Customer Satisfaction Measurement Can Be Misleading

Satisfaction surveys deliver conflicting information that may not be a true representation of customer sentiment. Satisfaction has become extremely complicated.

Companies can survey about trends, support experiences, and periodically ask user management what they think. In that last scenario, it’s important to realize that managers may not use the product every day. The responses to each of these surveys will also be based on the customer’s background and the attitudes they hold at the time of their participation.

The interest in satisfaction is very high. Executives want to know; analysts are reviewing results and satisfaction is being used for program determination and product development. Based on the variables involved, it may be time to reassess our reliance on survey data. It could be possible that companies are losing track of what’s influencing satisfaction—as well as loyalty.

Customer and inside analytics that provide insight to drivers for satisfaction can also expose a few myths that veil the reality of what’s really going on when we look beyond surface indications.

During a recent webinar on the subject, we asked attendees to choose which method they consider the most important in relation to customer experience. Fifty percent said overall satisfaction and 22 percent indicated they relied upon their Net Promoter score.

Five Myths to Examine within Your Call Center:

The Squeaky Wheel

Management often believes no customer should walk away unsatisfied, paying an inordinate amount of attention to complaining customers (squeaky wheels). The belief is that if the agent can just fix the complaint, then everything will be better. But this approach overlooks that some will never be happy. In fact, the reality may be that firing unhappy customers can often do more to improve customer satisfaction focus than trying to satisfy patently unhappy customers.

Complaints are often representative of only 5% of customer interactions. These can be exceptions and issues that don’t occur frequently. Attending to squeaky wheels can cause companies to overlook other issues that could have a higher impact on satisfaction. Therefore, it is important to measure not only how many complaints you have, but the patterns and reasons for them to make sure they warrant the level of attention you’re paying to them.

For example, for one desktop printer 12 percent of customers were represented in the bottom two satisfaction boxes. The call center had been focused on reducing that percentage without much success.

Once analyzed, it was found that customers were frustrated by chronic product issues, but agents didn’t have the authority to replace or refund. By focusing primarily on the squeaky wheels, a big opportunity was being missed to improve the 75% in the satisfied and neutral boxes. Once the agents’ focus was shifted to the middle boxes, the company was able to achieve a 10% improvement in the top box.

The Person is the Experience

Soft skills won’t improve satisfaction if the agent can’t resolve the issues at the core of the customer call. Empathy is often coached, but the reality is that hard skills that include product and process knowledge will have a higher impact on satisfactory experiences. Clear communications, confidence, product/process knowledge and effective listening are the hard skills that should be amplified for agents to reach higher success.

A high-tech company with satisfaction scores that lagged goals found that soft skills can be effective at the edges, but that hard skills created true improvement. Analysis showed that customers were very sensitive to how well the company kept it’s time commitments. With a focus on improving problem isolation, resolution time was shortened, and satisfaction rose with support engineers.

Solving the Problem Always Leads to Customer Satisfaction

First contact resolution (FCR) can reward the wrong agent behavior and result in customers feeling like they’re being rushed. It is often believed that resolution, not time, is the driver of satisfaction. Resolution is a yes or no question that can get fuzzy in interpretation and may not tie into the customer experience. FCR can be approached in a number of ways. Make sure agents have the appropriate training and processes to produce the outcomes in a way that is judged satisfactory by the customer.

A cell phone manufacturer had great FCR rates, but customer satisfaction was falling. This made no sense. After analyzing calls and observing agents it was obvious that agents were holding on and taking more time trying to solve problems they weren’t equipped to handle, resulting in lower satisfaction due to higher frustration. This process was improved by training agents to do triage to isolate the problem and change the process to route the contact to the agent best equipped to resolve the issue. The shortened time customers spent on the phone increased satisfaction measurably.

More Time Spent Results in a Better Experience

This myth is about the belief that customers will feel more satisfied if agents spend more time with them. It’s the opposite of Myth 3 but isn’t necessarily true. Some of this can be caused by procedures strictly adhered to, such as rebooting machines numerous times when not being effective. Time is precious for the customer as well as the organization. The circumstances must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Time given or taken is not always regarded as a measure of generosity or value by customers.

Giving agents the latitude to spend as much time as they need to service a call can actually mask inefficiency and ineffectiveness. What has been learned is that there are reasonable time limits for specific procedures, issues, and needs. Typically, 10-15 percent of calls account for 25-30 percent of total time spent on calls. Assess the patterns and approaches taken on these calls to identify areas for improvement.

A laptop manufacturer believed that the call takes as long as it takes and that customers would value the time spent with them. The opposite was generally true. Customers were prepared to terminate long calls even though the agent was willing to stay on. Sometimes customers want to be more independent, even if they have to call again. Allow your team to align with customers and to become better diagnosticians at isolating the right problem so the customer is more successful at resolving it on their own, should they choose to do so.

Satisfaction is Equal to Loyalty

Eighty percent of companies in the U.S. use top-two box scores as the definitive measure of satisfaction. One reason is because the top two boxes usually represent close to 75 percent of total customers. What the top two box scores miss is the level of satisfaction. What companies need to do is look at each box individually. What distinguishes them? Is it adequate service that drives box two? Or could the confidence the agent displays influence a box one score?

A wireless carrier had good customer satisfaction scores. But the difference between a well-managed transaction and an experience that exceeds expectations was found in calls that helped the customer achieve something useful that hadn’t occurred to them.

Training agents to use this approach had a dramatic effect on shifting customers from box two to box one in satisfaction. This shift resulted in a tremendous bump to advocacy and loyalty.

Selecting Your Call Center Strategy

Focus on one area to the exclusion of another can keep you from seeing the big picture. Consider why conventional wisdom becomes behavior. Which metrics and processes you choose to assign importance to should be reliant on goals. From business goal to choosing the metric to which box you want to impact; methods will change based on the related situation.

As you design your programs, be sure to question the way you’ve always done it to look for new opportunities that will better align with customer preferences. When customers contact your company for help, agents must be prepared to address their needs in a way that satisfies them—not you.