Vocalabs Newsletter: Quality Times


In This Issue:

December SectorPulse Results

By Peter Leppik

The most recent round of SectorPulse surveys comparing customer service quality in the mobile phone and financial services industries concluded at the end of December. This is our seventeenth quarterly report on mobile phone companies, and our eleventh report on financial services companies. This is also our final SectorPulse report, as we are discontinuing this product in favor of a new methodology based on our Service Quality Tracker (see the article in this issue).

Mobile Phones

Over the four years we've been collecting data about the mobile phone industry, the big story is the long-term, sustained, and significant improvement in overall customer service quality across the industry. In addition to the improvement in caller satisfaction shown in the chart on this page, the industry has improved its call automation rate and reduced the average call time, while not losing any ground in call completion rates and caller frustration rates. Customer loyalty, in contrast, has declined across the board since our first report covering the end of 2003.

In the December quarter, all four companies posted improved caller satisfaction scores. Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile tied for first place with "A's" in Caller Satisfaction and "A's" in Call Completion. AT&T earned all "B's."

Our survey sample for Sprint was too small to issue letter grades this quarter, but the company's raw scores put it in the "C" range on both benchmarks.

Financial Services

We publish quarterly data in the Financial Services industry and use rolling six-month statistics. We currently track Bank of America, Citibank, PayPal, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Wells Fargo, and Wachovia; though our survey sample for Wachovia has never been sufficient to issue letter grades to the company.

Most of the grades this quarter, as usual, were "C's" and "D's", indicating below-median scores. Bank of America took first place with a "C" for Caller Satisfaction and a "B" for Call Completion. Washington Mutual earned a "B" for Caller Satisfaction and a "D" for Call Completion. Citibank and Wells Fargo tied with "C's" for Satisfaction and "D's" Completion, and PayPal earned all "D's." Even though we did not issue Wachovia letter grades, the company's survey scores were above the median in both major benchmarks.

This has been a turbulent period in the financial services industry, and that often has a negative impact on customer service quality. So far, however, we have not seen any meaningful industry-wide decline in customer survey scores, though the industry continues to perform worse than others on our benchmarks.

Ending SectorPulse

By Peter Leppik

For the past four years, we've been publishing quarterly customer service statistics on major companies in several industries, under the name SectorPulse. Currently we're tracking the banking and mobile phone industries, and in the past we also tracked airlines.

In this newsletter we discuss the results for the December 2007 survey, and we've decided that this will be the last set of SectorPulse reports.

Instead, we'll be focusing on developing and expanding our Service Quality Tracker product, which provides similar head-to-head comparisons of customer service quality, but using a different data collection method.

There are a number of reasons for the change: first and foremost, Service Quality Tracker uses data from unpaid participants who are not part of a consumer panel, but who volunteer to participate on a call-by-call basis. We think this is a superior technique, since it avoids the problem of "professional survey-takers" inherent in any paid survey panel.

In addition, Service Quality Tracker uses a live interviewer who calls the customers within a few minutes of the end of a customer service call, rather than an online survey. This opens up participation to anyone, rather than limiting it to people with Internet access--though to be fair, Internet access isn't much of a demographic limitation in the United States any more.

Other reasons for the change include the fact that most of our clients are using a call-back interview survey, rather than panel research, so this ensures that the data we collect is as comparable as possible to the data our clients are collecting for internal purposes. Service Quality Tracker is a continuous process, rather than happening in quarterly chunks, so it's possible to compare companies over arbitrary and flexible date ranges. Finally, Service Quality Tracker is easier for us to manage internally.

So while it's always a difficult decision to discontinue a successful product with a history, we think this is the right decision for us now. Look for new developments in our Service Quality Tracker over the next several months.

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