Issue Resolution Key To Repeat Call-Center Business: CFI

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Resolving a customer-service problem on the patron's first call will entice that person to continue doing business with that company 49 percent of the time.

This was found in a study by the market research firm CFI Group in its second annual Contact Center Satisfaction Index (CCSI).

The CCSI is based on an online survey of 2,200 consumers who had called a contact center within a month prior to the survey and who agreed to answer 20 questions based on their call-center experience. The results were tallied according the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction index, which scores satisfaction on a 100-point scale.

The survey included customers of call centers across a number of industries including banking, cable and satellite TV, cellphone service, government, hotels, insurance, multichannel retail and personal computers. It found that 95 percent of "satisfied customers" said they would do business with the same company again, and 91 percent of those who were considered satisfied said they would even recommend the company to others.

Sheri Teodoru, CEO of CFI Group, told TWICE that it considered customers "satisfied" if they ranked their satisfaction as a nine or 10 on a 10-point scale regardless of whether or not their issue was actually resolved. The consumers' scores were later converted to the index's 100-point scale for reporting purposes, said Theodoru.

According to the study, only 62 percent of dissatisfied customers said they would give the company they dealt with repeat business, and only 39 percent said they'd recommend the company to others.

Respondents' overall satisfaction with call centers ranked an average score of 72 on the index's 100-point scale, a three percent gain over last year. Despite the uptick, the study still found that one in five customers end their contact center experience with unresolved problems, leaving these customers half as satisfied and twice as likely to defect according to CFI.

"Customer-service representatives are on the front lines of a company's interaction with their customers, so it's vitally important that they have the training and resources to do what customers expect of them," said Teodoru. "If customers just wanted to hear a friendly voice, they'd call their mom — but they are calling to get something done."

Overall, the study found customer-service representatives are more likely to get a higher proportion of "harder" questions that customers cannot find answers to on a Web site or elsewhere. Customers who tried other methods before calling the contact center had an average satisfaction score that was 15 percent lower than customers who called the contact center directly.

In terms of issue resolution, the firm found that contact centers leave 18 percent of customers with unresolved issues, and that more than half of those customers with unresolved customers are considering or have already decided to bring their business elsewhere in the future.

When the results are broken down to the specific industries, CFI found that customer satisfaction with cable and satellite TV contact centers is lower than any other industry measured in the CCSI, with a score of 66, down 2 percent from last year. The firm noted that the industry has consistently measured among the least satisfying since it was first added to the index in 2001.

Also consistent among the industries with the least satisfied call-center customers are the cellphone-service companies, though this year the firm noted that customer satisfaction increased 4 percent to a score of 72. CFI said the cellphone industry has successfully improved issue resolution, outperforming all others measured, with the exception of hotels.

CFI found that customer satisfaction with multichannel-retail contact centers dropped 5 percent this year to a score of 76, a trend the firm said would not likely bode well for an industry with "many choices and low switching costs."

Finally, personal-computer contact centers' scores were up this year, with an 8 percent increase to a score of 69. The firm attributed the uptick to an industry response to past negative attention about service in this industry; it noted that "call-center operations have improved and the industry is no longer the worst performer."

Compared to last year, CFI found offshore contact centers in general are doing a better job this year solving issues, but their satisfaction scores still lag behind onshore contact centers by a wide margin; onshore centers received an average satisfaction score of 75 vs. an average offshore satisfaction score of 59.

According to the study, one of the main challenges for offshore contact centers is effective communication. The study finds that issues are 25 percent less likely to be resolved when customer-service representatives are difficult to understand.

"As customer-service representatives receive tougher questions, communication is going to become an issue," said Teodoru. "The last thing a customer wants to do is struggle with basic communication. This is particularly true when customers call the contact center and find that the person on the other end is difficult to understand, doesn't seem to comprehend the problem, and repeatedly reads from a script. In this down economy, American consumers are also more resentful that call-center jobs are being sent overseas when they could be handled more effectively here at home."

CFI concluded, "The CCSI data indicates that contact centers are critical points of engagement between a company and its customers. Results-driven organizations must determine precisely how well customers are being satisfied by their call centers. If firms train contact-center [customer-service representatives] well, if they value customer feedback and if issue resolution is a goal, these contact centers can serve as engines of customer loyalty and help secure a company's return on investment."

The full report can be downloaded for free at http://cfigroup.com/callsat.

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