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Study Places Satellite TV Call Centers At The Bottom Of Customer Service Ladder

By | July 3, 2008

      [Satellite News – 07-03-08] Customer approval ratings for satellite TV call service centers fell in 2008, dropping the industry into last place among those surveyed by CFI Group, an independent research firm.
          Satellite TV approval ratings slipped 3 percent to a satisfaction rating of 68 on a scale of 100, dropping below the insurance industry, according to second annual “Contact Center Satisfaction Index.” Overall, satisfaction with industry call centers improved in the second survey, climbing 3 percent to a score of 72.
          With trends and statistics indicative of an industry that continues to underachieve in the customer service realm, the results are troubling.
          Satellite companies should take notice of the facts that threaten their loyal customer base —  fewer callers to satellite TV caller centers will recommend the company based on their experience with the contact center and 69 percent of unsatisfied callers will share their negative experience with others, the study said. A majority of unsatisfied callers, 58 percent, will consider switching their service after a single negative experience.
          “We agree the industry as a whole needs to do a much better job with customer service,” DirectTV spokesperson Robert Mercer, said in response to the report.
          Call service centers for satellite companies were judged in five categories — courteousness, clarity in speaking, interest in helping a customer, knowledge and effectiveness — and consistently have measured among the least satisfying of every industry service since it was first measured in 2001 by the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index. Satellite TV was one of only two industries in the survey that failed to score above an 80 in any of the five categories.
      “We noticed a lack of attention being paid to personal customer service,” said Sheri Teodoru, CEO of CFI group. “It’s part of the reason we initiated the study. Customer service is hugely important to these industries, especially now that customer retention is key in our current economic downturn.”
      The other part of CFI’s motivation could come from the fact that all signs of trouble point towards the growing trend of outsourcing customer service employment to overseas locations. An increase in the number of satellite TV subscribers who say their calls went to centers based overseas considered them less helpful than those based in the United States, according to the analysis. Specifically, offshore call centers scored a satisfaction rating of 55 (down from a 56 in 2007) compared to a score of 68 for domestic call centers.
      John Hrusovszky, who specializes in building, training and developing customer service call centers sees the same problems for all industries. “Most outsourced personnel are very knowledgeable people,” he said. “The cultural differences, however, between American callers and foreign-service representatives can make the difference between a positive and negative experience. What may seem like a perfectly acceptable and professional response to someone in, say, India, may illicit a ‘How dare you?’ to a caller in the United States. And how do you train culture? It’s extremely difficult.”
      To reverse these trends, Hrusovszky said companies should identify the specific details of problematic issues at the source while addressing efficiency. “Customers call these services for an immediate and efficient fix,” he said. “For the industry, that’s half of the problem.”
          Poorly trained and unqualified customer service representatives also are detrimental in the troubleshooting process because they often do not understand what it is they are troubleshooting. “Especially in the satellite industry, these representatives have to be trained properly to know how the signal gets from point A to point B so they can accurately and logically diagnose the problem and be able to clearly explain the process to the customer the first time,” said Hrusovszky.
          The index reported that 21 percent of satellite subscribers in 2008 ended their call service center experience with unresolved issues. These disenfranchised customers are five times more likely to cancel service or defect. To reverse these trends in the long term, companies should focus on continual training, refresher courses and consideration to creating a quality employee base. “There are good employees and bad employees as everyone knows,” said Hrusovszky. “But it’s not always the employee’s fault. In the course of a few years there’s been a significant increase in the leaving rate [for call center employees], as high as a 60 percent from less than half of a percent a few years ago. Something is wrong here.”
          Even though companies are looking more towards Web-based troubleshooting as an easy solution, experts agree that there’s more to lose by ignoring the human aspect of customer service. “For satellite and cable TV subscribers, call center personnel often create the first and only perception of a company,” said Teodoru, who echoed the sentiments of the CFI findings by acknowledging that poor customer service reflects a poor company image. “Perception is reality, after all.”

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