Contact centers are good at cutting costs, but still have a long way to go in quantifying customer satisfaction.
Posted Sep 21, 2007
Contact centers today have three basic goals: to build or retain revenue, to control operating costs, and to grow customer satisfaction. Contact center professionals have gotten very good at measuring revenue and efficiency achievement but still have far to go in quantifying customer satisfaction. According to research conducted by the Purdue Center for Customer-Driven Quality, less than half of contact centers have a formal program to measure customer satisfaction.
There are many reasons why every contact center needs to have this vitally important information:
- Satisfying callers -- or more accurately delighting them -- is the primary or secondary goal of virtually every contact center. If we don't know how well agents are satisfying callers then we don't know if we are achieving one of our most important goals.
- More meaningful agent evaluations -- Customer satisfaction cannot be inferred from indirect measurements like KPI performance and quality monitoring. Only the caller knows if he or she was completely satisfied.
- The very process of asking improves customer satisfaction -- People appreciate the fact that you care enough to ask for (and value) their opinions.
- It makes good business sense -- Several studies have demonstrated that it makes good business sense to satisfy customers.
- It typically costs five to 10 times as much to replace a customer than to keep the ones you already have.
- According to the Harvard Business Review a 5 percent reduction in customer defections can lead to an 85 percent boost in profits.
Understanding Customer Satisfaction
Customer delight is a reflection of the sum total of interactions with all customer-facing functions. It is greatly influenced by factors well beyond the control of the contact center agent, such as quality of the service or product, pricing, errors in billing, delivery snafus, collection procedures, or the performance of the front-line salesperson or service technician.
If our intent is to evaluate the perceived quality of the agent interaction in isolation from other influencing factors it is essential to collect this information immediately after the interaction, not days or weeks later when the customer has forgotten much of what happened during the call but still feels upset about the outcome. And, if possible, measure customer satisfaction for all customer touch points. For years, leading restaurant chains, hoteliers, retailers, and utilities have polled customers at the point of service. They do this by printing on your bill or service statement an invitation to call a toll-free number, usually accompanied by a reward such as a discount on your next meal. With data from all touch points, businesses can better determine if they are delivering quality customer care on all levels, from the store clerk to the contact center.
Methods for Obtaining Customer Feedback
Outbound telephone surveys are the most common method for collecting customer satisfaction data. Telephone surveys provide useful information but are costly, can take weeks to execute, and require a heavy time commitment from contact center management.
Postal surveys are less expensive but require even more time to execute. The method is subject to large statistical errors because of small sample sizes and it is impossible to track back to specific agents.
Email and Web surveys are popular because they are economical, timely, and can be traceable to specific agents. But these methods cannot capture responses from the 30 percent of the public that does not have home Internet access. Also, most companies do not have current email addresses for the customers who call them.
The recent introduction of automated post-call interactive voice response (IVR) has greatly improved the timeliness and accuracy of customer satisfaction measures. Response rates compare favorably with other survey methods and the cost, while high at the outset, is quickly recovered when compared with the cost of repetitive telephone surveys. However, as with the other methods, feedback can only be secured during the agent interaction.
After all, if a wedding gift is delivered a week after the wedding, the caller will still be unsatisfied, no matter how well the agent handled the unfortunate situation.
On-Demand Customer Satisfaction Surveys
In recent years we have seen growing deployment of hosted software solutions in the contact center. Contact centers can now acquire CRM, IVR, call recording, and call routing via the hosted model. With hosting, buyers pay for services on an as-needed basis. The hosted model has been used for many years to measure customer satisfaction with hospitality, retail, restaurant, and field service personnel.
Hosted surveys offer many advantages to contact centers:
- There is little or no initial capital investment and there is little or no requirement for internal tech support.
- Customer satisfaction scores can be tracked to specific agents and interactions. Scores can even be imported directly into agent scorecards.
- Samples sizes are as large as you wish, assuring more accurate information.
- Volunteered customer comments are recorded. You will know why callers feel they way to do, and in their own voice.
- Feedback is immediate. Satisfaction scores can be displayed on dashboards and wall boards in real time.
- Hosted surveys are platform-vendor agnostic. Regardless of which company supplied your call recording or IVR system, you retain complete flexibility.
- Reports can be tailored to your needs. You can track changes over time, compare different contact centers, even drill down to better isolate causes of extreme satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
- The hosted model can easily be extended to include other customer touch points such as sales staff, technicians, and collections.
Every contact center has well-developed metrics that measure achievement of performance and efficiency goals but less than half measure customer satisfaction. Many have tried but given up because of budget constraints, demands on management time, and deficiencies in the data-collection methods. The hosting option provides a flexible, economical, and highly effective solution that can work with contact centers of all sizes and budgets.
About the Author
Dick Bucci is an associate consultant at The Pelorus Group.