Holiday shopping and travel took a toll on customer satisfaction in late 2014. According to the latest Zendesk Benchmark report, overall global customer satisfaction was down in the fourth quarter — especially in travel and retail.

Global Customer Satisfaction dropped to 94.71 percent in the last three months of the year, down 0.26 points from the previous quarter. Customer satisfaction in travel and retail both dropped 0.9 percent from the previous quarter to 90.9 percent and 89.1 percent, respectively.

Asia showed the greatest improvement in customer satisfaction over the previous quarter: China, Singapore and Vietnam posted the largest gains, but could not unseat Belgium, New Zealand or Ireland from the top spots, which posted the highest scores for the second quarter in a row.

On the industry side, marketing and advertising, web hosting and real estate posted the greatest improvements, but were still unable to unseat government and non-profit, IT services and consultancy, and healthcare from the top spots.

Up and Down

Every quarter, Zendesk examines how companies by country and industry compare in terms of customer satisfaction. Here are the biggest movers and shakers from the third quarter of 2014 to the fourth.


Setting Standards

The Zendesk Benchmark is based on customer service and support interactions from more than 25,000 organizations across 140 countries that opted to participate. It evaluates three cornerstones of customer service interactions:

1. How prepared a company is to interact with its customers: Zendesk looked at the number of new tickets or the average number of inbound customer inquiries per month. The relationship between ticket volume and customer satisfaction is inversely proportional — as ticket volume increases, customer satisfaction decreases. It also evaluate tickets per active agent, since as an active agent has more tickets to deal with, customer satisfaction also decreases. Finally, it assessed agent comments per ticket. However, the study does not explain the relationship between agent comments and customer satisfaction. Rather, the research notes: “The complexity of support interactions can certainly vary depending on the type of business and can heavily influence how efficiently agents can support customers."

2. How a company plans and manages its support resources: Bigger companies can afford 24/7 customer service teams, while smaller ones need to carefully plan out their hours of operations to stay profitable and keep customer satisfaction high — a delicate balancing act. Weekday hours, the first metric in the category, were vital in decreasing the first reply time — the more weekday hours there are, the shorter the first reply time is. Weekend hours were a bit more unpredictable. “Being more available to customers is certainly a unique strategy that can vary between businesses and how they choose to run their support operations,” the study noted.

3. How mature a company is in optimizing for support efficiencies: That includes the number of business rules — the average number of triggers and automations that run on tickets. Optimizing the workflow is difficult to do in a larger company, but when done right, it can reduce response times and make customer service more efficient, and thus positively influencing customer satisfaction. The self-service ratio shows how much a company has invested in helping customers find their own answers with knowledge base articles or with the help of the community, to “help deflect the number of 1-on-1 customer interactions agents need to support,” as the study states.


Zendesk identified four types customer service organizations.

In A Relationship

Relationship builders have the blessing of having a small customer service team, which allows them to better connect with customers on a more personal scale. Low-volume consultancies and services along with mid-volume software and services were the two clusters included in the study. They're no speed demons — their average first reply time is between 22.8 hours and 24.6 hours — but they also report the highest customer satisfaction rates.

It's Complicated

The masters of complexity tackle customers' toughest questions. Their expertise in their respective fields earn them the respect of their customers — these are business vendors, software providers and consulting firms that work long weekday hours.

Late To The Party

Most businesses are late bloomers. They have something missing in their customer service strategy, and sometimes these “missing links” are what gives these companies a bad reputation.

Captains of Scale

These organizations have the scale and financial muscle to offer multiple avenues of support operations. However, they also have large ticket volumes, large agent teams and complex tickets that need expertise to solve. However, captains of scale tend to give business rule automation and self-service preference.

According to Zendesk, industry benchmarks, company size, and audience type are still useful points of comparison and shouldn't be disregarded when building a customer service team. However, many companies will relate better to companies with similar operations even if their industries are not related. The comparison of companies across several operational dimensions results in a benchmark that better relates to the company's resources, constraints and business processes, it contends.