Do you understand the value of resolving a call?

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Most contact centers are able to quantify the cost of an inbound call, but how many of them (beyond those centers which are involved in sales or collections) are actually able to quantify the value of resolving an inbound call in terms of customer loyalty or promotion?

This question was recently posed to us by a client, so we used the COPC CX Research team to help us conduct some research on the value of resolving a call and to help us understand how each customer contact fits in to an overall “Service Journey“.

What is the Service Journey?

The Service Journey is the path taken by a customer when interacting with a brand to resolve an issue and includes all the touchpoints and experiences they have along the way. Typical starting points in a Service Journey include self-service technologies (such as mobile apps, chatbots or websites) as well as human-assisted technologies (such as phone calls, video chat or webchat).

The Service Journey is similar to a customer journey, but much more focused around the moments of truth when a customer interacts with an organization.

Impact of the Service Journey on satisfaction and loyalty

By tracking the Net Promoter Score (NPS) of customers across different brands and different industries our research was able to identify that customers’ “feelings” about a brand are especially stimulated whenever they interact with the business, and that when they have no contact they have a “resting heart-beat” of satisfaction.

This resting heart-beat can vary from industry to industry (for example, an organization like Apple has a very positive resting heart-beat NPS due to customers enjoying using their products and services, whereas an energy utility typically has a lower NPS as very few people “enjoy” using electricity).

What our research found was that customers who interacted with a brand, and had the issue resolved on the first call, had a significant increase in Net Promoter Score compared to the resting heart-beat NPS. If it took two calls to have the issue resolved, the NPS dropped back to the resting heart-beat level. If it took more than two calls to resolve the issue the NPS dropped into negative territory.

Click on this link for a larger view : NPS FCR

If the issue wasn’t resolved at all, then the NPS was really, really bad.

The bottom line is that anything more than first contact resolution has a net negative impact on the organization when looking at both cost and NPS.

Conclusion

Organizations must take the value of resolving a call first time into consideration when designing the Service Journeys that customers need to follow to get their issues resolved. Complex, multi-step journeys will cost more and will create less promoters. Short, single step journeys will cost less and will create MORE promoters.

From a net promoter point of view, customer issues resolved in the first call are nine times more valuable than customer issues resolved in the second call.

So, if NPS, word of mouth referrals and customer loyalty are important to your organization, then you need to be focusing your Service Journeys on first contact resolution (FCR).

Oh, and as a final thought, what about organizations who follow the mantra of “the best service is no service”?

Well, they would actually have less promoters than those companies with well managed customer contact who are able to have a high proportion of their customers’ issues resolved in the first call.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Ian —
    That is some fascinating research and aligns with everything David Jaffe and I (co-authors of The Best Service is No Service) have seen previously. We agree that a well resolved problem does produce a positive response from the customer and we wrote a whole chapter dedicated to delivery of great experiences . We have seen many studies that show the same sugar hit of good will if problems are solved well. However, one major telco in Australia also admitted that their longitudinal research showed that customers who had never had to call were their most loyal and most profitable but had lower NPS that those who had experienced a well resolved call.

    We agree with you that resolution is crucial once problems occur and customers are forced to make contact. However, if the NPS benefits of resolution of a problem were “lasting” then it would appear that companies should try and create more problems and more reasons for contact. That is clearly a high cost strategy that I’m sure COPC wouldn’t advocate!

    We still think that trying to avoid the need for contact (by eliminating “dumb contacts” and digitizing other contacts) is the best strategy for any company and customers even though their NPS scores might not be as high as immediately after a well resolved contact; our many clients would echo this. It is a natural reaction for customers to be positive after a problem was resolved well but unfortunately few organisations ask customers if they would have preferred no need to make contact as they are too busy measuring this experience. So we agree with your finding that resolution is very important but will stick to our guns that less need for contact is still a better strategy as it produces less effort for customers and organisations.

    Bill Price and David Jaffe

  2. Bill and David –

    Thanks for the comments.

    I totally agree that eliminating failure demand is 100% the way to go and that on the balance of things, less contact is better than more contact. I hadn’t even thought about your approach to The Best Service is No Service. It is a book I very much enjoyed, and your co-author David is someone I very much respect in the CX industry.

    In reality, though, no company (in our lifetime) will ever completely remove the need for customers to contact them, so they need to design services which work in such a way that they can resolve the customer’s issue in as few steps as possible.

    As part of that we definitely don’t want companies mixing up “no service” with “no human assisted service” – consumers these days are too smart to put up with being pushed onto poorly designed self-service technology.

    What I propose, is that companies have to get better at service design, and to understand the whole Service Journey. Part of what they look for is where to remove friction (make it as easy as possible for customers to have their issues resolved), and part of what they look for is how to remove the need to contact in the first place, by focusing on failure demand.

    Taking into account that there still IS some customer contact, companies also need to take more advantage of the “sugar-rush” of a higher NPS which is created when a customer has an issue resolved and work out how to offer additional (useful) products/services during the time when the customer has these additional good feelings towards the company.

    Ian

  3. Hi Bill: in general, I agree with you. Some of the most satisfactory buying experiences I’ve had were when I removed my purchase from the packaging, set it up, and started using it straightaway. When an item works exactly as expected and needed, with little to no hassle and no need to involve Product Support, I’d call that customer delight.

    Still, I vividly recall my first use of the self-checkout station in the supermarket. I remember leaving the store with an odd feeling realizing that for the first time, I completed a large grocery run, and left the store without speaking to any employee, let alone even making eye contact with one. For someone accustomed to decades of interacting with at least the cashier, the experience was striking. I didn’t say it was worse, but it was very different from “normal.”

    As a society, we’ve steadily become more familiar and comfortable with self-service. Consequently, direct face-to-face conversations between customers and vendors are becoming rarer. Whether those conversations are around something as prosaic as a POS transaction at a retailer, or a troubleshooting call for an online purchase, I wonder if companies and consumers alike are sacrificing connectedness when excellent product performance obviates the need for conversations. In the process, are companies missing out on opportunities to use humanness as a strategic differentiator?

  4. Andrew, I like your thinking, “are companies missing out on opportunities to use humanness as a strategic differentiator?”

  5. I love these insights Ian.

    As you know many of our client use a bunch of CX questions beyond NPS. Did this research consider the impact of multiple contacts on Customer Effort Score and/or Customer Satisfaction? Was it similar or totally different?

  6. Alex, thanks for the question.

    Yes we also looked at the impact that number of steps in the Service Journey had on other CX metrics (such as the Customer Effort Score and also Customer Satisfaction), and the data indicated that customers who had longer journeys (ie journeys with more touchpoints/contacts) were less satisfied with their experiences and also less likely to say the company made it easy for them to do business with.

    Fundamentally, longer service journeys (ie those with more touchpoints or contacts) deliver worse results for NPS, CSAT and CES.

  7. Great article Ian. I love the “resting heartbeat” concept. I think it’s a great way to articulate and describe some of the NPS changes we are seeing as a result of customers using our channel for the first time (or first time in a long time) as a result of COVID.

  8. Hi Ian, great article. In one of the answers above you mention that “consumers these days are too smart to put up with being pushed onto poorly designed self-service technology” Has your research been able to show any significant findings regarding the positive or negative impact of using automated services to fulfil parts of the service journey?

  9. Hi Ian, A great thought starter.
    Interested in your views in regards to how we can leverage this with the use of proactive contacts (i.e not necessarily driven by the failure demand). Many organisations are creating digital experiences that help reduce the ‘failure’ and also reduce the need for contact except for complex matters – this in turn can reduce the opportunities for this NPS hit. What are your thoughts in regards to proactive contacts driving NPS.

  10. Andy,

    We have also looked at how self-service technology fits into the overall service journey. Typically speaking we find that more customers start their journey in SST than end their journey in SST (makes sense, as customers who cannot get their answers using SST will then try to talk to a person).

    What we found was that Issue Resolution rates and Satisfaction satisfaction with self-service technology interactions were both lower than they were for human-assisted interactions. Chatbots had the LOWEST satisfaction of all.

    Very interestingly, the two key variables we found which impacted usage of SST were age (younger people more likely to try SST) and previous experience. If someone had tried to use SST before and failed to get resolution they were then MUCH less likely to try to use SST again in the future.

  11. Caro,

    That’s a good question. I think there is definitely a place for proactive contact (especially when looking to fix an identified problem, or to proactively apologise for previously messing up), but I would be wary about building a process which includes proactive contact (unless it is to take away or support a step in an existing service journey). The cost of the proactive contact could outweigh the benefits of those contacts.

  12. I totally agree with the concept, and understandably the pace of change can sometimes dictate what the customer journey looks like. Those journey’s may not actually be 100% optimal, rather an 80% optimised journey may be more acceptable with a “we’ll work on the or 20% over time” philosophy. Therefore, with that philosophy coupled with constant process, product and service changes an 80% FCR is likely to be the max you can generally achieve. Couple that with other factors such as turn over, recruitment, training, people, tech/systems considered, I’d suggest if you’re hitting over 70% FCR consistently, your probably doing OK? The key question I ask myself is “how satisfied are my customers with the current FCR”?. Reviewing NPS and CSAT with FCR will give a reasonable indicator of brand /service health in the eyes of the customers (as long as there’s a slid sample size providing input into those metrics).

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