The Customer Service Survey

Starting Over

by Peter Leppik on Wed, 2012-07-11 15:28

Resolution is a key metric in customer service. Whether you successfully resolve a customers issue on a given call drives customer satisfaction, loyalty, operating cost, and just about every other business metric you care to choose.

It makes sense. Customers want their problems solved (that's why they're calling, after all). If they don't get that, they're going to be upset. They're also likely to call back, driving up call volume and expense.

What's more, a customer calling for the second (or third, or fourth...) time is substantially less like to be satisfied with the call, get her problem resolved, and be loyal to the company as compared to a customer calling for the first time.

Again, none of this is surprising. It's a pain to have to call a company multiple times for the same problem, and if a customer couldn't get it solved the first time it's likely to be a relatively complex issue.

But what can we do about those repeat callers to improve their experience?

In our National Customer Service Survey over the past 18 months we have conducted over 8,000 customer interviews immediately after a customer service call. This covers eleven different companies across three different industries.

I recently dove into this rich data set to take a closer look at the problem of repeat customer service calls. 19% of the customers we interviewed said they were calling after an earlier failed attempt to solve the same problem, and these customers' experiences were dismal. Customers calling back were 26 points less satisfied with the company overall, 24 points less satisfied with their call, and 23 points less likely to get their problem resolved as compared to first-time callers.

We also ask a follow-up question when a customer is calling back: Did you feel like you had to start over from the beginning on this call, or were you able to pick up where you left off from the earlier call?

And this is where the data gets really interesting. 78% of the people calling back felt they had to start over from the beginning, and those customers were miserable. 32 points less satisfied with the company than first-time callers, 31 points less satisfied with the call, and 27 points less likely to get their problem resolved.

On the other hand, customers who were able to pick up where they left off were just as likely to be satisfied and have their problem resolved as first-time callers (to roughly within the statistical margin of error).

That's a surprising result. It implies that customers don't mind calling back, as long as they don't have to start over.

It also cuts to the core of how most call centers are organized. Most call centers are structured around handing calls, not issues. Each call is a distinct event, tracked and managed independently from any other calls the same customer may have made.

Customers, on the other hand, don't feel this way. They have a problem they want solved, and each time they have to start over it's just added frustration and effort.

Getting to where customers don't have to start over each call is hard. It requires investment in technology, different metrics, and a new attitude. But I think the benefits in satisfaction, loyalty, and cost are clearly worth it.

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