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Are You Satisfying Your Customers?

The latest report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (Michigan School of Business) reports the following:

Customer dissatisfaction with the quality goods and services offered in the marketplace is more than a nuisance. The US economy is heavily dependent on increases in consumer spending. Such increases are hard to come by when consumers become less satisfied. The ACSI fell dramatically in the fourth quarter of 2004. The Index now stands at 73.6 ? dropping nearly 1% compared with the third quarter. One would have to go back almost seven years to find an equivalent decline.

While high levels of customer satisfaction typically lead to company growth, it is not always the case that business growth leads to satisfied customers. In many cases, the opposite is true.

What's interesting with this study is that since 1995 customer service has consistently not made the grade, and services continue to top the list in terms of customer dissatisfaction. Remember we're all in the service business!

Taken even further, growing customer dissatisfaction with contact center service levels is boosting the use of IVRs as 20% of customers opt for self service channels over live agents. That's 1 in 5 customers bypassing the human because of poor service. (CRM Today, 2/18/05).

Most of us know the impact and cost of repeat calls, bad call experiences, poor service, (if you don't go to http://www.human-technologies.com/n ewsletter_archive.html). What can you do starting right now?

First, how and what are you measuring for customer satisfaction? Measurement systems must not only be in step with the customer's preferred communication channel, but the effectiveness of service delivery should be immediate.

What does this mean? If the interaction is via phone, a survey should be via phone, not by a subsequent email. Are you actually asking the customer for feedback on their experience-what is now jargoned as 'the voice of the customer?' Merely using metrics will give you guidelines, but could be false security. Go to the source. Ask your customers!

Second, according to the third National Complaints Culture Survey unhappy customers are growing increasingly frustrated with the way their complaints are being handled, and hard-pressed call center staff are being hindered by a lack of training and support from their employers.

Since calls coming into an organization are escalated before they're even answered-if I could successfully find my answers through the website, self service, VRU, IVR, etc. I wouldn't need to talk to a human-so employees need more tools than ever before to diffuse what is being presented to them such that they can move the customer onto a more productive interaction, and close the call.

Where will they find these tools? The simple answer is with customer centric training. Off the shelf, generic, or outdated training is like trying to put a round peg in a square hole. Today's training modules must be customized to the customer, not the statistics, and training must be presented ongoingly. It must be highly interactive, current, and robust with role playing opportunities.

Remember, training is a process, not an event

ROSANNE D'AUSILIO, Ph.D., industrial psychologist, President of Human Technologies Global, Inc., specializes in human performance management for contact centers, providing needs analyses, instructional design, and customized, live, world class customer service skills trainings. Also offered: agent/facilitator certification through Purdue University's Center for Customer Driven Quality.

Known as 'the practical champion of the human, she authors the best-sellers, Wake Up Your Call Center: Humanize Your Interaction Hub, 4th edition (hot off the press), and Customer Service and The Human Experience. Reach her at Rosanne@human-technologies.com, sign up for her complimentary monthly e-newsletter in its 7th year, and check out her new virtual store.

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