It’s been a year now since the whole of the Netherlands had an opinion on customer service in the country because of the case highlighted by a famous Dutch columnist. It even attracted ministerial attention, with the Minister for economic affairs insisting it really was time to improve customer service quality. So what exactly is quality of customer service? What elements does a customer value in his or her experience with the customer service department of an organization? A study among 1500 customers showed that this goes way beyond simply steering the waiting time and AHT….
However, the majority of contact centers continue to concentrate precisely on steering matters such as the waiting time and AHT (Average Handling Time). But is that really what customers want in 2011? My survey among 1500 customers of organizations in four different branches showed there to be 7 ‘knobs’ which jointly determine the quality of customer service (CCC Quality).
Trust is currently a major issue for service providers in particular. Now that customers are very dependent on contact via the customer service department, the reliability of that department becomes very important. This concerns matters such as asking the right questions, a first time fix for the question and management of expectations.
This driver mainly concerns the role of the employee. Is he/she friendly? Does he listen well, and take me seriously? Does he focus on solutions? Etc. So training becomes important, but possibly even more so is the intrinsic motivation to truly want (and also be able) to help customers. Effective recruitment and empowerment therefore.
3. Customer centricity
In customer centricity, the organization shows that the interests of the customer truly have priority. Are agreements met? Is proactive advice given? Does the customer feel that the organization actually learns from the signals received from customers?
4. Customer knowledge
This driver can be easily designed through the use of good tooling. What is important is that employees have all customer and product data at their disposal, but also the contact history. The crux then lies in not only having the data available, but also communicating to the customer that you know he already contacted the organization last week.
5. Waiting time
Waiting time concerns not only the actual time itself but also the costs of the telephone contact. This is a clear dissatisfier. When it is reasonably well organized, it has little impact. When waiting times become extreme however, it once again becomes important of course. However, it actually had very little impact on customer satisfaction for the lion’s share of the survey participants.
This can be very simply realized, as it concerns the ease with which the customer service telephone number and opening hours can be found. This visibility is of course a question of including the telephone number on all forms of communication, and not concealing it behind any number of clicks through FAQ. The required opening hours can be quite simply determined through experience and by asking customers’ opinions. And 24h is by no means necessary, so don’t even get into that discussion.
7. Selection menu
Selection menus have a bad image and many companies believe them to be a major source of irritation for customers. My research has shown this to be a great exaggeration. As long as the selection menu is logical, clear and not overly long, its use is not a problem at all. And certainly not if it means that the customer is brought in contact with the person who can offer him a first time fix.
The research also showed reliability and empathy to be the most important aspects for customer experience, at most of the organizations participating in the study. Waiting times, accessibility and the selection menu had very little impact, on the other hand. The results were less black and white when it came to customer centricity and customer knowledge. These aspects had varying impact at different organizations, which may depend on the degree of maturity of the customer service department. However, the results clearly showed that a good customer experience nowadays requires steering of more drivers than simply the waiting time and AHT. Measure CCC Quality among your own customers, and you’ll soon know exactly what improvement points will have the best results for your organization.