Customer Satisfaction at a Software Support Call Center

Article

Palson, Charles; Seidlitz, Dale   (2000, ASQ)  

Quality Progress    Vol. 33    No. 6
QICID: 13926    June 2000    pp. 71-75
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Article Abstract

Using a methodology developed by Gary Klein, a company that provides technical support to software publishing firms increased customer satisfaction rates at its call center by 43 percent in a one-month period. Klein's method seeks to determine how experts in high-pressure emergency jobs make quick decisions. Calls were analyzed to discover patterns that would explain success. Once the company could describe such patterns to nonexpert support personnel, the customer satisfaction ratings of these staff members rose quickly. Previous efforts by the company to improve customer satisfaction rates had been somewhat successful, but had plateaued by the fall of 1998. In response to the threat of an important client to pull its account if further improvements were not made, managers asked for suggestions from committees comprising technical support staff. The suggestions only reflected ideas already considered by management, but Gary Klein's work on expert decision-making provided inspiration. According to Klein, experts often cannot explain how they make decisions because the process is chiefly intuitive in nature. Using this framework, the company interviewed experts in a department responsible for supporting a popular word processing software package. These experts suggested that customer satisfaction could be improved through more adequate training and more personalization with the customer. Researchers found, however, that the personalization factor counted for relatively little in terms of high customer satisfaction rates. Experts who established a personal relationship with the customer did not obtain higher satisfaction rates than those who did not. Researchers concluded that customers with problems do not expect to talk to someone who can display social skills, but want someone who will resolve their technical problems. The company identified what it calls the "transparency principle" to describe how experts solve problems whether or not they are personable. Call center experts who follow the transparency principle signal to the customer throughout the call that they are constantly applying troubleshooting skills to the customer's problem. The experts give the impression that they are not hiding anything from the customer. This method is particularly effective in enhancing customer satisfaction over the telephone. The transparency principle involves immediate establishment of the call center staff member as a problem solver and expert, quick initiation of troubleshooting, and open admission of wrong hypotheses.

Keywords

Problem solving,Customer satisfaction (CS),Customer expectation,Call center,Case study


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