The Customer's Voice: A Powerful Boost for CRM Effectiveness

Failure to consider customer feedback limits the effectiveness of CRM, according to a report from Customer Relationship Metrics.

"Many of these initiatives come from top-level executives, who are usually far removed from customer interaction," says Jodie Monger, Customer Relationship Metrics president, who authored the report with Cherie Keen, the company's vice president of research and client services. "Although companies may have initiated several solutions that are supposed to improve customer satisfaction, many are flawed because of [the company's] neglect in bringing the customer into the mix."

Though companies attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of their CRM programs based on benchmark data, these evaluation methods tend to ignore the customer's opinion. "When all is said and done, it's the customer that has the final say if you have the best practices," the report states. Neglecting the voice of the customer limits the effectiveness of programs designed to improve customer satisfaction.

Companies that can link caller evaluations to the agent can improve first-contact resolution and focus training and coaching on the agents who need it most. Increased first-contact resolution percentages yield higher contact satisfaction and contribute directly to customer loyalty, according to the report.

Customer Relationship Metrics tested this theory in two contact centers over a six-month period. Each one began a voice-of-the-customer program to collect feedback through a post-call customer survey. Each call center implemented the program differently.

For example, Contact Center A, using a completely automated recording system, collected results linked to the specific agent who handled the call and could record verbal comments from customers. In doing so Contact Center A increased first call resolution by 10.3 percent, resulting in 3,120 less repeat calls per month. The result was an annual cost savings of $187,000 (based on $5 per call and 30,000 calls per month).

On the other hand, Contact Center B collected total results, rather than results tying specific calls to specific agents. Verbal comments were not recorded. Contact Center B saw a 2.9 percent decrease of first-contact call resolution, which translated to an additional 870 repeat calls per month and $52,300 in increased annual expenses.

"Quality is important, because in today's commoditized economy the only differentiating factor and competitive advantage a company has is the service it provides," Monger says. "All too often companies that have the best product become extinct due to poor customer service." The report recommends that call centers use completely automated telephone surveys that enable randomly selected customers to take a satisfaction survey immediately after a call, as Contact Center A did in the study, because such a system not only reduces calls, but also provides a higher return on investment for training and coaching.

Some call center managers have implemented a monitoring program that involves five to 20 live and remote monitoring sessions each month. The problem with this type of system, according to the report, is that it doesn't take into account the different methods needed to handle different customer calls efficiently and effectively. "A monitoring form should be a dynamic instrument that can handle different types of interactions with the ultimate goal being 'The customer was satisfied and a repeat contact on this issue should not occur,' " Monger says.

Therefore, the measurement system must be in step with the customer's preferred communication channel. This isn't the case when a customer phones in and the company follows up with an email survey, or if the customer emails a company, which then follows up with a phone survey. "To best measure the effectiveness of service delivery an immediate evaluation is needed via your customer's preferred channel," Monger says. "This will ensure the success of your voice-of-the-customer program, [and] increase your customers' satisfaction and loyalty. It creates the ideal situation that contact center managers are searching for."

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