The duties and responsibilities of telecommunicators have grown over the years due not only to the increase in the number of calls or the change in the nature of calls, but also due to the amount of information they are now expected to process during a 9-1-1 call.
Since the beginning, 9-1-1 has gone from receiving no information to receiving name and address, latitude and longitude, telematics, IP calls, and text and it’s now heading towards receiving vertical location, photos and video. Is it any wonder that calls are going wrong and there is a staffing crisis?
There is an APCO/NENA standard for Quality Assurance of calls as well as a requirement for QA if you are providing EMD. But, how do we handle all this extra information and technology while at the same time keeping up with the QA Standards?
The answer is simple…outsource your QA needs. Let’s take a look at the ten best reasons for outsourcing your QA.
#1 QA and saving lives can happen in tandem
Our first and foremost consideration in a 9-1-1 center is to save lives. That requires a significant amount of focus on the job, whether taking a 9-1-1 call or dispatching responders. Many times, in many agencies it’s all-hands-on-deck around the clock. Everyone is so busy that no one is watching for the icebergs, things that could sink your agency. There are daily stories about dispatchers who have lost focus on their tasks, not answering the phone quickly enough, or taking too long to dispatch, causing a loss of life. When this happens, the questions start; What was going on? Why didn’t they dispatch that sooner? Was that dispatcher not trained? Outsourced QA can be your lookout, calling attention and steering you away from the hazards your agency could encounter. There is always a call to be answered and responders to dispatch but QA should never fall to the wayside.
#2 Access to more expertise
I once trained a new employee who came from another state and, because of her limited experience, she didn’t realize there was more than one way to handle a call. It was painful at first, but eventually, she said that seeing another way of doing it gave her a whole new perspective. You may have employees who have several years’ experience dispatching for your agency, which is great. That means they probably know just about everything there is to know about your city/county/province. Consider this, though…have you ever wondered if there was a different way you could do something but didn’t know who to ask? With outsourcing your QA, you gain access to more experiences and more expertise that could help you increase efficiency in your operations.
#3 Reduce and control operational and labor costs
With outsourced QA, you could budget for that specific service without having to worry about any additional costs. Many agencies have an employee(s) to perform QA on a set number of calls per month. But not every agency has the budget to support that. So, what do those agencies do? By outsourcing the QA, you are saved the expense of an employee salary, which can be significant, employer-paid taxes, in addition to the added benefits such as retirement, vacation, etc. There could also be equipment costs that are associated with performing QA that would be avoided.
#4 Reduce turmoil after traumatic events
Outsourcing provides a fresh look at the incident without the personal connection to those involved. This could also supplement the AAR submitted by the agency. As we all know, when there has been a catastrophic event, the recovery time can take months, whether it’s a weather-related event, an officer-involved shooting or a line of duty death. Any of these events can have a huge impact on everyone involved, often leading to PTSD and time off for telecommunicators. The task of performing QA on the related calls will fall to those left to handle the workload, overwhelming them. Not only does it require extra work on their part but listening to the calls again can trigger reactions in the rest of the crew. The APCO/NENA standard for QA lists catastrophic events as a minimum requirement for the QA process, outsourcing can make this process less traumatic.
#5 Free up resources
Are you splitting training time with QA time? All of the new technologies require continuous training. With apps and plug-ins, you can now get additional information about your caller, the scene, videos of what’s happening, pictures of missing people, and text from those who can’t speak, all at the same time you receive the 9-1-1 call. By outsourcing QA, you can free up your resources to ensure that everyone gets the training they need, rather than having to split training time with QA time.
#6 Gain access to external technology
What if there is a more efficient way of keeping track of QA scores? Many agencies that are currently doing QA are using a spreadsheet to keep track of scores. This is not a bad thing but, by outsourcing your QA, you would have access to equipment that could streamline the process and automate it. Having access to technology could save time and paper and allow for feedback with the employee to be done more quickly.
#7 Make QA happen even while short-handed
Your agency may not be doing QA at this time because you don’t have the funds to hire someone, you are short-handed and don’t have the available personnel. Maybe it’s done on paper and takes too long to complete. Alternatively, it’s something you know needs to be done but you just haven’t had time to worry about it. By outsourcing QA, you can reduce the risk you are running of not doing QA at all. Many times, we read an article about a call gone wrong and wonder why that issue wasn’t caught before. The answer invariably is there was no QA being done. So, even if you don’t have the time to do QA, that doesn’t mean QA can’t or shouldn’t be done.
#8 Reel in wandering procedures
As internal functions are continually put on the back seat, such as QA and updating policies and procedures, some functions morph over time to become less efficient. For instance, your policy states that addresses will be confirmed on every call by the caller repeating the address a second time. But somewhere along the way one person checks the ALI and it matches what the caller said, so they consider it confirmed. Before long, they are training a new person that way. A year later everyone is confirming addresses by the ALI. Because there is no QA being performed, or QA is being done with incorrect training this isn’t discovered until a call is dispatched to an incorrect location and a citizen dies. Outsourced QA can identify training discrepancies before tragedy strikes.
#9 Meet accreditation requirements
Is your agency is aiming for accreditation, either through CALEA, the state police chief’s association, or your EMD provider? Then a certain number of calls must be QA’d each year. If you are short-staffed or have your senior people working on the other 600 requirements for accreditation, outsourcing the QA could help you achieve your goal.
#10 Improve customer satisfaction
Customer service is important even though 9-1-1 is not your typical customer service-related call center. Outsourcing QA provides an objective review with suggestions on correcting poor customer service. An inhouse QAE may shrug off the interactions of “that” employee who doesn’t understand that customer service is important. “That” employee who is short, gruff, and to the point may not understand the impact their gruffness has on the people they serve. Anyone from “that” employee’s agency would say, “Oh, that’s just so and so. She’s always like that” or “He’s not mad, he’s just trying to get to the next line ringing”. Yet with that kind of customer service, the caller’s day is made even worse. Outsourced QA can help everyone in the agency understand the impact of their tone on a caller in distress.
QA is about making your agency better through review, correction, and policy and procedure. Whether you do it in-house or outsource it doesn’t matter. What matters is that your agency is always improving, but if you don’t have the time or personnel to get it done, then outsourcing it makes sense.
Commercial Electronics has a team of qualified consultants standing by to help you get Quality Assurance started in your agency. Our approach to QA/QI combines powerful technology with experienced professional guidance. Contact us to learn more about our Commercial Electronics Quality Improvement Program (CEQIP).