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Cable Call Centers Leave Customers Cold

About 21% of consumers calling cable and satellite call centers hang up with their initial problem unresolved, according to a study released June 12 by CFI Group, a Michigan-based consulting firm.

Of those dissatisfied consumers, 49% are likely to stop doing business with the company that disappointed them, the study asserts. By comparison, of the 76% of consumers who said their issues are resolved on the first call, only 5% said they were likely to defect to a competitor and 74% said they were more likely to recommend their provider to a friend.

The study uses the methodology of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, conducted each year by the University of Michigan, tracking more than 200 companies and their prowess in customer service. Based on a scale of 1 to 100, the survey ranked industries which rely on call centers for service, including banking, catalog retail, cellular and personal-computer support businesses. Cable came in on the lower end of the spectrum of scores for that group with a score of 68, compared to the high of 80 for catalog retail.

Sheri Teodoru, program director for CFI Group, said she was surprised at the high number of unresolved calls, given the industry’s focus on first-call resolution. Another factor that surfaced in the survey: 35% of customers try other contact points first. The most popular self-help option, according to the survey, is the company Web site. Yet many still have to call customer service. For instance, 41% of respondents said that they still place product and service orders through the call center. The report notes those functions could be performed online, saving companies money in support costs by deferring hundreds of calls from service centers. It also demonstrates the need for better information quality at each of those touch points, she noted.

Besides the direct costs generated by unhappy customers calling to complain, their dissatisfaction is communicated to non-customers, according to the report. Sixty percent of call-center users report they repeated the details of their experiences to others; an unhappy customer is 50% more likely to tell someone about it, according to this study.

Though the score for telephone customer service is lower than for other service industries, it is higher than the 62 earned by the cable/satellite industry as a whole, in terms of satisfaction.

“That shows representatives are doing a very good job in a not-so-good situation,” Teodoru said.

That said, cable and satellite was one of only two industries that failed to gain a score of 80 or higher in any of the traits rated, including courteousness, product knowledge or effectiveness in handling customer issues.

In the survey, cable’s telephone customer service outscored only that provided by insurance companies and personal-computer tech support.