Consumers Aren't Happy With Your Call Centers

Study Finds One Out of Five Callers Gives Up; PC Companies Worst Offenders

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- When customers call, marketers aren't doing a very good job addressing their concerns.

In research conducted by the CFI Group, Ann Arbor, Mich., customers rated personal-computer support lines the least helpful of all call centers.

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CFI's call center satisfaction data

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That's the conclusion of a new call-center-satisfaction study, which found one-fifth of callers hang up with unresolved issues.

Callers to personal-computer companies were most unhappy, with a satisfaction score of 64 out of a possible 100. Insurance companies and cable and satellite TV companies came in with scores of 68, with cellphone companies close behind, at 69. Catalog call centers and banking companies had the best scores: 80 and 77, respectively.

No brownie points for effort
"Hiring nice perky, nice people isn't enough," said Sheri Teodoru, partner and program director, CFI Group, Ann Arbor, Mich., which headed the study. "You don't get brownie points for effort." Instead, call centers need to have staffers who are not only knowledgeable about the products or services but able to solve problems. They also need to be able to direct consumers to a place where their issues can be resolved, such as the company's website or a retail location.

Ms. Teodoru noted that customers who thought an offshore call center was handling their problems rated their experience 26 points lower -- and were twice as likely to leave the company they were calling -- than those who thought the center was in the U.S.

The study found that marketers in certain industries, such as cellphones, are trying to upsell unhappy consumers -- that is, trying to offer new products to generate more revenue from callers. Almost a third, or 31%, of callers were given sales pitches, she said, and those customers were less satisfied than those who were not approached. "Upselling isn't without its downside," she said.

News travels fast
The study also found that, in the age of the internet, the way calls are handled is one of the fastest-spreading pieces of news about a company. If it's bungled, consumers are going to leave the company, Ms. Teodoru said. "And they're not just going to leave. ... They're going to tell their friends about it."

The study was based on an e-mail survey of 900 people, who were asked about their experiences with call centers in the past 30 days.

Caller satisfaction

Catalog retailers 80 74+
Banking 77 77
Cell phone services 69 70
Cable & satellite television 68 62
Insurance 68 75++
Personal computers 64 77
Aggregate of all 71 75
Source: CFI Group

* As measured by the Call Center Customer Satisfaction Index
** As measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), using the same methodology.
+ Score represents ACSI for retail industry overall, not just catalog retailers
++ Includes health, P&C, and life insurance
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