We're running a consumer attitudes survey right now to collect data about what consumers like and dislike about phone service these days.
Since the survey is still ongoing, I don't have final results, and I haven't had a chance to analyze anything yet, but here are a couple of interesting tidbits.
We gave participants a list of factors which they think are important for providing good customer service. The number one choice? "Make it easy to reach a live person (if necessary)," selected by 79% of participants so far. The #2 choice is "Be courteous, polite, and professional," chosen by 73% (participants are allowed to choose more than one option).
So far, nothing too surprising, though it is interesting to note that making it easy to reach a person was selected more often than "Wait only a short time to talk to a person" (selected by 67%). Consumers seem to be saying it's less frustrating to wait on hold than having to hunt for the option to talk to an agent.
Another question asked participants to choose factors which are most important in bad service. The top two options (a statistical tie at about 68% each) were "When you have to call more than once for the same problem, you have to start over from scratch each time," and "You're forced to go through repetitive or irrelevant steps to get help."
Given that these choices beat out even such dramatic problems as "The person you spoke to was rude or unprofessional," and "The company doesn't do things it promised to do, like fix a problem, issue a credit, etc." is really intriguing, and I'm guessing that the top two choices won out because they are much more common problems. Companies have (for the most part) gotten pretty good with call monitoring, coaching, and other QA problems, so rude agents and broken promises don't happen as often as they once did.
On the other hand, the top two bad service issues have the common thread of being systemic to the operations of a call center. The roots of these problems are buried in a company's disinterest in looking at its customer service from a customer's perspective, so nobody ever asks key questions like, "How does this call come across to the customer from end-to-end, when I consider the IVR, agents, transfers, etc. as a whole rather than individually," and "Is this step necessary from the customer's perspective, or is it just a hoop we're making him jump through for the convenience of the company?"
I'll have more on this survey data in a few days when it's completed.