Customers Feel a Decline in Quality of Service

Executives concerned about the impact their contact center has on customer churn have some new findings to support their theories. A new study, commissioned by Amdocs, shows that 63 percent of customers believe that customer service has not gotten better over the past five to 10 years--and most of those customers think it has gotten worse. Even more sobering, 85 percent of respondents said that even a single bad experience with a customer service representative would provoke them to consider taking their business elsewhere. About 1,000 people responded to the survey. The survey covers customer service operations in the telecommunications, cable, banking, and retail industries. When asked which of those offered the best customer service, 41 percent of respondents pointed to banking, making it the clear favorite, with more than twice the response of the second-place sector, retail. According to Charles Born, vice president of global marketing at Amdocs, the way to ensure a positive customer service interaction is to understand the goal of the interaction in the first place--which should be "to add value to that customer based on your knowledge of that customer," he says. "If you're going to integrate CRM," he says, "you've got to put the customer at the center of your business, and know what the customer is thinking. As simple as that sounds, companies typically look at it from their own perspective." That mistake, Born says, often undercuts efforts to cross-sell and upsell. Sixty percent of respondents, he says, replied that they were at least willing to listen to a pitch if they felt the contact center agent truly knew what products or services the customer already had in place. Born recalls a study from several years ago in which customers who encountered no problems with a particular company had very little loyalty to that company, whereas customers who had a problem that was resolved had greater loyalty. That loyalty, according to Born, was an outgrowth of the value the company had provided by resolving the issue. "Businesses are still too siloed," he says. "They don't have a full view of the customer, [and as a result] the customer experience isn't the same across channels. It has to be, regardless of how the customer interacts with you." Consumers certainly have strong feelings on the subject. The survey asked about other "potentially unpleasant situations" respondents might have to endure. Eighty-three percent preferred visiting the dentist, sitting in traffic, or paying taxes to dealing with a rude and unhelpful customer service employee. Fifty-one percent said they'd rather argue with a traffic cop or watch paint dry. Jayme Plunkett, the president of Decipher, the firm that conducted the survey on behalf of Amdocs, says "the subject matter was provoking enough to get people to take time out of their day. That's unusual when you're dealing with a general-population [survey]." Plunkett says it's particularly significant that Decipher was able to locate willing participants three times faster than it does for a typical survey--and that translates into reliable results: "Typically when you have a high...level of interest, whether its good or bad and you get people to respond as quickly as we did, you typically have high-quality data." According to Born, the survey simply reinforces what contact center veterans have intuitively known for some time. "Now we have some figures to back it up," he says. In fact, some similar figures were already out there. In 2002 a survey sponsored by staffing-services provider Kelly Services and Purdue University's Center for Customer-Driven Quality showed that 92 percent of U.S. consumers form their image of a company based on their experiences using its contact center, and 86 percent were more likely to stop using the company after a negative customer service interaction. Sixty-three percent said they would definitely stop. "When 85 percent of customers say they'd consider taking their business elsewhere [if the interaction goes poorly], that means you don't get very many chances to get things right," Born says. "You get one shot to make customers happy," he says. "In this market, good customer service is the ante to play." Related Articles: Poor Call Center Technology Can Impact Customer Loyalty
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