33 Percent of Contact Centers Don't Measure Customer Satisfaction

Speak to virtually any company executive during these trying economic times, and they'll stress the absolute importance of keeping current customers happy in the hopes of retaining them. And yet, amazingly, one in three contact centers still do not measure customer satisfaction, according to the latest findings from the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI).  

ICMI's "2008 Contact Center Operations Report" covers recruitment, training, staff development, monitoring and coaching, employee retention, disaster recovery, staffing, metrics, and budgeting. Unfortunately, for an unsettling number of organizations, quality monitoring (QM) seems to be the final step toward delivering customer satisfaction, according to Greg Levin, creative projects coordinator for ICMI. Levin says he's astounded that, given the marketplace's current focus on high-quality service, companies still don't measure satisfaction. "Many centers rely too heavily on QM results," he says. "Managers assume that [if] QM scores are good, customers are happy and that their needs are being met."

This, Levin says, is misguided. He goes on to explain that QM typically measures just how a customer service representative (CSR) performed from the perspective of the contact center, rather than that of the customer. "Often, an agent may do all that is asked of him by contact center management, but for whatever reason the customer is not fully satisfied," he says. "It's critical that centers implement formal customer satisfaction measurement processes -- using timely postcontact surveys -- to more accurately gauge what the [consumer] is experiencing and would like to see improved."

The overreliance on QM tools has continued to plague contact centers for two reasons, according to Levin: misinformation and lack of resources. What's needed, he says, is an increased effort to teach and apply best practices. "Better communication to upper management [will] help secure the budget and resources needed so the center doesn't misuse its QM systems and solutions," he adds.

Layne Holley, managing editor at ICMI, explains that budgets remain a sticking point between contact centers and upper management. Two in three respondents reported that the growth rate of the contact center budget is tied specifically to the expected growth rate of contact volumes, and not to broader initiatives regarding customer service. Additionally, only 60 percent of those surveyed believe upper management gives the budget and support the contact center needs to "provide quality service for customers and a good working environment for staff."

The problem, Holley says, is that there's no set answer for whether a particular contact center would benefit from a fixed or variable budget. The report, however, lays out four steps that any contact center can follow to develop a clear picture around staff planning:

  • incorporate all workload;
  • adjust for planned service levels and the resulting occupancy;
  • provide for monthly variation in time spent off the phones; and
  • demonstrate how changes to the workload or staffing will affect the customer.

Other results from the study focus on CSRs themselves, including:

  • only 40 percent of contact centers measure agent satisfaction;
  • only 40 percent provide potential CSRs with a formal preview of the job (the absence of which can result in a position filled by an agent who doesn't have a clear understanding of the challenges and nature of the job); and
  • less than half of the centers surveyed have a leadership-development program in place to help prepare agents for promotions and new roles.

"Basically, agents still get the shaft because in many organizations the contact center itself still gets the shaft," Levin says. "Upper management simply doesn't understand the tremendous impact that people on the front line have on customer satisfaction, retention, and revenue generation. Thus, [they] do not provide managers and supervisors with the budget and resources they need to properly pay, develop, and reward agents."

Although Levin says that "it's a top-down phenomenon in most cases," he's quick to point out that not all of the blame resides in the boardroom. "Sometimes, managers and supervisors are to blame because they don't clearly communicate to executives the impact that the contact center has on customer acquisition and retention...[or] its value to the rest of the organization."

That, Holley says, is one of the important potential benefits of ICMI's report: Its insights can help bring clarity to the true value of the contact center. "We intend for this to give contact center professionals a couple of ways to benchmark their operations against best practices," she says. "It also gives you a chance to really formulate your case to upper management."

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

CRM Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues

Related Articles

The Moment of Power

Boost customer retention by acting at the right time.

Turn Your Satisfied Customers into Loyal Ones

Nurturing customers with analytics.

Poking Holes in Attrition

Social networking has the potential to transform the day-to-day operations of customer service representatives.

6 Metrics for Marketing in a Recession

Gartner analyst shines a little hope on the downtrodden marketer: Try spending to save, but be sure to get quick results.

The Customer Experience Tattoo

Gartner CRM Summit '08: Industry analyst provides recommendations in keeping interactions with the customer skin-deep.

Calling It Quits

Contact center agents are leaving in massive numbers -- attrition and absenteeism run rampant -- but there are ways to stem the tide.

Metrics Should Define Results

Operational goals require effective operations--and that's where systems metrics come into play.

Checking the Pulse of the Contact Center

Contact center performance management provides a holistic view of agent performance; use that data to spur desirable behaviors that will help reps beat center and corporate goals.

Enkata Rains Down Answers from the Cloud

Enkata launches a cloud-computing service focused on first-call resolution -- something, according to one industry report, that nearly half of all contact centers fail to even measure.

Part Five: Getting a Handle on Customer Metrics

Nowhere in the CRM community is there more contradiction and confusion than in customer metrics. People either espouse customer metrics as the holy grail of CRM or they label them a waste of time. But the basics are simple--your ability to use customer-centered metrics to mange your business will depend largely on what business you are in and the relative importance of sustained customer relationships.