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Call Centers – The Key to Customer Loyalty

Today’s consumer demands a very high level of customer service at all points of contact. Companies that are able to provide this level of satisfaction are rewarded with true customer loyalty. However, a single negative experience can cause a customer to disengage entirely from a brand.

The CFI Group, an analytical research organization that annually examines U.S. customer satisfaction sentiments, recently completed an extensive study of contact center satisfaction titled the “2009 Contact Center Satisfaction Index (CCSI).” The study found that a major issue for consumer dissatisfaction when interacting with contact centers was caused by the inferior service provided by offshore call centers.

According to the study, domestic call centers continue to provide superior customer service compared to their offshore counterparts. Agents that were perceived to be based in the U.S. showed a four percent improvement in customer satisfaction, while those outside of the U.S. experienced a five percent decline. The high unemployment rate in the U.S. is partially responsible for the negative feelings, especially when coupled with the inferior service provided by offshore centers.

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The customer service representative (CSR) is one of the most important factors in ensuring customer satisfaction. With today’s economic environment, call centers have been able to recruit highly skilled talent helping the CSR experience improve from a score of 77 to 80. Domestic CSRs provided a more positive interaction (84) while offshore CSRs provided lesser service (62).

Additionally, the customer service process employed by contact centers is critical to the success of the program. In order to improve processes, some contact centers employ unified desktop technologies that integrate multiple systems such as billing, ordering and CRM into a single view, on a single platform. This allows the agents to be more efficient when interacting with the customer.

Quick issue resolution is also key to a contact center’s success. In 2009, only eight percent of survey respondents said their issues were not resolved, compared to 18 percent in 2008. Strong agents and clear processes make first call resolution possible. Those who had to call twice to get resolution were 17 percent less satisfied and those who contacted the center three or more times were 27 percent less satisfied.

Domestic call centers provided first call resolution to 68 percent of customers, while offshore agents provided it to less than half, just 42 percent. Also, U.S. call centers left only 6 percent of issues unresolved, compared to 11 percent by offshore centers. Additionally, customers who believe they reached a domestic call center are nearly twice as likely to recommend the company to others, compared to those who think they have reached someone offshore.

As U.S. companies put a strong emphasis on keeping customers happy, many are returning their contact center function stateside. For example, the newspaper industry has seen a major shift in call centers come back to the U.S. In a recent article in NAA.org, Andy Orr, president of Press-One explained that many newspapers previously contracted overseas customer service vendors for cost savings, but have decided to return to domestic companies because expectations were not met. “A lot of it is that call quality, ease of communication, and cultures don’t translate well across the ocean, and it’s hard to teach,” Orr says.

Now more than ever, U.S. companies will need to employ practices to keep customers happy and in turn increase customer loyalty. In order to be profitable and survive, the customer’s call center experience is a critical key to success.

Hope you enjoyed this month's Dialogue.

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