Customer satisfaction with catalog retailers' call centers outrank centers run by six other industries. Yet this same group is missing opportunities to engage and upsell. Satisfaction at this point of contact is crucial to retaining customer loyalty, and also represents opportunities that many retail call centers are failing to exploit.
The inaugural Call Center Customer Satisfaction Index (CCSI) is from CFI Group, Ann Arbor, MI, and bases its study on the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI). The research was conducted in online surveys with more than 900 participants who had contacted a call center within the past month.
Catalog retailers had a score of 80 on the 100 point scale. It compares with an aggregate score of 71 among all six industries, which include call centers by banks, cell phone services, cable and satellite TV, insurance companies and personal computer companies. The latter scored lowest at 64.
Interaction with a customer service representative (CSR) is one of the biggest factors in customer satisfaction, and catalog retailers' CSRs stood on top with a score of 85. All the others fell below 80, which is considered the threshold for truly superior ACSI scores.
"Most companies don't really understand just how crucial a customer's experience with the call center is," says CFI's Sheri Teodoru, author of the study. "Contact centers are a critical point of engagement for customers.
"If a staff is well trained, if customers are treated appropriately, and if a premium is put on first call resolution, then call centers can actually serve as an engine of loyalty and return on investment," she says. The study also showed that nearly one quarter of those surveyed consider leaving a company based solely on their experience with a call center.
The two biggest factors in customer satisfaction are, "issue resolution and a customer's feeling that the CSR is easy to understand and interested in helping them," Teodoru says. Just nine percent of the callers surveyed said their interaction with a catalog retailer left their issue unresolved, compared with 18 percent overall and 23 percent who said calls to personal computer call centers fell short of resolution.
In the catalog industry, the overwhelming majority of people call to place an order. It's not surprising then that 87 percent of the callers get their issue resolved. Just one fifth call to complain, which is a much lower percentage than in most other industries.
Catalog retailers deal with customers across a variety of contact points, including mail, web, phone and, in some cases, at a store. Because they have so many points of contact, 38 percent of the customers who called had tried to contact the company another way. Of those, the overwhelming majority (95 percent) try the website first and are unable to find what they want.
This shows that a substantial number of calls, and the costs associated with them, could be deflected away from the retailer's call center if the company website was better equipped to meet customer's needs. If even half of those calls were satisfied by the website, it would significantly impact the bottom line and also leave customers more satisfied.
Although 78 percent of callers to catalog merchants' call centers are to order goods, only 22 percent of those centers try to upsell callers. While cell phone CSRs who upsell drive down satisfaction, upselling by catalog call centers have minimal impact on the catalog customer's overall satisfaction.
"It would seem that upselling and cross selling in the catalog call center environment is natural," Teodoru says. "What better opportunity than to suggest that the shoes on page 23 go great with the jacket the customer has just purchased?"
Catalog call centers have another edge: only 37 percent of those polled said they share their experience with others, compared with about 50 percent in other industries.
"Not having a majority of your customers share their experience is actually good news," the report concludes, "Since customers tend to communicate bad experiences." Consistent with catalog retailers' high satisfaction scores, most of their customers indicated they would continue to do business with the company in the future.
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