Customers' Call Center Experience Affects Loyalty

Consumers are much less likely to buy a company's products if they have a poor call center experience when calling for assistance, according to a study released today by Portland Research Group. The study was based on findings from more than 800 U.S. consumers who had contacted companies with a question or problem, and spanned across several industries: telecommunications/ISP, consumer goods/retail, consumer services/medical, and travel/lodging/food. "The quality of a call is everything to retaining customers," says Bruce Lockwood, president of Portland Research Group. Analysts at Portland Research Group discovered a 55 percentage point difference in future purchase intent when comparing the intent of respondents who were happy with their phone experience against those who were not. Although 46 percent of respondents have their issues resolved during first contact, the average consumer must call 2.3 times before the problem at hand is remedied, according to the study. Future purchase intent drops from 76 percent to 55 percent with the second contact. Customer loyalty suffered a harsh blow when it came to callers being transferred between representatives during a call. Though an average of one in three (35 percent) callers are not transferred, most callers are transferred 1.5 times before speaking with the appropriate person for assistance. No significant impact was made on satisfaction or loyalty when a person was transferred once, but when transferred a second time there is large drop in loyalty -- and future purchase intent plummets from 64 percent to 48 percent. "You're causing incremental damage to that customer's loyalty," says Chris Clegg, senior research manager at Portland Research Group and author of the report. "In many cases, the person is better off to have not called at all [than to be transferred twice]." Twenty-four percent of the studied consumers were not satisfied with call center reps' follow-up. The study did reveal, however, that 68 percent of consumers were relatively content with the professionalism of the call center rep with whom they spoke. In addition, 61 percent of consumers reported overall satisfaction with response they received from the agent. There was variation by industry, with the highest satisfaction rates found in travel/food/lodging, and the lowest in the telecommunications/ISP sector. The most significant takeaway for companies who employ CRM strategies in their call center, Clegg says, "is that [the report] validates that kind of investment. It creates the opportunity for someone in the CRM industry to look at the call center not as an expense, but for profit -- as a place to generate loyalty."
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