2/20/2012 3:53 PM ET|
The best, worst of customer support
What do businesses do right -- or wrong -- when they provide phone-based customer service? Research points to some of the reasons why customers come away either satisfied or frustrated.
A call to a customer service department is, in many cases, enough to spike a customer's blood pressure.
There are long hold times, irritating music or, worse, repeated advertisements. After connecting to a call center, perhaps one staffed by reps with foreign accents, you will probably be rushed into a quick and easy "fix" that may, or may not, solve the problem, since many call centers rate their reps' success by how many customers they handle in a set amount of time.
Why are so many customer calls handled so poorly?
Peter Leppik is the CEO of Vocal Laboratories, also known as Vocalabs, a Minnesota company that digs deep into what some companies do right, and wrong, when it comes to customer-support calls. Rather than cast a broad net, his firm's approach to its National Customer Service Survey -- ongoing research on customer satisfaction with phone-based customer service -- focuses in depth on three vertical markets: computer technical support, mobile phone customer service and major national consumer banks.
What phone support should -- or can -- accomplish varies from industry to industry, sector to sector. For retailers, for example, customers may complain about being routed to a centralized support center. But the alternative, having staff answer phones at each location, distracts staff from being on the floor helping in-person customers.
The computer marketplace
The computer marketplace has its own unique challenges.
"There are a lot of things that can be fully automated," Leppik says. "But with tech support there are actually very few things that can be fully automated."
Apple, year after year, has been lauded by customers and consumer groups for having stellar customer support, and overall Vocalabs' research bears out that reputation.
"In most industries there are one or two companies that really get it," Leppik says. "In terms of tech support, Apple has a reputation that is justified. The statistics we have collected show that they are significantly ahead of their peers."
What Apple has done right, and where others flounder, is in the "strategic decision that they are going to compete on the basis of customer service," Leppik says.
It is a lesson other companies might want to emulate.
"You don't necessarily have to spend a whole lot more money providing a level of service, but what's important is that everybody on that front line understands that what the company does is important," Leppik says. "There are a lot of companies that do not feel like that customer service is important. They send the jobs to India. (For others), they are giving the message to employees that what they are doing is strategically important and the company cares and is watching."
Despite accolades, Apple does occasionally stumble and could be losing its edge as competitors make improvements.
Vocalab's 2011 surveys found that Apple continues to lead Dell and Hewlett-Packard in customer-service quality for phone-based technical support. But customers are reporting more problems with the automated part of their calls.
In telephone interviews immediately following a support call, 58% of Apple customers were "very satisfied" with the experience during the first six months of 2011, compared with 47% of Dell customers and 53% of HP customers. Apple's satisfaction score is down 15 points from a year ago, though, while HP has improved nine points over the past two years.
Customers remain highly satisfied with Apple's support agents, with 77% of customers in the first six months of last year being "very satisfied" with their technician, compared with 56% of Dell customers and 61% of HP customers.
The automated part of the call is a different story, with only 24% of Apple customers being "very satisfied" with that part of the experience, trailing Dell's 36% and HP's 40%. In this survey period, 40% of Apple customers reported a problem with the automated part of the call, nearly double the 21% rate from a year earlier.
"Apple used to be well ahead of the pack in tech support," Leppik said at the time of the study. "Now it would be fair to say that they are merely at the front of the pack. Apple used to lead on nearly every metric for support quality. Now there are several metrics where Apple is tied with its competition, or even trails."
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but I guess there are SOME who have nothing BUT bad days when they're dealing with certain companies...?
I'd say that the COLLEGE of SOUTHERN NEVADA is that for me; there's NEVER been an issue that they could solve; it took them 5 semesters to get my last name right(?) (and it's a common American last name). In fact, I still won't know if everything is "fixed" until the end of this semester--we're talking "w's" at the end of every semester for 5 semesters so far...because the professors had a different last name for me than the administrative dept toward the end of the semester! When I should be preparing for finals...I'm busy making sure I haven't gotten "dropped" in the last two weeks of the semester (doing the Admins job for them).
I even got dropped (from an on-line course through this college-by the admin) midway through last semester when I was prepping for midterms! That means that I spent 6+ weeks worth of essays, reading, and testing with courses that I did not get any credit for. At least that time though...I didn't have to deal with switching the "w"; there was no grade-not EVEN a "w" to deal with. So I was like an invisible student for 6 weeks. I sure's hell didn't FEEL invisible while I was doing the work.They (admin. and professors) said that it was a rare occurance...not RARE to me. I have gone to other colleges...and I can say that this is a VERY unusual college...and I'll be happy to finish this semester without further incident inflicted by the personnel. Unfortunately, their past record with me (and many other students at this college) has indicated that the opposite is closer to reality. That's NOT what I'm paying for. This type of problem happens on a regular basis at this college. I had an English professor who said it happened to her when she was a student there fifteen years ago! The problems are the same--only the customers change. And guess what? There are thousands more customers behind me...
I'm not here to argue with anybody anyway...I'm more goal oriented than that (as seen by my BOLD faced type). Looks to me that we're all on the same page;there's really only a few people defending crappy customer service...passively at best.
I'm not saying that you were making excuses haha...maybe I should put the posting away for the day...I'm like the person stuck in quick sand...the more I do the more I sink kinda thing going on haha. I just have had it up to my ears with one business in particular...and wanted people to know so as to avoid finding themselves in the same spot down the road.
I know alot of other students who've had the same kind of problems with the same college...but I think that the reason the college (that's the COLLEGE of SOUTHERN NEVADA :) still does business the way they do...is because the "customers" are mainly young adults... who don't stand up to complain? Well--I am usually pretty good about tolerating...but I have my limits. It bothers me that they get away with it.
I'm not assuming...I just don't like it when people make excuses for crappy customer service. Don't call it "customer service" if you mean "Company Damage Control". :)
I've had many years on both sides of the fence as well...but when/where I worked we weren't allowed to use excuses--and WORSE; the customers were "always right". I can say that they were NOT always right...but they came back due to the way their complaints were handled. There were always other companies that they (customers) could've gone to and they always had that to there advantage of course. We knew that too. We also knew that they were the ones keeping us employed.
I've also had positions with imposed time limits...but I always focused on quality vs. quatity. Didn't always go well with employers (lol)...but they kept me around :) because I (through returning customers) was an asset. It's a way of doing things that's in decline I'd say.
@TCLucas...I KNOW; I see that...I changed my post but now I can't seem to get it to post...better call customer service dept lol :)
To anyone that hides behind "i'm just an employee", "there's only a few of us", "we have NO control over it", "we have time limits to meet...or else" and "we're doing our best"
Your "best" most times does not (can NOT) amount to "customer service" when it's timed...it's only enough to make your greedy boss happy and you still employed (perfectly passive enabler). The ONLY reason they even give you time limits (pidly minutes) on remedial phone calls...is because they already have what THEY want and could give a crap about the customer once the customer is screwed into a contract. You are damage controll...sort of; your boss puts you in the position to take the heat and they know customers will get tired of complaining eventually. They want you to give off the impression that you can't be bothered with the customers because (I'm sure there must be studies on it) they know the customer will give up the complaint due to frustration. They could REALLY give a rat's hind end about the customers...OR YOU. If they give a crap about YOU...they'd have jobs that customer service reps could actually DO sufficiently enough so as to KEEP customers. If you wanna defend yourself...you should be telling that EMPLOYER where to stick it for putting YOU in such a position (the FIRING line) and calling it "customer service dept." when REALLY they mean the "screw the customer til they get tired of calling...theres millions more where they came from Dept." ...you should be mad at the person who employs others (you) to do a song an dance...and dodge angry unsatisfied customers...because with only a few timed minutes allowed per customer (NEXT) to "help" a justifiably unhappy customerwho's apparently JUST a number...that's EXACTLY what you get...and that's exactly what your employer wants you to get. Find a position that is more fitting if you don't like being the "shield" for a lame a$$ company that throws YOU to the angriness they cause.
yes you only have 480 seconds to resolve a call. if it takes longer on a regular basis you will get fired as i did. most cs reps only last a couple of months. if a company is going to cust cost it wont be in sales or research or billing. i spent 5 years as a cs and all they did was get rid of all my benefits and capped my wages no raises for 4 of the 5 years i worked there. i finally realized the only loser in this field was me so i got another job. working as a cs was the worst paying stressfull job i ever had i will never repeat that experience.
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