Leading customer feedback insights analyst firm, CFI Group, recently published its Contact Center Satisfaction Index (CSSI) for 2013 (download the reporthere). The results should be a wake-up call for call centers everywhere. 2013 saw an 8-point drop in the CSSI from its high of 77 in 2012 to a record low of 69 in 2013. While there’s probably no need to hit the panic switch just yet, it’s equally clear that consumers’ expectations of call center services have outpaced their ability to deliver.
Other industry research suggests that up to 88% of customer interactions are handled by an agent at some point. Furthermore, interactions have become more complex and today’s consumers tend to be more informed – they often research solutions to their issues or evaluate alternative products or services – before ever engaging an agent. Therefore, to deliver an exceptional customer experience, the agent needs to employ superior communication and critical thinking skills. Gone are the days of rote step-by-step scripting – customers have become smarter than that. These are the days of agents who are nimble, quick-thinking and easily understood.
The CSSI report goes on to state that the top three drivers of satisfaction relate to the agent and his or her skills: the agent’s demeanor, ability to be understood and knowledge. Simply put, an agent’s communication and language skills are the top drivers of consumers’ satisfaction with their call center experience. And these are some of the easiest to measure, especially during agent recruitment. Automated systems, virtual interviewing technology and sophisticated predictive analytics software can reliably identify job candidates that possess the communication and language skills that satisfy these top drivers.
Companies that institutionalize agent communication and language skills assessment as part of their hiring evaluation process will be rewarded with better performing employees and improved customer satisfaction and retention.