Contact centers: Why do we hate them so?

Contact centers: Why do we hate them so?

Summary: A good contact center experience -- from calls to email support, and even live chat -- is crucial to a company's reputation, but also brand loyalty and future sales.


Most callers to customer service don't want to phone. It'll either be to pay a bill, complain about something, or find themselves in a haze of confusion or fury at something breaking or not going right.

The call center has in recent years been relegated to the likes of live chat, or email support. Many companies offer virtual assistants that act as a passive question-and-answer service in which users have to "think like a computer" to get the answers they want, while live chat support offers an on-demand, less intrusive and often free way of getting what you need from someone you don't particularly want to talk to.

With many facing the arduous task of spending minutes listening to options and pushing buttons on a phone keypad to be "redirected to the appropriate department", companies are taking it upon themselves to ditch the traditional call center model and open up "contact centers" for all-round support and assistance that works best for the customer or client.

Analytics company ForeSee measures customer satisfaction on a 100-point scale to determine the impact of interaction with contact center experiences can have on a company's future success.

Satisfaction ratings --- often ranked, measured and analysed at every point of communication --- show that good contact center experience is utterly crucial to not only a company's reputation, but also brand loyalty and future sales.

Highly satisfied customers, ranked above 70 points on the scale, report being:

  • 174 percent more likely than less satisfied customers to make contact again, which means higher frequency of interaction, improved engagement, and increased share of mind and wallet;
  • 154 percent more likely to purchase next time, which means increased sales;
  • 238 percent more likely to recommend the company to a friend, family member or colleague, which means more business and increased loyalty.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter which route a person takes to contact, the support level has to be consistent across the board. A caller should be no less satisfied than a live chat session where emotions, vocal inflections, and that initial human connection is made.

Service-focused call centers, for dealing with customer problems and complaints, often rank lower than sales because the callers are already stressed or frustrated. The call center recipient may not be the focus of the complaint, rather the company's policies on returns or warranties, but it's the call center that takes the brunt of the flak.

There is no doubt that as the first port of call, many would reach for the phone. To talk to a real person in their locale --- or at very least their own country --- while expensive in labour costs, can make or break the customer experience ratings. We may hate call centers for any number of reasons, but the consumer perception of getting in touch with support by phone resonates from years of poor experience.

ForeSee's research shows that a satisfied customer is the "key to maintaining and growing sales and profitability regardless of channel".

Despite half the time calling up to pay off my massive Visa bill, or to question why their fraud alert system kicks into play every time I buy an Apple product --- I actually enjoy ringing my bank. Aside from talking to native northern Englanders, the experience is welcoming, friendly, and the caller gets the feeling that they are being served, rather than simply a pawn in their queue of incoming problems.

Besides its fantastic policy of ethics and sustainable investment that run to the core of the business, its customer service is the one and only reason why I recommend them to others.

While it may not have a live chat option, my broadband provider does, giving the customer extra flexibility and points of contact to which makes the experience simpler and less stressful, while providing efficiency savings at the company's end.

Image source: West Midlands Police/Flickr.


Topics: CXO, Apple, Banking, Enterprise Software, Legal, Software

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  • Simple Answer

    Press "1" for English
  • Nice picture of a call center

    with the "color coordinated with the furniture" military style uniforms.

    Looks more like a government wire tapping agency, listening in on phone calls.
    William Farrel
  • Nonhuman Interaction

    Two things really bother me about most call or customer support today:
    1. It is next to impossible to get ahold of a real live human being
    2. When you do get ahold of an actual live breathing human, they are likely to reside in a foreign call center where their "work" name and language is not the one you are speaking and working off of a script.

    Frustration at that point does not begin to cover it.
    Reminds me of "Mayhem" from the Allstate commercials.
  • Put them in the country, not in India

    That's my biggest grip. I call for support. I get someone in india, (Hello my name is Peggy) and you cannot understand half of what they say, IF you can get a good clear line to them.

    At least if your going to use e-mail, then by all means have someone get back with you. I hate it to send an e-mail, and never get a reply.
  • Problem aside from US job loss isn't the accent, It's the SCRIPTS

    Repeatedly, whether calling for a problem with an order, a credit card or an account question, ALL call centers where the staff cannot answer a direct question without re-reading the flipping script. It's a lack of training and YES, COMMAND of the english language.

    And yes, I've stopped service with companies with crappy customer service.