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Too Many Customers, Too Few Customer Support Agents

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Stop patting yourselves on the backs for being so cutting-edge, up-to-date and in-the-know about the latest and greatest options to provide the best customer service.  

Customer satisfaction dropped globally by two percentage points in the last quarter of 2013 — apparently because too many businesses expect too much from too few people and shortchange their customers in the process.

At least that's the word from Zendesk, a provider of customer service and support ticket software. The company just released its latest Benchmark quarterly survey and the news overall isn’t good. 

Down, Down, Down

The survey covers the fourth quarter, which includes the holiday season. It's always difficult for companies to maintain good customer support and high levels of customer satisfaction, the report noted. And this year was no exception. 

Travel, including hospitality and tourism, was the hardest-hit industry, falling 7 percentage points.

Retail fell 6 percentage points, a steeper decline than it experienced in the last quarter of 2012.

"Holiday shopping results in an increase in spending that represents for many companies both an opportunity and a challenge: how to meet the needs of such a large, but temporary, increase in customers," the report notes. Many companies didn't meet those needs. The likely reason: companies failed to sufficiently increase holiday staffing levels to handle the spike in requests for customer support.

"The biggest culprit was a bigger-than-normal increase in the volume of customer service inquiries," Sam Boonin, vice president of products at Zendesk, told CMSWire. "Businesses need to take a look at how to better prepare for the holiday rush."

"As the demand for customer service increased during the holidays in 2013, companies found themselves unprepared. Whether it means hiring on more staff, altering customer support hours or creating help center portals, companies should craft a plan of preparedness so they can use these busy times as opportunities to engage directly, honestly and openly with customers."

Tell Me More

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The Zendesk Benchmark is based on support and customer service interactions from more than 16,000 companies across 125 countries that have chosen to participate. It measures key metrics around customer support efficiency, customer self-service behavior and levels of customer engagement. Benchmark metrics are reported by industry, country and other measures that reach a minimum threshold of responses. 

So what countries offer the best customer service? Norway took the top spot, with 91 percent customer satisfaction. Canada and Denmark followed, each receiving 89 percent, well above the global average of 80 percent. But Canadian companies shouldn't be too smug: even though satisfaction levels remained high, they were down 2 percent from the previous quarter. 

Of course, that's still far better than companies in India: Customer satisfaction levels fell a whopping 13 percentage points quarter-over-quarter to end at 54 percent.  The US missed a spot on the top 10 with a 3-percentage point drop from the third quarter — and a rating of 80 percent.

So What Do Customers Want?

To answer that question, let's look at another survey released this month. J.D. Power just released a wireless customer care study, which suggests that AT&T customers are most satisfied. AT&T scored 793 out of a 1,000-point scale, taking the top spot among full-service wireless carriers. Verizon came in a close second with a score of 788, enough to top the industry average score of 782. T-Mobile and Sprint fell below the industry average with scores of 778 and 757, respectively.

The study found satisfaction is directly linked to the ease of resolving a problem.  Customers want to get the issue addressed with a single phone call. They want to spend less than five minutes waiting on hold and have the problem solved in five minutes or less.

It's a challenge to provide good customer service. But consider the consequences: As we told you earlier this week, the US is a nation of "serial switchers" — and that lack of loyalty is costing businesses an estimated $41billion a year.

Can you afford to provide anything less than excellent customer service and support?

 
 
 
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