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Industry Research Research:
2010 Service and Leadership Trends in Customer Support

Customer support centers generally represent an organization's face to the customer. Its service reputation is one of the key drivers of an organization's brand, public reputation, and market share. But when you look at the field's literature and conferences, what you often find is a world that revolves around ACDs, IVRs, first-call resolution rates, and staffing algorithms – and not always its core reality of serving people, which directly affects retention rates, net promoter scores, and upsell/cross-sell opportunities

This groundbreaking survey, conducted by and sponsored by Citrix Online,  is meant to assess the state of customer service issues in the customer support industry: How our customers and agents are doing, how we are managing people and measuring performance, how effective our training and coaching is, and how we are using technology to get closer to customers. It is meant to be a snapshot of what we in the support industry fundamentally do and how well we do it.

This survey was  conducted in January 2010 and represents a cross-section from a wide range of vertical industries, including technology (19.7%), services (8.4%), and manufacturing (8%). The majority of respondents were at a senior level, with over half in corporate or customer support management positions and approximately 30% divided between supervisory or front-line positions. Roughly 60% of responses were from firms with smaller support operations with support budgets of less than $250,000 or less than 500-1000 employees; however, the top line was well represented with nearly 17% from support operations with annual budgets in excess of $1 million.

Survey Highlights

Support really does make people happier. Support transactions have a measurable impact on customer frustration levels – close to 85% are frustrated before the transaction, but more than 60% are not frustrated at all afterwards. Likewise, over a third of support operations deliver customer satisfaction levels in excess of 90%, while fewer than 15% deliver less than 80%.

Training helps, but only the right kind. Training has a measurable impact on customer satisfaction levels, but only when (a) you train both supervisors and frontline staff and (b) your training approach includes accurate call simulations and measurable performance objectives. There is also a correlation between the amount of training you do and how satisfied your customers are.

Agents do well – with the right tools. Over 80% of respondents rate their agents as being confident, and the vast majority report good relationships between agents and their managers. The biggest challenges remain access to problem-solving technology, as well as communications and people issues on both the internal and external side.

Performance evaluation is an art and a science. Metrics, customer feedback, and the old standby of what the boss thinks all remain a big part of how agents are evaluated. Session monitoring, surveys, and coaching are less frequently used, showing a trend toward less labor-intensive approaches for performance evaluation.

Remote support is here to stay. The era of blindly troubleshooting customer issues over the telephone has gone the way of the 8-track tape. An overwhelming majority of respondents now use remote support tools, in operations of all sizes, particularly for remote access to customer systems. Other features such as file transfer and remote diagnostics are popular as well, while sites using these tools for live collaboration and escalation remain in the minority.

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