voice, words spoken) as identified by Dr. Mehrabian and Dr. Ferris in their popular research on non-verbal communication. (See Figure 1)
When Workplace Options team members provide services telephonically, the “body language” component of communication, which represents more than 50% of the communication process, is not observed. In order to deliver excellent service, the specialist handling the call will need to put greater emphasis on tone of voice and the words used on the call. This is an important element to consider when building a program to deliver quality service, because customers continue to expect an unhindered experience.
The level of excellence provided when delivering support is multi-faceted. For example, when individuals calls Workplace Options because they are going through a stressful period in life, the level of excellence of the service becomes a combination of the following:
- The level of engagement the counselor had on the phone with the caller
- The customer service skills demonstrated on the call
- The support the caller received throughout the call
- The clinical quality of the support provided
- The appropriate documentation and follow-up of the case after the call ends
These are just in reference to the initial interaction between a counselor and caller. You can imagine that the list increases once an external provider gets involved to provide further support.
So how can an organization ensure that it is delivering a suitable level of excellence, in other words, a quality service? The Chartered Quality Institute has identified five core competencies that every Quality Professional should acquire. (See Figure 2). These competencies are a reflection of the steps an organization should take to ensure the delivery of quality service or products. These competencies are:
- Understanding the context of the organization
- Ensuring a governance framework is set up
- Setting up assurance processes to measure the system in place supporting the delivery of the service/product
- Identifying areas for improvement and continually doing so to ensure customer satisfaction
- Obtaining leadership skills to address all of the above areas in an influential manner
Workplace Options has created a governance framework to assess and measure service quality on a daily basis. The framework addresses quality from four different angles: audits, issues, customer input and mystery shopper. (See Figure 3) These measurement dimensions allow our service providers, line managers, quality managers and executives to assess service delivery in detail and identify key areas to focus on for improvement.
Each dimension is designed to address the requirements of all stakeholders involved, both internally and externally.
- An audit program aims to deliver a customized approach to assess each of the main products we deliver while maintaining the company standards as a whole.
- A complaint policy and procedure is in place to review and address any breakdowns reported to ensure all our customers are appropriately supported and breakdowns are rectified in a timely manner.
- We gather feedback from our customers on the interaction they had with us. Without our customers telling us directly how they think we did supporting them, we will not be able to improve upon our services.
- And finally, we have a mystery shopper program that evaluates the service using the same company standards that we use in our internal audit program.
For an organization to operate in a sustainable environment that encourages growth, it has to deliver services that are relevant and well received. Quality, or the level of excellence of a service or product, is highly dependent on how this service is assessed proactively before it gets released to the end user, as well as after. When a company commits to deliver a quality service, it must have the policies and procedures in place to foster such an environment.
Mehrabian, A. and Ferris, S. R. (1967). ‘Inference of attitudes from nonverbal communication in two channels’, Journal of Consulting Psychology, 31(3), pp. 248–252. doi: 10.1037/h0024648.
Workplace Options helps employees balance their work, family and personal needs to become healthier, happier and more productive, both personally and professionally. The company’s world-class employee support, effectiveness and wellbeing services provide information, resources, referrals and consultation on a variety of issues ranging from dependent care and stress management to clinical services and wellness programs. To learn more visit www.workplaceoptions.com.