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Contact Center Satisfaction Index Reports Better Service Thanks to Domestic Agents

June 17, 2009

Excellent service from high quality well-trained and managed contact center agents can make the difference.  And domestic agents dramatically outperformed their offshore counterparts, and IVR systems.
 
Those are the conclusions of the third annual study of customer satisfaction with contact centers which credits the performance of agents and improved issue resolution for the second consecutive jump in the Contact Center Satisfaction Index (CCSI) from CFI Group.
 
The CCSI, which employs the proven methodology of the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, climbed three percent to 74 on a 100-point scale. Credit unions, banking, and insurance led the way in raw numbers: 81, 79, and 79 respectively. Cable and satellite TV saw the most improvement, climbing to 8 percent to 71. On the other side of the scale government plummeted by 8 percent to 64, retail dropped 5 percent to 72, while personal computers held steady at a relatively dismal 69.
 
According to the report, agents improved across all measured areas, including courteousness, knowledge, ease of understanding, interest in helping, and effectiveness in handling issues. The poor economic environment may have created ideal conditions for them to excel.
 
“Two things are happening in the slumping economy: unemployment is still pretty high, and contact centers may be benefiting from more qualified job applicants,” says Sheri Teodoru, CEO of CFI Group. “Also, contact centers are experiencing much lower turnover, creating a bigger pool of CSRs [contact center agents] that can leverage experience to help customers resolve their issues,” “But expect that to change when the economy recovers. Companies should be prepared to lose some of their most qualified CSRs.”
 
The biggest jumps in the CCSI were made by industries that experienced the biggest improvements in agent scores. And U.S.-based contact centers beat offshore contact centers at every level, especially in agent performance and issue resolution.
 
Domestic agents scored 84 out of a possible 100 points, while their offshore counterparts hit 26 percent lower at 62. U.S.-based contact centers do a better job of resolving issues on the first call i.e. first call resolution or FCR (68 percent of the time) than those perceived to be located offshore (42 percent). The result is higher customer satisfaction with contact centers perceived to be based in the U.S. (78 vs. 56 for offshore) and half as many unresolved issues as those perceived to be offshore. 
 
“The impact of offshoring on loyalty is enormous,” says Teodoru. “Customers are nearly twice as likely to recommend the company to others if they think the contact center is in the U.S., while they are three times more likely to defect if they believe it was based offshore.”
 
FCR is still the key to satisfaction. There is a dramatic 26-point difference in satisfaction between those who got their issues resolved on the first call (83) and those who required 3 or more calls (57). Unresolved issues declined since last year’s study, with only 1 in 10 surveyed reporting that their issues remained unresolved. 
 
The report also showed that live agents deliver better customer satisfaction than IVR, yet many customers are greeted by IVR when they reach a contact center. Those who had to go through an IVR to speak with an agent are much less satisfied than those who reached an agent (69 vs. 79 respectively, a 13 per cent differential).
 
“IVRs are a necessary evil for many companies, but improving them is not the key for success,” Teodoru added. “Customer service is a personal experience, so the best thing a contact center can do is invest in its people, not its machines.”
 

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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