As we’ve discussed previously, technology firms have been ramping up their customer service operations, responding to a changing technology world with new tools and methodologies. Some of the most innovative technical support operations in the world reside at IT companies, who are adept at using technology to support technology, e.g., eating their own dog food. But the key question is, does this translate into better customer satisfaction and loyalty ratings for these companies?
Maybe, but there’s more work to do, based on data published recently by Convergys, a global firm offering outsourced customer support services, and the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), whose members come from technology companies. In a joint study available for downloading, only a little over half of Convergys end-customers who participated in the study declared themselves “very satisfied” overall after a technical support incident handled over the phone, across Europe, Asia-Pacific and North America. (North American customers were slightly more satisfied.)
Granted, this is a single metric without a lot of context around it (such as type of technology being supported, enterprise or consumer customer, and other factors). But it echoes other data that we’ve seen in this vein, and in fact we’ve often seen worse.
The Convergys/TSIA study also shows that approximately two-thirds of TSIA members say that at their firms, some percentage of tech-support executives’ compensation is tied to customer satisfaction ratings. In fact, as much as 17% of compensation is at stake for these executives at enterprise and consumer software companies. (Overall, we might have expected these percentages to be even higher.)
Finally, the study makes a key connection between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. Based on a customer’s most recent interaction with a technology company, they are 4.6 times more likely to consider themselves “loyal” if they came away from their last experience with that company satisfied rather than dissatisfied. Of the self-identifying “loyal” customers, 88% were satisfied with their latest interaction with the technology provider; with the “not loyal” group, 65% were dissatisfied with their latest interaction.
To summarize, customer satisfaction with technology tech-support remains luke-warm, there is compensation tied to these ratings, and customer loyalty can be fleeting.
Action Item: Tech firms cannot afford to become complacent or over-reliant on particular technologies to improve customer satisfaction ratings and boost customer loyalty. As other data in the Convergys/TSIA study shows, customers vary even by age-group regarding which support channel they prefer (live phone, chat, email, self-service, automated phone). The imperative is to engage customers the way the want to be engaged, the opposite of “one-size-fits-all” customer service. This implies greater investment in understanding customer behavior and preferences, as well as working with the expanding universe of customer touch-points. Tech firms also need to improve the integration of their technical support operations with product design teams, sales, marketing, and strategy groups, or lose out in the drive to create customer loyalty and keep retention rates high.