In general, retailers' call centers are helping to solve their shoppers' problems. But a drop in customer satisfaction should serve as a warning sign for companies to provide more training to associates, according to the second annual Contact Center Satisfaction Index.
The Customer Service Representative Score for retailers was a healthy 81, above the overall score of 77, reported CFI Group, based in Ann Arbor, MI. But the retailer number is down from the 85 posted by the retail sector last year.
In addition, 77 percent of retailer call center users report that their issues are resolved by call centers, placing retail second only to hotels among call center sectors. Other sectors in the study are banking, cable and satellite TV, cell phone service, government, insurance, and personal computers.
That figure, however, is a 10 percent decline from a year ago, which is the first time the study was conducted. One possible reason is that as shoppers perform the more mundane tasks of ordering products over the Internet, they turn to call centers for more complex information.
"To some degree, call centers may be a victim of their own success," said Sheri Teodoru, CEO of CFI Group. "A lot of the simpler inquiries decreased dramatically. People now call with product support questions," which she said include queries about lengths and sizes.
CFI Group conducted an online survey of 2,200 qualified respondents who had called a contact center within the previous month and interacted with a customer representative.
Other sectors were not found as effective as retailers, possibly because U.S. retailers do not outsource their call center functions overseas to the same degree as other users. Many respondents in other sectors, such as computer companies, report that they sometimes found foreign accents difficult to understand over the phone.
To improve their scores and differentiate themselves from their competition, the study suggests that retailers should begin building a customer database, as the hotel industry has done. Equally important, they should provide their call center associates with more specific information about the products.
"They need to start monitoring the questions they get," Teodoru suggested. "You don't want to wait six months to see you're getting questions about an inseam size."
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