- Customer satisfaction (CSAT) is a leading indicator to future customer purchases, customer lifetime value, customer retention and most downstream financial objectives.
- CSAT also correlates to customer referrals, repeat purchases and brand advocacy.
- Research shows that Customer Experience Management (CXM) is the top customer strategy to increase CSAT and achieve financial objectives. However, improving CSAT is best done with a collection of synergistic performance improvement methods.
We recently completed a CSAT improvement project with a midsize manufacturing client. We used our typical approach and process that can be replicated by anybody so wanted to share our framework, some best practices and the client results.
Customer Satisfaction is equal to the number or percentage of customers whose reported experience with your company meets or exceeds their satisfaction goals.
Companies don't get to define how or when CSAT is met or exceeded; only customers do, which is why any improvement program should start with Voice of the Customer (VoC) program.
The Path to Improved Customer Satisfaction
Our client recognized they had a satisfaction problem but did not really grasp the magnitude of the problem nor the measurable financial impact. The first step was to measure CSAT, which was 49 percent. To give that measurement some objective meaning it was compared to customer service benchmarks for their industry.
The next step was to set a target objective. To eliminate guesswork or wishful thinking, the company applied predictive analytics using industry benchmarks to forecast the financial uplift from improved CSAT scores. In large part because of their low starting position, the predictive models forecasted a significant annual revenue increase if achieving the Best-in-Class benchmark. That became the goal.
A Journey of Incremental Improvements
Raising CSAT scores is seldom achieved with a single performance improvement. Instead, a collection of improvements creates synergy and a cumulative effect. The company initially identified two dozen CSAT performance improvement opportunities before down selecting a short list of the eight highest impact methods which were then scheduled for implementation.
The selected methods were based on customer feedback collected as part of a VoC program. The company reduced risk by targeting the performance improvements most valued by customers. It's essential to give customers what they want, and not what you think they want.
The below customer satisfaction performance improvement plan shows the methods with CSAT improvements and the cumulative path to advance from a 49 percent CSAT to Best-in-Class performance.
Below are supporting insights and comments for each of the CSAT improvement methods.
- The company incurred excessive delay and transfers in getting callers to the right agent. The IVR system was regarded as confusing and sometimes referred to as 'IVR Hell'. When customer inquiries are met with an arduous IVR it exacerbates the rest of the customer service experience.
Improved call routing was needed to quickly get each caller to the agent that was best suited to resolve their inquiry. By redefining IVR rules and menus, applying a rules-based forwarding engine and using call routing best practices the company exceeded the CSAT forecast improvement uplift. Improved call routing also lowered Abandonment Rate (aka Call Drop Rate (CDR)) by 18 percent.
- We reduced Average Handling Time (AHT) using a combination of technology improvements and training methods. We first redesigned and reconfigured the CRM Customer Service cloud software to pass all information entered by the customer, or gathered by prior agents, to any new agents.
We also created an inbound screen pop that displayed the 360-degree customer view and highlighted prior calls and key phrases. Finally, we performed some system integration so that agents would not have to copy and paste or manually reenter information, and not have to navigate among multiple systems during the call.
We implemented speech analytics to bring automation to call monitoring and flag calls with excessive AHT. This was followed with some specific coaching and training opportunities to resolve the variances in near real-time. One other thing, it's important that AHT be measured with CSAT scores. It would be easy to reduce AHT and the expense of call quality, but that's counterproductive.
- Speed of Answer (SoA) is shown to increase CSAT as long as the answer is correct and the customer doesn't feel rushed. Just like the rest of us, customers are time starved and getting a question answered or a problem fixed is interrupting more important things.
Analyst firm Forrester reports that 66 percent of adults say that valuing their time is critical to delivering a good customer experience. To accelerate SoA, we implemented a knowledgebase in two phases. In phase 1, we optimized the search functionality to make it easier to use and improve search engine results. In phase 2, we applied artificial intelligence (AI) to further improve search engine results.
By the end of phase 2, agents were retrieving correct knowledgebase articles 81 percent of the time, and that figure is further being incrementally improved each month.
- Any call center with a CSAT problem probably has a First Call Resolution (FCR) problem. Customer service scores plummet when customers make repeat visits for the same issue. For complex problems, an accurate diagnosis is key to getting the right answer the first time.
To improve this measure, we improved call scripting for a better diagnosis and used both the knowledgebase and AI to ensure the correct answer and FCR. Improving this metric delivered a bigger impact to CSAT that we originally forecasted.
- A low Customer Effort Score (CES) is synonymous with customer ease of effort. Our VoC input found that meeting customers where they reside, in their preferred channels and on their devices, would improve CES. So, to that end, we expanded the company's CRM software to accommodate omni-channel customer support with social service and chat. It was not a small effort, but the increase in CSAT exceeded our expectations.
- Every contact center leader knows that making the customer feel valued goes a very long way in achieving CSAT. Customer Experience Management (CXM) is the top contact center customer strategy as it excels in delivering customer service that goes beyond basic satisfaction and achieves more emotional goals, such as making customers feel delighted, appreciated, valued, engaged or rewarded, and making those experiences memorable. This was a big effort and included several supporting technologies and service method improvements. Some of the tools to aid this pursuit included customer-persona based goals, a customer 360-degree view, customer insights and figuring out how to use customer data to deliver differentiated experiences.
- Finally, when we adopted proactive customer support, and notified customers in advance of pending issues, we achieved our goal as measured by CSAT improvement. In fact, it was the proactive customer support that literally caught customers off guard, and in a good way.
- Rather than a one size fits all customer support policy, the company designed a value-based customer segmentation strategy which balanced the cost of service delivery with customer profitability. Based on the customer economic impact or potential, additional services such as concierge services, entitlements and SLAs were offered to the highest value customers. This customer segmentation program achieved the CSAT benefit and further increased revenues and improved customer retention of the most valuable customers.
- The VoC input found that about half of the company's customers were mobile or social, and expected their vendors to be the same. We implemented customer self-service channels using an online knowledgebase and chatbot. It took a few iterations to get the results we wanted.
Each of the CSAT improvement methods was supported with benchmarks, evidence-based best practices and baked into the contact center quality of service standards.
The end result was a 26 percent increase in customer satisfaction, 6 percent uplift in customer lifetime value and 9 percent decrease in customer churn. All measurements were taken 9 months following deployment. Since that time, all figures continue to steadily improve.