It should have been a short telephone conversation. I dialed the 800 number for a cable carrier to find out why we had no access to a television channel guide. Forty-five minutes later, I had been transferred four times, but still had no answer. Twenty-three minutes after that, I still had no answer, but had been offered additional services with each representative quoting different fees for those services. At one hour and eight minutes, a fifth representative told me that a channel guide is not included in the ‘basic cable package.’
Friends have shared examples of being put on hold for 25 minutes while customer service representatives ‘look into the issue’ and return with no answer. Colleagues report customer service representatives raising their voices to talk over my colleagues. Still others tell stories of customer service representatives simply hanging up on them.
To be fair, customer service representatives deal with more than their share of angry and inappropriate callers. But, calling customer service should not be an endurance event. Why does the quality and delivery of customer service seem to be at an all time low? More to the point, how is customer service monitored, evaluated and improved?
We all know that “this call may be recorded for training purposes.” A consultant or someone in human resources, training or management listens in on conversations between a consumer and customer service representative to monitor the conversation, the contents of which is used in subsequent training. Call monitoring is a great way to assess the quality of customer service provided by a company at a specific point in time.
Mystery shopping is another way in which companies take the pulse of their operations. According to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA), mystery shopping allows managers to measure how closely customer experiences reflect what the company expects customers to experience. Use of qualified shoppers ensures the experience will be properly recorded. Based on feedback from the mystery shopper(s), companies are better able to identify issues and know precisely who to work with in the company and what to adjust in their product line or customer service operations.
Some consulting firms take mystery shopping even further. Their consultants provide companies with a video of the complete customer experience through hidden cameras attached to buttons, hats, glasses, pens and even cell phones.
The video offers managers and employees a chance to view their business operations through the eyes of a customer. The consultants gather footage of their exchange with the employee, including eye contact (or lack thereof), facial expressions, posture, gestures and tone of voice. One also notices the cleanliness of the store and grounds, signage and curb appeal in addition to hospitality and quality of service.
Feedback about customer satisfaction can also be gathered through comment or suggestion boxes. At the very least, management can quickly determine whether there are multiple complaints or suggestions about similar issues and take corrective action.
Another quick way to identify whether a problem exists is to conduct an online search to see if there are customer service complaints against a company. Dissatisfied customers often register complaints in online forums, blogs or with the Better Business Bureau. Registered complaints by different individuals may indicate a serious problem.
Customer satisfaction can also be measured by working with a survey research consulting firm to gather customer feedback using a questionnaire.
Corvallis Clinic in Oregon uses a questionnaire to insure that they reach a representative sample of patients and obtain valid data versus recording a few “mystery shopping” experiences. The goal at the Corvallis Clinic is to exceed patient expectations at all service levels. They want their patients to know how the Clinic measures up to others, believing that informed patients make better choices about their healthcare providers.
A survey research consulting firm conducts random surveys, administering a 36-item questionnaire to about 4,000 Corvallis Clinic patients annually to identify whether needs were met. Feedback is also gathered on access to care, convenience, cleanliness and privacy. Results from Corvallis Clinic patients are then benchmarked against results from similar medical groups in the region and across the United States. This approach often provides the best results and the clearest direction on improvement initiatives.
Focus groups and interviews can also be an effective way of probing more deeply into issues identified from customer responses to questionnaires. While a questionnaire may have identified customer satisfaction with employee knowledge, attitude, efficiency and speed of response, there may be issues that demand further clarification to find out exactly why something occurred.
Regardless of which method is used to measure customer satisfaction, it is important that companies check back with customers who had past complaints to get feedback on company improvement.
Measuring customer service is an important way to make sure you get repeat business. If you would like to learn more about how NBRI can help your organization measure customer service and customer satisfaction, contact us now at 800-756-6168.
Terrie Nolinske, Ph.D.
National Business Research Institute