Study: PC Call Centers Provide Dismal Service

Call centers for PC companies placed dead last in customer satisfaction in a survey released Tuesday by an international consulting group.

The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based CFI Group found PC call centers scored a 64, the lowest customer satisfaction score of all the industries surveyed, which included catalog sales, banking, cell phone service and cable and satellite TV providers.

“Scores in the sixties are generally considered worrisome,” the report said. “PC call centers clocked in a full four points below the next-lowest industry, insurance call centers and cable/satellite TV call centers, both 68.”

To produce their findings, the researchers used the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States.

Cause for Concern

The PC industry should be concerned about its scores, which are based on a scale of 100 points, the survey maintained.

“The stakes are higher than ever, since the research shows that nearly 73 percent of people who have a bad experience with their PC’s contact center will consider switching companies,” the report noted.

Catalog call centers ranked highest in the survey with a score of 80, followed by bank call centers (77) and cell phone service centers (69).

“For companies across industries,” the report said, “the contact center has become a critical channel for success and building customer relationships. Yet, most companies don’t really understand just how crucial a customer’s experience with the call center is, even if they know intuitively that it’s important.”

Bolting After Bad Call

That fact is abundantly clear in the study’s findings, according to its author, CFI program director Sheri Teodoru.

“A significant number of customers are hanging up the phone without their issue resolved, and the vast majority of those customers are going to leave,” she told CRM Buyer.

“In the PC industry, approximately a quarter of customers don’t get their issue resolved when they call,” she added. “If call centers were on the radar screen front and center, that would not be the case.”

Progress at Dell

That’s not the case at Dell, according to David Faink, a spokesperson for the Round Rock, Texas-based PC maker.

“We understood that it was a problem and started taking steps a year ago to do something about it,” he told CRM Buyer.

The company, he said, has begun to see this year the benefits of the US$150 million investment it made in customer support last year. In the first quarter of this year, he noted, Dell has seen a 38 percent reduction in waiting time in its call queues compared to last year and a 26 percent improvement in customer satisfaction during the same period.

“We understand that there is a long way to go to do an even better job, but we’re starting to see some payoff from the investment that we have made over the past year,” he observed.

Offshoring Nightmare

A major factor contributing to custom a dissatisfaction with PC call centers appears to be the location of some of those centers outside United States, the report contended.

“This is not necessarily due to the concept of offshoring per se, but because customers are not getting their needs met by offshore contact centers,” he argued. “For instance, the University of Michigan’s ACSI found that overall customer satisfaction with Dell dropped significantly once they started offshoring.”

The company has 30 call centers around the world, Dell’s Faink explained. “We do that in order to be close to our customers,” he said.

Eliminating offshore support centers was a step taken by Gateway, a PC maker based in Irvine, Calif., according to Director Of Corporate Communications Dave Hallisey.

“Our technical phone support is 100 percent North America-based,” he told CRM Buyer. “That’s something that’s definitely resonating with customers.”

Good Grades for PC Industry

Ironically, although customer satisfaction with PC call centers is low, overall satisfaction with the industry is high. In fact, overall satisfaction with the PC industry was 77, the highest of all the industries analyzed.

“Computer prices have been coming down and you can get a lot more bang for the buck, so there’s a lot of satisfaction with the product elements,” CFI’s Teodoru explained, “but the service is clearly an issue.”

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