ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- When it comes to member loyalty credit unions can't afford to overlook their call centers.
According to a recent CFI Group Call Center Satisfaction Index study, customer satisfaction with the call center is crucial to customer loyalty, positive word of mouth, and return on investment.
Issue resolution is the key to driving customers' satisfaction and therefore their loyalty and likelihood to recommend. Across all industries measured, almost a fifth of all calls hung up with their issue unresolved. Of those customers who didn't have their issue resolved, 68% are at risk of defection (43% said they would definitely defect, and 25% aren't sure).
According to CFI Group Program Director and study author Sheri Teodoru, that's a substantial percentage of callers who are at risk of defection based on their interaction with the call center alone.
"Too many companies treat call centers as cost centers rather than seeing them as an opportunity to solidify the customer relationship, resulting in increased loyalty and retention," said Teodoru. "Based on this research, any company that isn't putting resources into making sure that the call center is delivering customer satisfaction rather than frustration is taking a huge risk with its customer asset."
She adds that overall banking call centers are among the best contact centers with CSRs who are not only courteous, but are also effective.
"They seem to understand that contact centers are a critical customer interaction channel, and that a customer's experience with that one channel can impact their overall loyalty and likelihood to recommend the financial institution," said Teodoru.
While scoring high she says there is still room for improvement.
"I think 'better' is relative certainly financial institutions were among the best but the score was still 77," said Teodoru. "There is always room for improvement and it is important to make sure that customer service representatives are knowledgeable about the products and services offered."
With banking an extremely competitive industry, the customer satisfaction stakes are very high. Those who have a bad experience with their branch or call center have a dozen other financial institutions offering free online banking or a free checking account as an incentive to switch says Teodoru.
She adds that some 90% of consumers tried to resolve their banking issue on the Web first and of those that couldn't 42% called into the call center.
"There is an opportunity for financial institutions to save money and improve satisfaction by making sure their Web sites get customers the answers they want," said Teodoru. "Those positive relationships they have with customers can be leveraged to move more business on the Web in terms of accessing data or even easier navigation and ensuring their Web sites are better equipped to meet customers' needs. Given the high number of customers who are unsuccessful at solving their issue via the Web site, financial institutions need to examine their online capabilities, and understand where they are falling short. In addition, CSRs need to understand the Web site, as they can help guide callers to find the answers they need."
Teodoru says that contact centers can also serve as a continuous feedback loop to the Web operation.
"There can and should be processes in place to make enhancements to the Web site based on the feedback the CSRs receive," said Teodoru. "I'm not sure people do realize the importance of the call center too often it is viewed as a cost on the other side of the balance sheet as opposed to a benefit to the company and it is perhaps even more important for financial institutions."
She adds that the study found unresolved issues at financial institutions were fairly low compared to other industries surveyed.
"Rather than viewing the call center as a necessary evil, financial institutions seem to be one of only two industries we studied that really see the value of a good customer experience in the contact center channel. Despite the constant turmoil and commotion of mergers and acquisitions, they manage not to lose sight of this critical channel," said Teodoru. "Eighty-one percent of banking customers have their issue resolved by the contact center. This is an important point, because customers who do not have their issue resolved are eight times more likely to defect, based solely on their poor experience with the call center."
She adds that the adage that customers are more likely to share a bad experience than a good one seems to apply in spades to a call center experience, and it's as true for financial institutions as in any other industry.
Just over half (52%) of the banking customers say that they share their experience with the contact center with other people, and it's not the good experiences they're sharing. Customers with bad experiences are significantly more likely to share the experience with others; and they are also less likely to recommend the company overall and are less likely to continue doing business.
"To explore future behavior, we ask if people are likely to recommend their financial institution in the future, based on their experience with the call center. Over two-thirds (68%) of banking customers would recommend the company based on their experience with the call center. As would be expected, 'recommenders' are significantly more satisfied than 'non-recommenders'--by 35 points (88% vs. 53%). And recommenders are three times more likely to continue doing business with the company--100% versus 32%," said Teodoru.