Ask any call center manager about their top objectives and you will get answers like “Provide world-class customer service” or “Delight our customers.” Customer service is often the primary point of competitive differentiation and there is a growing recognition that good service is good business. Completely satisfied customers are more loyal than less satisfied customers and tend to purchase more.
However, although superior customer satisfaction is the goal, it is not what we typically measure— at least not well. Satisfaction, like quality, is in the eye of the beholder. The best way to calculate caller satisfaction is to ask callers.
The traditional method to gauge customer satisfaction is to conduct periodic customer surveys via telephone, direct mail, the Web and email. The problem is that these approaches are slow, often expensive, highly imprecise, and not helpful for getting at the root of deviations in customer satisfaction.
Traditional telephone surveys cost an average of $30 per respondent. You will need a random sample of at least 400 callers to produce reasonably reliable information. Even at that level, the measured customer satisfaction could be off by 4%, or more, in either direction. If you need to measure customer satisfaction quarterly, then the annual cost of telephone surveys would be north of $60,000by the time you factor in all the related costs of analysis, tabulations, and fieldwork. And traditional surveys take too long to execute and analyze. Customers are asked to evaluate an event they may no longer remember with precision.
In a perfect world, customer satisfaction data could be reliable, viewed in real time, tied to specific agents, and cost a fraction of traditional third party surveys. Besides providing up to the minute results on customer satisfaction, management can pinpoint the causes of deviations and use tools for general marketing purposes, such as campaign evaluations and testing new products and services.
Automated survey software is integrated with the call center’s IVR system. After the caller has elected to bypass self-service and speak with an agent the IVR asks the caller if he/she would like to participate in a survey after the call.
Typically, they are instructed to press “1” for “yes” and “2” for “no.” Another option is to empower agents to execute the handoff; at the call’s conclusion, the survey engine takes over and asks a series of questions. Callers respond via entries on the touch tone pad. Some systems accept verbal responses. Typically, between 5% and 10%of callers will agree to participate in the survey. Some might agree and won’t actually follow through with the automated survey, but even if the actual rate is 3%, that’s still a rich data base of 30,000 for a call center that handles one million calls per year. As an agent evaluation tool, this translates into 30customer satisfaction ratings per month for each agent (assuming1000 calls per month per agent),which is about six times the typical number of calls evaluated using the quality monitoring system.
Conducting reliable surveys is a science best left to professionals. Few call center managers are trained in survey design, verification methods, and data analysis. It is wise to consult with your market research department, if your company has one, or to call in a third-party expert.
One such expert, Jim Rembach, vice president with Customer Relationship Metrics (Sterling,VA), was kind enough to share some pointers.
Beware of mistakes made by survey takers. One of the most common mistakes is “scale flipping.” If not spotted and corrected, this can swing scores by 5% to 6%. There are ways to spot and correct these errors.
Use a seven to nine-point numerical rating scale. The more choices the richer the response, and greater accuracy of the customer satisfaction measurement.
Conduct the surveys in real time. Automated surveys provide immediate feedback. You can spot trouble in time to make adjustments. Show customer satisfaction levels on your readerboard and agent dashboards to underline the importance of this key metric.
The very fact that the company cares enough to ask for customer feedback in itself can contribute to customer satisfaction gains. Customers want their voice to be heard and respect organizations offering that opportunity.