You can't underestimate the importance of customer service.

After all, your products and services are only as good as the customer service team ready to support them. So what does your business need to know?

Let's take a look at CFI Group's Contact Center Satisfaction Index (CCSI), which notes trends in US customer satisfaction.

Heading Up

Customer satisfaction climbed slightly in 2014, reversing a significant drop in 2013. Until 2013, CCSI scores were trending up, reaching a peak in 2012. What happened two years ago? CFI Group blames poor economic conditions, problems in the public sector and lack of consumer confidence.

But last year economic conditions stabilized, boosting consumer confidence and potentially triggering more positive experiences with contact centers. 

So what do customers want? Connection. 

The study emphasized that contact centers need to personally connect with customers rather than forcing them to deal with machines. Customers reported 40 percent higher satisfaction when they interacted with people as opposed to automated systems.

Agents can also helped their businesses' bottom line. About 43 percent of respondents responded to recommendations from contact center agents to buy more products and services. 

However, not all customers are receptive to these recommendations. About one in three customers were not at all receptive and a quarter of respondents are neutral. 

Get It Right the 1st Time

One of the best ways to improve customer satisfaction is to resolve questions or concerns promptly. CCSI scores were 15 percent higher among respondents who had experienced First Contact Resolution (FCR), which means their question or concern was resolved on the first call with a live agent. 

The time it takes to resolve the issue is important as well. The CCSI score is highest if FCR is achieved within five minutes, and drops gradually with every five-minute interval.

CCSI scores are affected by the number of people it takes to resolve a problem, too. They are highest when one person can solve the issue.

While many contact centers rely on automated systems, customers prefer talking to a person. About 63 percent of respondents immediately asked for an agent.

Additionally, customers prefer talking to people located in their own geography. Many customers complain when they reach contact center agents overseas as opposed to in their own countries.

Many customer service jobs have been outsourced to India and the Philippines in recent years because of the the lower cost of doing business and the ability to hire workers who can speak English. But this strategy has risks.

Two-thirds of customers said that their decision to do business with a company is affected by the location of the contact center. About 44 percent of consumers are less likely to patronize or recommend a company if the contact center is located outside the United States.

Channel Surfing

What channels do customers prefer? About 77 percent use the phone, 17 percent use email, 15 percent use the company's website and 11 percent use a live chat system.

But here's an interesting fact. While customers like to call contact centers, only 57 percent like to be called themselves.

Social media is increasingly important. Companies contacted slightly less than half of the customers who shared their experience on social media, up from 39 percent in 2013.

4 Quick Tips

  1. Hire contact center agents who are personable and efficient.
  2. Provide agents with sales training so they can upsell customers 
  3. Focus on the personal touch, rather than automated solutions
  4. Consider domestic contact centers rather than international ones