Hung Up on Call Centers

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Consumers ranked the service they get from call centers for cable and satellite TV companies worse than those of any other business, including U.S. government agencies, according to a survey by CFI Group of Ann Arbor, Mich.

The cable and satellite ranking represented a decline from 2007 results.

Based on replies from 22,000 online surveys, cable and satellite providers earned a score of 66 on the firm’s satisfaction scale, down from last year’s also-low score of 68.

The next lowest-scoring industry — personal computers — received a score of 69.

The highest-scoring call centers, serving the hotel industry, earned a 78.

<p> <strong id="d9e33-7-strong">Scores by Industry</strong> </p><p> <strong id="d9e37-9-strong">2007</strong> </p><p> <strong id="d9e41-11-strong">2008</strong> </p>

Hotels

--

78

Retail

80

76

Insurance

68

75

Cellular

69

72

Banking

77

71

Personal computers

64

69

Cable/satellite

68

66

Cross-company average

70

72

The cable/satellite call centers received the lowest scores overall in four of the five metrics scored in the survey: courteousness; knowledge; perceived interest in helping callers with problems; and effectiveness in resolving problems. As with the overall decline, the scores in each of those four categories were lower than in 2007.

The category in which cable and satellite TV providers outscored PC help desks was “speaking in an understandable manner,” due in part to computer makers’ outsourcing customer help to locations in other countries.

Consumers gave much lower scores to businesses they perceived to be routing their calls to locations outside the U.S.

Among cable/satellite consumers, 14% said they believed their help calls were routed outside the country.

Providers were not ranked by company. But Sheri Teodoru, CEO of CFI Group, said top U.S. cabler Comcast was one of the lower-performing companies in the measurement.

Comcast “met expectations — people expect service to be horrible,” Teodoru said. “It’s almost become the national pastime to hate your cable company.”

The CFI rankings underscore the importance of what Comcast is doing to improve customer service, said MSO senior director of communications Jenni Moyer. The company had added to its customer-service employee ranks during the last 12 months and has added and equipped new centers, such as a new facility in Newark, Del. The improvements might be too new to have shown up in the survey, she said.

Teodoru said that among video providers, DirecTV “was actually a star,” scoring much better than average in the poll. (Teodoru said top U.S. satellite-TV provider DirecTV is a client of CFI Group, which is affiliated with the researchers who compile the American Consumer Satisfaction Index every year.)

Poor issue resolution and off-shore staffing dragged down scores throughout the survey, which included call centers for the U.S. government, insurance, banking, computer, hotels and other industries.

In cable/satellite, 20% of customers said they ended their calls without a resolution to their problem. Those customers are five times more likely to defect to a competitor, according to the CFI Group study, called Contact Center Satisfaction Index 2008: How Contact Center Customer Satisfaction Impacts the Bottom Line.

Customers who achieve first-call resolutions give those companies a rank more than twice as high as customers who have to call back (a score of 75 versus 34).

Though video providers are investing in alternate customer contact points, such as Web self-help, customers are calling live operators in greater numbers, according to the survey.

The CFI study said 17% of callers tried another way of resolving their problem before calling the company, compared to 35% who tried self-help or other options in the 2007 report.

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