Customer satisfaction measures how the products and/or services you supply meet or exceed customer expectations
Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) is based on a series of impressions that the customer has of your service. It doesn’t just refer to the communication skills of the employees who deliver the service. Customers form opinions at every point of interaction with your company – the impression they get from reading your website’s FAQ page, or the impression customers get from the process they have to get through to get someone on the other end of the line; the opinions that your customers form at each point of connecting with you are vital factors in achieving high CSAT scores.
In my opinion and experience, customer service training often focusses on communication skills. Knowing “what to say when” is important, without a doubt. The way you communicate in person with your customer has a large impact on how happy your customer is with the service. On top of that, you can make up for a lot of negative customer impressions during your interaction. But what is often not considered during the soft skills training is that high CSAT scores depend on every impression of your service.
Here’s something I went through recently…
A personal experience and the impression I formed
I cancelled a contract with a phone provider, because of moving to a different part of the country. I looked online for a way to cancel my contract. I couldn’t find anything, probably because my German isn’t great. When I called to ask how I had to cancel, I was told to send a fax. I sent the fax and received a phone call three days later. I was told I couldn’t cancel my contract as per my request because I signed for five years. I confirmed that I wanted my contract cancelled at the end of the five year period, could she please arrange that for me?
She couldn’t. I had to send another fax. I received another phone call confirming that they would cancel my contract as of April 2015 and received a letter confirming this. I thought no more of it until the end of June when I noticed that I was still paying for my contract. I made a phone call to the helpdesk (I actually made seven calls to four different numbers). I heard that my contract was still running and that there was no cancellation from me in the system. He couldn’t escalate this for me, I asked multiple times.
He asked me to send a fax.
In this particular instance my dissatisfaction was based entirely on the unnecessary barriers that stood between me and the solution I wanted (the cancellation of my contract). Whereas personal customer communication can be a barrier, this was not the case with me. More or less every person I spoke to was pleasant, knowledgeable and listened to what I had to say. Yet, based on what I had to do to get my contract cancelled, I felt that nobody really cared about anything to do with my contract. When I asked to speak to a manager, I was told that there was no manager or that he/she wasn’t available.
I understood that they were just doing their job. In fact, the only negative thing I have to say about the people I spoke to is that nobody took responsibility for my problem.
The unnecessary barriers that are to blame for my dissatisfaction
Knowing how to get from point A to point B is important for everyone involved. But if the process is not designed with all end users in mind, or if the process does not contribute to an overall positive customer experience, does the process benefit the customer, or the company? Think of it this way…Can you write down the actual benefits the customers get if they follow a process and are they the benefits your customers are looking for?
Inconvenient access to services
Why can I do just about everything online – I can order services and equipment, I can view my invoices, I can chat to the online support people. I can find information via the search function. I can troubleshoot connectivity problems myself. I can do everything but cancel my contract. To do that, I had to drive to a fax machine on 3 different occasions. As I live in the country, it’s a fifteen minute drive to the nearest post office. It won’t be difficult to guess my impression of the service at this stage in the cancellation process, especially because I had to do it 3 times.
Going back to being in the shop where I signed my contract five years ago, I had a similarly unimpressive experience. We received the equipment, which turned out to have a faulty cable. I went back to the shop before it closed (on the same day). I explained to the man who had sold me the contract that I needed a different cable because he’d given me a faulty one. He politely informed me that a new cable had to be ordered, I could have it in six weeks. No, he couldn’t just walk to the back room to exchange the equipment. That was against company policy. The next day, I bought a working cable at a different shop.
Restricting company policies
I had received a letter confirming my cancellation, but apparently this didn’t matter. My cancellation wasn’t “in the system”, which means my contract wasn’t cancelled. End of.
The customer isn’t always right and not everybody should be transferred to a manager, a teamleader, or the next level of support. But hearing “no can do” does not leave a great impression with the customer, especially if he/she is already upset. There should be an escalation path for every scenario, if one is identified as needed. As in my case, if a service breakdown occurs, at the very least, the provider should be able to say “I will forward your concern/problem/question to my manager/teamleader/colleague”, or even “I will ask someone to look into this.” (Whatever happens afterwards is something I should/will write about another time) At this point in the service, my biggest expectation was that someone took responsibility, which could only be conveyed through commitment. Asking for another fax doesn’t cut it.
To summarize, when CSAT is important, consider the following
- All processes are user-centered: The needs, wants and limitations of end-users are considered and processes are designed accordingly.
- Communication skills are vital but they’re not the be all and end all of customer satisfaction.
- Expect agents to act when they detect service-breakdowns or communication patterns that lead to dissatisfaction.
An ex-customer is a potential future customer, an unhappy ex-customer rarely is
I could simply have been an ex-customer instead of an unhappy ex-customer. As a result of the service I received I will never go back to this company. In fact, I will probably tell a number of people to reconsider signing a contract with this company if it ever comes up in conversation. Because that’s what unhappy (ex-)customers do.
Finally… a cancelled contract
I do apologize for this half-rant about my unhappiness with the company that shall not be named. It’s true what they say, writing is a form of therapy. I feel much better! My contract was cancelled as per 1.10.2015. Mission accomplished. More or less, because there’s still the matter of five months of payments between April and September.
Your customer service humbug
Feel free to share comments and/or experiences below, I’d love to read them.