The Ascent Group Inc.

The Ascent Group, Inc.

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Customer Effort vs Customer Satisfaction

An extract from Call Quality Practices 2012

Call quality monitoring refers to the process of listening to or observing an agent’s phone conversations or other multi-media contacts with customers. Not only can it improve the customer experience, it can also improve overall call center performance, reduce callbacks, focus training efforts, identify process improvement opportunities, and facilitate employee development. Call quality monitoring can be one of the most effective methods for improving the level of service you provide to your customers.

While companies can measure customer satisfaction through customer focus groups, customer contact follow-up telephone surveys, and written satisfaction surveys, the results are often not timely enough or detailed enough to help individual agents understand their impact or contribution. A call monitoring session on the other hand, if done correctly, can instantly deliver a wealth of customer information, gauge individual agent performance and reveal a lot about your business processes and policies.

New technology and dedicated Quality Assurance (QA) groups have made it possible to offload some of the burden from supervisors while at the same time, conduct more monitoring sessions per month per employee than were possible in the past, our research confirms this.

Companies are also beginning to link customer satisfaction survey results to individual calls and interactions, letting customers judge call quality and thereby taking some of the subjectivity out of internal call quality ratings.

Has this led to higher customer satisfaction, improved call center performance, or more effective agents? Our survey reveals that there are advantages and disadvantages to both, and that there are no guarantees. Some companies have experienced great success while others are struggling. As most call center managers have found, call quality assurance is a highly complex process—from both a people and technology standpoint. Call quality monitoring programs can be challenged by many factors, including:

Quality Monitoring programs can be challenged by many factors, including:

• Difficulty in designing evaluation criteria

• Lack of buy-in or credibility

• Insufficient resources or time

• Lack of automation or poor system reliability or support

• Inadequate training for coaches and supervisors

• Inconsistent evaluation results

• Lack of support from management

• Inability to accurately measure the customer experience

With all this in mind, the Ascent Group’s conducted research during 2012 to better understand how companies are monitoring the quality of customer calls and other customer transactions. We asked companies to share their call monitoring experiences to help us identify the practices that make or break a quality monitoring process. We also asked them to provide their plans moving forward as well as lessons learned along the way. The results of this research are contained in the following report.

What Did We Learn?

Companies who have implemented call quality programs have realized significant improvement in call quality, customer satisfaction, employee performance, and overall call center performance. Companies report specific improvement in call quality ranging from five to ten percent. Attributed gains in customer satisfaction ranged from five to twelve points. Some report significant reduction in failure rates, handle time, and callbacks. Other improvements mentioned included: higher first call resolution, fewer customer complaints, fewer errors, improved overall call quality, improved service level, reduced turnover, and higher employee morale.

Call quality monitoring is key to understanding the customer experience, as well as identifying trends in customer expectations. While this may have been the underlying goal of most call quality monitoring for many years, truly measuring the customer’s experience has always been challenging. Early call monitoring efforts focused on improving call quality through improved agent consistency and call handling. However, most companies ended up developing call quality criteria that really only measured compliance with internal processes and policies, and didn’t necessarily translate to a better customer experience.

More recently, many companies have begun to match internal call quality observations with customer satisfaction surveys, primarily post-call surveys, measuring internal policy and procedure compliance through observation, and asking the caller to rate quality (satisfaction). This has simplified and strengthened the call quality monitoring process by removing some of the subjectivity from supervisory or QA ratings while at the same time focused employees and management on the customer experience. However, it also requires active participation from customers to rate their satisfaction with the call. Many callers just do not take the time to properly rate a call or transaction; post-call surveys often capture the extremes, making it difficult to collect an appropriate sample.

Additionally, individual call handling satisfaction ratings usually do not portray the total customer experience. A customer’s experience and satisfaction or dissatisfaction is shaped through all the touch points—the bill and bill stuffers, website interactions, in-person interactions, phone and chat conversations…it can be one event or the sum of several recent events, making it difficult to capture in a post-call survey or customer satisfaction survey.

The amount of work or effort expended by customers directly impacts satisfaction—less is always more.

To improve the customer experience, all touch point experiences should be as smooth and satisfying as possible for most customers—make it easy to do business with your company. While this sounds simple, it requires an understanding of the steps customers must take to transact business, the number of times they must contact your company, be transferred to the right company representative, circle through your automated answering system to find the right prompt, fill out applications or forms, send in payments, or visit your website to find a piece of information, or follow-up with a representative to make sure something was done… All these actions influence the experience and the likelihood that customers will want to continue to do business with you. A measurement of customer effort correlates very highly with customer satisfaction.

Customer effort scoring examines customer experience, as measured by the amount of effort that a customer must expend to interact with a company. This methodology quantifies just how easy or hard it is to do business with your company. The CE Score can be used to measure the customer experience for phone, chat, field, and face-to-face customer interactions. The following example demonstrates CE Scoring for customer transactions by phone:

The customer effort is assessed through sampling, in the same manner as traditional call monitoring, however, each call is examined to understand a little bit more about the underlying experience. Key factors that influence customer effort and ultimately, the customer experience, are identified, scored, and tracked.

A Customer Effort Score is calculated for each interaction—the higher the customer effort score, the lower the customer satisfaction and first call resolution. Customer Effort Scoring is a powerful way to identify systematic issues and problems that may or may not be captured through individual call monitoring and/or one-off post-call surveys. Segmenting customer effort scoring by transaction type provides further intelligence to diagnose process bottlenecks and constraints, handoffs, and other service failures that can ruin the customer experience.


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