Five Myths of Customer Satisfaction
Recently, I co-presented a webinar with Michael Clarkin, VP of Marketing, Sykes Enterprises. Mike is the author of a white paper called The Five Myths of Customer Service Satisfaction: Setting Your Sights on the Right Targets. He identifies five areas that can become “traps” for companies who are trying to build customer loyalty and how to avoid those traps.
Myth One: The squeaky wheel deserves the most attention (or, if I can just fix this complaint, everything will be better)
Customer service departments, in their quest to create a loyal customer with every interaction, may spend undue time and effort on persistently unhappy and frequently complaining customers. Typically, 5-10% of customers fall into the bottom two boxes. If a company is experiencing higher than these rates, it makes sense to look for trends in the complaints and introduce improvements to those trends.
However, if the bottom two boxes are at 10% or less, it is probable that at that level of dissatisfaction there is probably not an issue with people, processes or policies. At that point, issues can be handled on an exception basis and priority would be given to other initiatives.
Myth Two: The person is the experience (or, if agent soft skills are good enough, satisfaction scores will be where they should be)
This myth stems from the thought that if a customer has a positive experience with an employee, that feeling will extend to the brand and loyalty will result. The problem arises when too much focus is put on the soft skills of the front-line employee. For an agent with strong technical skills, the addition of superior soft skills will move an agent’s ratings from good to great. But those soft skills will not make up for an agent that does not have the requisite skills to resolve customer issues or are saddled with cumbersome processes or slow systems.
Companies can avoid this trap by assuring that an employee is hired and coached to attain high levels of soft skills. They must also understand the technical aspects of the position and be empowered to handle the customer issues as effectively as possible.
Myth Three: Solving the problem always leads to customer satisfaction (or, we just need to get it right the first time)
Many companies measure First Call Resolution (FCR) as their top priority as they believe it is a more tangible metric than overall satisfaction. While FCR can be a valuable metric, there are two important considerations when operationalizing this measure. First, FCR is hard to define and measure, especially if the customer does not verify that the issue has been resolved. Secondly, a false assumption can be made that customers with good experiences had their problem solved. In fact, this research found that a high percentage of customers indicating a high satisfaction did not have their issues resolved on the first call.
There are many components of a successful resolution for customers. First call resolution is a good metric, but used singularly it can be deceptive. Managers should continue to coach team members on soft skills and review processes to assure staff members are empowered to solve issues.
Myth Four: More time = better experience (or, if we spend more time with customers, they’ll be happier)
While it may seem logical that satisfaction will increase with the amount of time spent, the argument falls apart when the time spent becomes more than the customer is willing to invest or if the customer feels their time is not being used productively. This study found that while excessively long calls accounted for 10-15% of the calls, the time accounted for 20-25% of the total call time. And they found the longest calls are more likely to result in lower customer satisfaction!
Standards should be set for each type of call, with manager oversight on calls that exceed those standards. Review should include whether the call was due to unusual customer issue or agent inefficiency.
Myth Five: Satisfaction = loyalty (or, if our top two box customer satisfaction scores are OK, we’re doing fine)
The most common corporate metric of customer satisfaction is the “top two boxes” score, which measures how many customers are satisfied or very satisfied with the company’s product or service. However, research shows that the distinction between the top two boxes is extremely important. The customer responding with the highest possible score is an advocate – the ideal customer. As a result, moving customers up a box, from the second to the first, can have a huge impact on future sales.
Choose your “box.” Each experience box has distinct inherent problems that have different solutions; thus requiring different approaches. Whether it is managing exceptions at the bottom, basics in the middle or more subtle soft skills at the top, no one strategy will impact everyone.
Connection with the customer is what makes the difference. That’s how customers go from relying on a business -- an impersonal entity -- to individual people they trust. As important as our technology and processes are, they are delivered by people. And the best of these people are knowledgeable, accessible, compassionate and good communicators. Fortunately, these are skills that can be measured, taught and coached so that customer satisfaction can continue to improve – helping meet those important retention goals as well as generating new referrals.