How to Ensure That QA Teams Support Business Continuity While Working Virtually
IT and IT-enabled services organizations play a vital role in assuring business continuity. Now working from home, QA groups must take assertive steps to collaborate and safeguard critical client information.
Continuity for any work team is not a given. In a recent Gartner study, just 12% of respondents believed their business was highly prepared for the impact of COVID-19, and only 2% believed their business can continue as normal.
With client-sensitive work now being performed in home offices, quality assurance (QA) organizations must take steps to guard against such problems as data breaches, misprocessed transactions and mishandled customer calls. The pandemic may buy a degree of customer patience on some matters, but avoidable errors are always unacceptable — even as their likelihood rises amid hastily devised work-at-home programs. Absolute business continuity is essential to prevent customer impacts that might seep in as work moves out of the secure office environment.
Business leaders should feel a heightened sense of concern for potentially jeopardized client relationships. Despite the pandemic, there’s no excuse for service interruptions, privacy breaches or errant actions by distracted associates.
In this new dynamic, business leaders must proactively address any associated work impacts, service risks and cost implications. They should also keep a watchful eye on work quality to ensure that performance doesn’t lapse due to new practices, tools or surroundings.
To help organizations adjust QA practices to fit today’s environment, we suggest following a “three-P” process:
Prepare a list of all critical processes for each customer down to the account level.
Preparing a list of critical processes is essential, as these could have a direct impact on customer satisfaction. This list is vital because it will serve as a template for ongoing client conversations, and because it forces stakeholders to think carefully about processes that they may have long taken for granted — processes that require new focus in the work-from-home age.
Critical processes typically include those that could have a financial, regulatory or customer experience impact; even a misprocessed transaction could cause severe damage in these categories. For example, a misprocessed financial transaction could lead to further investigation, refunds and regulatory noncompliance — which, of course, has its own implications.
With this list created, businesses should set up a video meeting to connect the entire client network: all associates, supervisors, managers and quality auditors. Staffing a 24x7 helpline will ensure quick resolution of any issues related to systems, processes, transactions or any other need as quality auditors help to minimize errors and provide associates with immediate essential help.
It’s important to reassure clients by informing them about these proactive measures being taken on their behalf. Those in charge of client account activities should be instructed to review the audits to ensure the team is accurately catching and addressing errors. This also will help to ensure accountability among the quality auditors.
The processes that make the list should be given the priority they deserve, which means all activities related to them should be completed on a war-footing basis. For example, QA auditors handling these processes should take priority in work-from-home setups. Client discussions should be initiated for these processes, and the live-bridge setup must ensure that clients can interact in real time.
Prevent critical errors that may increase cycle times or impact customer relations.
To guard against such errors, we recommend the following actions:
Initiate pre-facto audits for highly critical processes that involve accounts receivables and payables, especially when dealing with larger sums (anything greater than $10,000, perhaps).
Instate instant error correction processes to quickly identify mistakes. If such errors occur, share details and resolutions with all associates to avoid problems in the future.
Develop a dashboard that tracks errors in real time and alerts the supervisor of a possible escalation. This dashboard will be accessible by all associates via a platform, email or conferencing screen share. Open a chat group in which these details can be discussed.
Plan twice-daily team video calls to share updates, errors and any customer feedback received.
Increase the number of audits overall. In addition to the pre-facto audits noted above, the team should focus on high-dollar transactions; financial transactions in general; bottom performers; and critical processes.
Initiate QA automation for straight-through processes — those in which minimal judgment is required by the processor and there are few screens to navigate. Data entry, premium validation, and indexing are all ripe for automation. For example, consider a case in which the premium for an insurance policy in the worker’s compensation area needs to be audited. The processor validates basic data and then validates (if the premium calculated is appropriate) or makes changes. In an example like this one, the only additional activities performed by QA are marking erroneous transactions, raising them to the next level, correcting errors and informing clients, and then providing feedback and comments on the QA tool. We encourage companies to fully automate such processes, ensuring audit completion without any manual intervention.
Shift the focus to deploying predictive models that help audit 100% of transactions. For one client’s claims process, a predictive model was built to assess the claim payout based on several variables: diagnosis, medical history, policy terms, date, medical records, hospital records, etc. Once such a model is run, based on the set variables it can help the system determine whether there is any missing information. If not, it determines whether the claim is valid in the first place; if the answer is yes, the system determines the amount to be disbursed.
Ensure quality auditors are current up on their process knowledge through frequent training and testing; immediately address any gaps.
Protect client-sensitive information.
Client-sensitive information must be painstakingly safeguarded, as home environments and equipment are much less secure than the office.
To that end, we recommend that organizations ensure their associates work in a secluded area, with the screen and work papers away from family members. Employees must also prevent unauthorized individuals from using their dedicated work PCs; when not in use, all PCs should be locked in “away” mode to guard against peering eyes. Finally, employees should be instructed to minimize any open apps during video calls.
By following these guidelines, QA teams will be able to keep business operations running effectively, efficiently and securely — all from the comfort of their homes.