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Top 5 Misconceptions About Call Center Customer Satisfaction

January 5, 2022 | 6min read

Top 5 Call Center Customer Satisfaction Misconceptions

SQM's opinion of the top five misconceptions about call center customer satisfaction (Csat) is based on over 25 years of customer service benchmarking and tracking research with leading North American call centers. 

As a result, we have discovered that the top five misconceptions for call center Csat are often managers' views of best practices for improving call center Csat performance or generating new business. 

Misconception #1

Misconception # 1: Satisfied customers will recommend your organization to others

SQM's research shows that very satisfied (top box response) customers will tell an average of one person, and of those customers, 55% will tell no one. The message here is that only one person is told when the call center does everything they are supposed to do. The main reason for the low number of others being told about their call center customer service is, in most cases, it is a short phone call that 93% of customers expect to be resolved on the first call

The fact that 55% of very satisfied customers will tell no one is why it is difficult for call centers to help the organization generate new customers. Also, the fact that a very dissatisfied customer will tell three people is the basis of SQM's message that most call centers' purpose should be about protecting existing customers from leaving the organization versus trying to have existing customers recommend the organization to others.

Especially considering that, for most customers, their call center experience with a specific organization consists of a four to seven-minute call only one to two times a year. Under those conditions, it is challenging for the call center to help attract new customers to the organization from a referral perspective.

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Misconception #2

Misconception # 2: Call centers need to strive to delight or wow customers

SQM's research shows that 32% of customers do not get their call resolved on the first call. So in practical terms, trying to delight or wow customers when a third of your customers do not have their call resolved is not a best practice and is expensive.

Instead, the goal should be to have 80% or better of your customers achieve first call resolution (FCR) versus striving to delight or wow customers. Unfortunately, only 5% of call centers achieve the world-class voice of the customer (VoC) FCR standard of 80%. Therefore, the primary benefit of focusing on FCR is that for every 1% improvement in FCR, you have a 1% improvement in call center overall Csat. It is SQM's opinion that achieving world-class FCR equals great customer service.

In addition, by improving FCR, you will also lower your call center's operating cost. It is very difficult to wow or delight customers, and the cost can be enormous in striving to do so. Many SQM clients have tried to differentiate their call center customer service to their high-value customers in attempting to delight or wow them, and most have failed in this effort.

Misconception #3

Misconception # 3: Service level of 80/20 is key to providing Csat

SQM has benchmarked many call centers with 80/20 (industry standard) service level performance. However, many of these call centers are in the fourth quartile (e.g., lowest-performing) for FCR and Csat. Also, SQM has seen FCR and Csat performance go up and service level performance decrease in some call centers.

In many cases, call center management has been conditioned to assume that if the service level goes down, so will FCR and Csat. Interestingly, when service level performance is lower than normal, call center management rush to fix it. Yet, in many cases, if FCR or Csat performance is lower than normal, there is seldom a rush to fix it in those same call centers. 

The bottom line is that the 80/20 service level standard is not necessary to achieve world-class customer service. SQM research shows in most cases that there is no Csat penalty for calls answered within 120 seconds. Put differently, if a customer's call is answered by an agent between 1 and 120 seconds, there is no positive or negative impact on Csat. Therefore, from a CX perspective, the standard for service level should be the percentage of calls answered within 120 seconds.

Misconception #4

Misconception # 4: Longer average handle time (AHT) will improve Csat

Many call center supervisors and agents believe that if they were allowed to increase call length (better known as AHT), they would improve their call resolution and Csat performance. However, SQM's research shows that customers feel the opposite and want the Agents to decrease the call length.

To assess the correlation of AHT to FCR and Csat, agents who had the lowest AHT were put into the first quartile, and the agents with the highest AHT were put into the fourth quartile. Agents who handle the same types of calls were used to normalize the data. As shown in Figure 1, SQM has found no correlation between longer AHT and FCR or Csat. Put differently; longer call length does not improve FCR and Csat.

Furthermore, SQM's research shows that the call center industry, as a whole, has a huge opportunity to lower AHT, which, if handled correctly, benefits both the organization and improves customer experience (CX).

Figure1. AHT impact on FCR and Csat


Misconception #4

Misconception # 5: Quality assurance improves Csat

Most call center supervisors use quality assurance as their primary tool to evaluate call quality and coach agents on providing call quality. Also, most call center supervisors believe call monitoring is helping them achieve or improve FCR and Csat performance. However, SQM's research shows that in most call centers, there is very little correlation between quality assurance ratings and Csat or FCR ratings.

Based on conducting hundreds of quality assurance (QA) case studies with leading North American call centers, SQM's research shows that a whopping 81% of agents' had no Csat, FCR, or call resolution improvement resulting from traditional QA evaluations. The low correlation between traditional QA and FCR ratings is because the customer is not the judge of whether FCR or call resolution took place.

Based on years of studying call monitoring, SQM has concluded that call centers effectively use call monitoring to evaluate call quality from an organizational perspective (e.g., adherence to policies). However, call centers are ineffective at evaluating call quality from a customer perspective (e.g., Understanding, Helping, Caring, Resolving) primarily because it is a QA evaluator's view of the quality versus the customer's view of CX.

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