• June 12, 2007
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Catalog Retailers Are In Sync With Callers

Catalog retailers are outperforming banks, cell phone services, cable and satellite television, insurance, and PC customer service when it comes to call center satisfaction, according to the inaugural Call Center Satisfaction Index, a study by CFI Group. The study leverages the methodology of the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)--an indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the U.S on a 100-point scale--to conduct the Call Center Satisfaction Index. More than 900 customers of call centers in those six industries were surveyed. Of the six industries, retail catalog call centers surpassed all others with a score of 80, albeit just three points ahead of banking call centers' score of 77. Catalog call centers are able to answer customer queries, which improves first call resolution, says Sheri Teodoru, program director at CFI Group and author of the study. She adds, though, that "they also have a slight advantage in that people are calling to place an order, which is in theory a fairly pleasant experience, and for the most part it looks like those orders are getting placed as they should be." Similarly, with banking call centers, "their reps seem to have been trained in those areas where they need to be and they're able to answer customer questions," she says. Compared to catalog and banking call centers, though, the remaining sectors fared less well. Cell phone service call centers placed third with 69, trailed closely by cable and satellite television call centers and insurance call centers, each with a mark of 68. However, PC call centers are doing the worst job of satisfying callers, pulling in a score a 64, due partly to weak first call resolution; about one-fourth of callers contacting a PC call center hang up with their issue unresolved, causing PC customer service reps to fare low in terms of solving problems, according to the study. Product complexity and perceived difficulty of understanding CSRs due to the frequency of offshoring in the vertical are also components plaguing customer satisfaction with PC call centers, according to Teodoru. (Despite its poor showing in terms of call center satisfaction, the PC industry did tie with the banking industry for the strongest score for overall industry satisfaction.) "If we look across the industry, the big area where most of the perceived offshoring is happening is in the PC industry," Teodoru says. "There is a clarity of speech issue and the product is pretty complicated, so when you couple those things together...it's a recipe for disaster." The study contends that customers who believe the call center is located outside of the U.S. rate their satisfaction with the call center experience 26 points lower and are almost twice as likely to defect compared to those who assume the call center is domestic. It's worth noting, however, that how an organization manages its outsourced (including offshored) customer interactions and its plan for doing so must be tailored to fit its customers' needs. When it comes to improving overall industry satisfaction, call centers are a piece of that that can't be ignored, Teodoru says. "The two are intertwined. If you do a really bad job with your contact center you're going to suffer the consequences. You can't view it as a cost center; it has to be viewed as a customer touch point. That part of the business is critical, and if it's just relegated to the cost side it won't ever be viewed as an opportunity to touch the customer in a good way." Related articles: An Inside Look at Outsourcing
ClientLogic and Sitel Emerge as Sitel Losing the Offshoring War
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