Superior Customer Service Proves Elusive

Tony Kontzer, Contributor

November 12, 2004

3 Min Read

All the technologies that make customer service more efficient and rewarding don't appear to be delivering the desired results. Customers aren't embracing automated support, they are often getting slow responses, and they continue to have frustrating experiences with offshore contact centers and labyrinthine voice-response systems.

All of these trends were identified in a recent study conducted by InformationWeek's sister publications, Managing Offshore newsletter and Call Center magazine, yielding two conclusions: Contact centers are having a hard time getting customers to change long-standing habits, but once they do, they have just as much trouble delivering on the benefits of new technologies.

chartOne of the findings from the study's 560 participants is that nearly two-thirds say they prefer the tried-and-true toll-free phone number to mediums such as E-mail and online forms. Yet phone service isn't without its problems. A majority of the study's consumer call-center respondents report that at least occasionally they've gotten lost in an automated call-routing system and were forced to call back and start over. When callers were routed to an offshore contact center, some two-thirds of them have had difficulty understanding agents' accents, and more than half have found themselves being helped by poorly trained staff.

When they did use either E-mail or a Web form to submit an inquiry, nearly one-third of those surveyed didn't hear back for more than a day, and 7% never heard back. And nearly 60% of those who did hear back got an automated response containing general information.

Interested in knowing more about call centers and outsourcing tactics? Check out managingoffshore.com and callcentermagazine.com.

Tony Kontzer,
Senior Editor
[email protected]

Turnaround Time
How quick was the response of your most recent interaction with a contact center using E-mail or a Web form?

Interacting with contact centers via E-mail or a Web form has been successful for some participants. Nearly a third report receiving a reply to an E-mail or Web-form inquiry in one hour or less, 16% got their answer within several minutes, 7% within seconds, while 9% had a reply in less than an hour.

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Nothing Personal
In your most recent interaction with a contact center using E-mail or a Web form, was the response personalized or automated and general?

The Internet has undoubtedly revolutionized communicating with customers. While company Web sites might offer Web forms and E-mail links for fast and effective interaction with company personnel, businesses need to devote training and resources to ensure customer expectations are met. Of the study's 513 contact-center users who either E-mailed and submitted an inquiry by Web form, only two in five received a reply that was personalized and specific to their needs.

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Offshore Woes
What issues have you experienced with an offshore call center?

Companies looking to offshore call-center coverage aren't only concerned about the cost of the service, they're also worried about the quality of service. One problem encountered by participants in the Managing Offshore newsletter and Call Center magazine study: the lack of customer history. A third of the 130 business customers surveyed report problematic service with an offshore call center because of this.

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Dialing Blunders
How often have you gotten lost attempting to navigate an automated call-center system and been forced to call again?

System problems continue to challenge businesses in pursuit of better customer service, and even the most rudimentary process, such as automated call-routing, can prove frustrating. Study participants primarily prefer to pick up the phone when contacting customer service; 97% of respondents, however, have at times found themselves snared in the multiple automated choices that voice-response systems provide to the point that dialing again becomes the only option.

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