Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Training + technology = Satisfied customers

Throughout the recession, companies across all industries have been working harder to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction. For many, that hard work has been paying off.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index and other major surveys are hitting record high numbers. Experts say employee training and improved technology are two major factors contributing to those impressive levels, according to a Wall Street Journal article published online today.

Such high customer satisfaction numbers are abnormal during an economic downturn, when business’ cost-cutting strategies tend to cause them to plummet. But today, many businesses are using improved service to find cost-savings.

Executives at Sprint began a service improvement plan at the end of 2007 to turn around the company’s repeated poor customer satisfaction marks. Along with other improvements, call-center operators are rewarded for solving a customers’ problem during the first call. Before the new plan, operators were once commended for keeping calls short.

Other companies, like the Cheesecake Factory, are using customer satisfaction surveys to improve service. Customers’ online survey results have been used to better estimate waiting times for tables, improve food quality and are now used as a factor in determining employee rewards.

"If they don't like you, it's that much easier" for customers to switch to a rival, says Rick Germano, Comcast's senior vice president of customer care. (WSJ.com)
Last year, Comcast installed software that helped identify network problems before they affect service and alert call-center operators of customer problems before the calls come in. They’ve cut repeat service calls by 30%.

Has the recession impacted your company’s customer satisfaction ratings? How big of a role does employee training play in improving customer satisfaction?

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