Advisor QA scorecards — making them work for soft skills (and your business)

American author Gretchen Rubin said: “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” Training, workshops and guides are those once in a while interventions that are a good starting point for advisors’ communication soft skills development. And, may give a short-term boost for business outcomes like customer satisfaction, sales or cost reduction.

But, what can be done every day to keep it front of mind and make sure that improvements are sustained?

We work with many clients on improving the scorecards used to assess advisor interactions — whether these be calls, emails, webchats or social media responses. Scorecards are also often the centre of that everyday all-important coaching, as well as Quality Assurance (QA) measurement and improvement efforts.

Creating scorecards to measure compliance is relatively simple — for example a yes / no for whether advisors let customers know that calls may be recorded. When it comes to assessing soft skills things may seem trickier.

Worryingly, scoring soft skills sometimes becomes a tick box exercise that can drive the wrong behaviours. When we speak to advisors, as part of our QA discovery, sometimes they’ll say they do something just to get a “tick in the QA box”. Although no harm is done if a sales promotion is hurriedly copy – pasted at the end of a webchat session to meet a “sales through service” requirement. Asking an angry caller “how are you today” because it’s required to meet the “rapport” criteria isn’t going to help an advisor, the customer or your satisfaction scores.

Soft skills that mean advisors are able to take opportunities to improve sales, reduce repeat contact to cut costs and build rapport to increase customer satisfaction may be shades of grey in what can be a very black and white world.

As such, it can be tempting to remove soft skills from scorecards altogether. However, with studies showing how important something as simple as advisor tone of voice is for customer satisfaction, for example, you’d be missing an opportunity to produce some very real business benefits.

With this in mind, here are our top 10 tips for scorecards that’ll improve advisor communication soft skills and deliver business results:

1. Develop and test your scoring criteria — be willing to try different criteria to find what works best for advisors, team leaders and your business goals. To help those scoring, and receiving feedback, criteria that have a good Inter-Rater Reliability are best. It’s also vital to confirm that criteria are driving business outcomes you want.

2. Don’t over engineer it — Just having scorecards, that are used regularly, will keep soft skills at the front of advisors’ minds and drive improvements.

3. Be specific — it’s useful to divide scorecards down into broad categories, e.g. Rapport. And, also give specific guidance — e.g. having a tone that is warm, clear and interested — so that everyone knows what helps to build rapport.

4. Support your scorers — run calibration workshops so that those doing the scoring can see how they compare and discuss, as well as feedback, problems.

5. Lead by example — scored reference interactions help scorers and advisors to know what ‘good’ looks and sounds like.

6. Accept some scoring variability — choosing criteria with good Inter Rater Reliability, providing examples and running calibration workshops all help to reduce scoring inconsistency. But, QA results from softs skills assessments just aren’t as black and white as those from compliance for example. As long as your scorecard is driving the business outcomes you want (point 2) it’s doing its job.

7. Think ahead to coaching — scorecards help team leaders and coaches find skills gaps. Work with them to create skill development activities that are aligned to criteria to make coaching and skills development more effective.

8. Don’t forget about reward — praise for what advisors have done well is just as important as advice on how to improve.

9. Have a joined-up approach — use categories and criteria that work with other parts of your improvement programme such as training, workshops and internal communications etc.

10. Make it easy to use — design scorecards and feedback (colours, layout and graphics) that are quick and simple for advisors to understand. Why does a scorecard have to be a spreadsheet, or be called a scorecard for that matter?

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you develop a better scorecard, drop us a line.

Abbie Mandry