Customer Experience News & Trends

Customer satisfaction has sunk: 10 ways to crank it back up

New research found customers are about as unhappy as ever — but there are plenty of ways to improve the customer experience.

Across most industries, customer satisfaction is down. People are disappointed in the customer service they receive compared to what they expect.

The hard truth: Overall satisfaction with companies and their level of customer service dropped 10% in the past year, according to the CFI Group’s Contact Center Satisfaction Index. It’s an ongoing national study of thousands of consumers across industries — banking, utilities, retail, insurance, etc. It’s measured satisfaction for dearly a decade.

The latest research found the average score drop to 69 on the 100-point scale. That’s down from the record high of 77 a year prior.

“With such a large drop in customer satisfaction, companies need to focus on improving their contact center’s policies and procedures currently in place as they look for ways to return to the prior year’s satisfaction levels,” said CFI Group’s VP of Marketing and Development Terry Redding.

Big consequences

What’s worse, there are serious consequences for not improving service and the experience. Nearly two-thirds of customers around the world switched service providers because of poor customer service experiences in 2013, according to the 2013 Accenture Global Pulse Survey.

That was up 4% from the previous year. So customers are walking away more often when customer service doesn’t meet their expectations.

On the bright side, it shouldn’t take a complete overhaul of customer service and its processes to win back customer love. Companies that make changes to ensure customers have consistent, pleasant experiences at every touch point will see their satisfaction ratings rise, predicts Redding.

“The focus will aid more than just scores,” he said. “It is vital from a company profit perspective as satisfied customers buy more and recommend the companies to others more frequently, all of which contribute to the bottom line.”

Here are practical, tactical and proven ways to improve service so customers like — dare we say, love — their experiences:

Take to the phone

179047499With the emergence of social media and online chat, we might consider the phone an antiquated version of the service menu. But customers don’t at all. Two-thirds of customer communication is still done via the telephone, the CFI research found. A little more than half of customers in the study said they preferred doing business that way.

So the phone — and the people behind it — should still be the most important area of focus for improving the customer experience.

Share the signs of a great call

You don’t have to be in Service or Sales to take a call from customers. It’s likely that nearly everyone in your organization will talk to customers at one time or another. Unfortunately, most aren’t prepared to do it well. Post these phone tips in areas for everyone to see. Even better, get managers to share them periodically in department meetings or training.

  • Breathe. A long, deep breath before answering a call will put energy in the conversation.
  • Identify yourself. Tell the person on the other end of the phone your first and last name — even if you know each other well. It helps them identify you immediately and feel more comfortable talking to you right off the bat.
  • Relay sincerity. Maintain a gentle, professional tone for a kind chat and memorable experience.
  • Visualize the person. It will help keep you focused on listening to customers and getting things resolved immediately.
  • End it well. Customers will remember their last impression best. Close on a positive note.

Prune the branches

Make it easier for customers to talk to you. After all, if they dial, it means they want to talk to someone. That’s why J.D. Power & Associates slowly eliminated its phone tree, pulling options one by one, while training reps so they were equipped to handle more and more queries.

Guess what happened? Once they answered most calls personally, satisfaction scores exceeded expectations, according to Mark Miller, senior director of market development at the Contact Center Practice Global Services & Emerging Industries Division at J.D. Power.

Make the call

One of the biggest phone blunders is a failure to call back customers — whether they leave a message or have already talked to someone but the situation wasn’t fully resolved. Rather than wait until everything customers need is at hand, anyone who talks with customers needs to make at least a daily call to say “I’m waiting on …” 

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