10 Suggestions to Improve Customer Satisfaction Scores

Contact center executives will share that their customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) have plateaued. They have continued to add the latest technologies and trained their associates on product knowledge and soft skills, but the CSAT needle fails to move. I can hear the frustration! They ask me what they can do.

Below are my 10 suggestions for how to greatly improve contact center performance and positively impact your CSAT ratings.

  1. Give Customers Hope – When a person calls or emails a contact center, he hopes something will happen, whether it's a resolution to his issue or an answer to his question. Regardless of the question or statement the customer provides, always tell the customer, "I can help you with that, but do you mind if I ask you a few questions." I is the shortest word in the English language, but it has the greatest impact. When the representative starts the conversation with, "What's your account number, name, ZIP code, etc." it makes the customer feel frustrated and diminishes her hope that she has reached a person who can fulfill her needs, listen, and care about her situation.
  2. Actively Listen for Feelings – Contact center associates should be trained to actively listen. Most representatives think this means paying careful attention to what the customer is saying. While this is important, it is equally critical to establish an emotional bond by also listening to what the customer is feeling. Is she frustrated, concerned, happy, angry, etc.? When the representative says for example, "I hear you are frustrated, but I can definitely help you," it puts the customer at ease.
  3. Ask, "What Other Questions Do You Have?" – Before summarizing the call, never ask the customer "Do you have any other questions," always ask, "What other questions do you have?" It sounds like a subtle difference, but it's not. The first one relays a message to the customer that the associate has time for one more question; the second one continues the dialog and helps to cement the relationship.
  4. Know Your Stuff – Customers want to trust that associates are knowledgeable and that they are providing accurate answers. No matter how well you train your associates, high employee turnover negatively impacts customer satisfaction. With so much information available on the internet, when customers do call, the issues are even more complicated than in the past. Don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish; don't let good associates leave and go to a competitor for a small increase in salary. It's not worth it. Do the ROI.
  5. Never Tell the Customer No – The word "No" is the biggest killer of loyalty. Train your associates to position company policies in positive ways. Push back on legalese by sharing customer frustrations with the legal department. When you do have to tell the customer "No," don't say it on the spot. Say, "Let me check," "Let me talk to my supervisor," or "Let me research the issue." Half the time, you might come up with a "yes," and if you need to call the customer back with a disappointing response, he will greatly appreciate that the associate tried.
  6. Invite the Customer to Return – At the end of the call, always tell the customer that you want them to call or email again for any reason. Leave the customer with the feeling that you are there for her, that it is never a bother to hear from customers when they have a question or a concern. Customers appreciate those sentiments, and it will put them at ease.
  7. Show the Customer They Matter – Interactions with contact centers should never be one and done. Customers like to feel their business is appreciated and not taken for granted. When you ask the customer for an email address and the company starts sending out daily promotional messages which the customer will eventually consider spam, that's showing the customer he doesn't matter. During slow periods, associates should periodically follow-up with customers and write personalized emails. It will make your customers less vulnerable to the competition.
  8. Surprise When Appropriate – Train associates to think of ways to surprise customers who need surprising. Perhaps you hear a customer say she had a recent death in the family or just had a baby, sending a condolence or card of congratulations will make that person a lifetime customer. Perhaps a large account just shared that he moved into a new home. Send flowers, a plant or candy. Your company will stand out.
  9. Employ CSAT That Makes Sense – Don't over-survey your customers. And when you do survey them at all, ask for their detailed feedback. An email survey with 10 to 15 thought-provoking questions can provide the contact center with an accurate CSAT assessment and give answers to how to improve. Measuring without getting the reason why is a waste of everyone's time.
  10. The Strongest Bond is Between Two People – Loyalty is an emotional state of mind. The strongest bond is between people. Many contact centers are creating small teams of specific associates to service customers. This makes sense, especially for industries where customers are prone to call on a regular basis, such as banking, insurance, wireless, cable, etc. People love to say, "I have my own representative at XYZ Company." Think of ways you can replicate the strongest bond in your contact center environment.

Implementing these suggestions for both phone and email interactions will work. You will start to hear customers say, "Thank you so much. You have been such a pleasure to speak to!" And, when you review your next CSAT results, it will make everyone in your department smile. Your CSAT scores will no longer be flat; they will start reaching for the stars.

Richard Shapiro is founder and president of The Center for Client Retention.