The secrets of an exceptional customer experience


Delivering exceptional customer experience is increasingly recognised as an important means of driving competitive advantage.

Organisations with a mature customer experience strategy on average perform about 20 per cent higher on key business indicators.

In the latest Fifth Quadrant Contact Centre Key Performance Metrics Report for Australia and New Zealand, almost three quarters of Australian consumers say that a poor customer service centre experience is enough to cause them to move their business away from one organisation to another.

The impediments to good service

In Australia, one of the biggest impediments to delivering a superior customer experience relates to human resources, primarily a lack of staff to handle contact volumes.

The next most common problems are:

  1. The difficulties of meeting service levels;
  2. Retaining skilled and experienced staff; and
  3. Providing consistent information to customers.

Among small contact centres, there’s the added burden of trying to obtain inter-departmental cooperation when your centre may account for a relatively small part of the overall business.

At the other end of the scale, large contact centres with more than 100 seats often find service is complicated by a lack of timeliness of resolution.

Measure the experience

Mature customer experience companies have a strong culture of measurement, promoting better practices and greater accountability.

Operational metrics may include attributes such:

  • completion rates;
  • first contact resolution; and
  • time to resolution or technical problems.

Direct customer feedback is likely to involve measures such as customer satisfaction, customer engagement, customer advocacy and complaints.

In Australia, call back surveys and or online surveys are the most widely used means of measuring the customer experience, although one in seven will use random samples of surveys by agents at the time of the call and one in nine has adopted call forward surveys that are conducted by interactive voice response.

What to focus on

The most commonly used measure among contact centres is customer satisfaction, followed by agent quality performance and resolution.

Interestingly, centres that take the time to measure customer experience usually find remarkably high levels of customer satisfaction. Almost half report satisfaction ratings of 81 to 90 per cent. One quarter cites even higher ratings of between 91 and 100 per cent. Maybe these high figures are a natural outcome for an organisation that cares enough about the customer to try to measure their experience.

How to improve

Our research also shows that contact centre managers have a number of strategies for improving the customer experience over the next 12 months.

One in five centres plans to improve agent training and coaching. Almost as popular are plans to improve the level of customer satisfaction. One in ten are looking to introduce customer self-service options. Other strategies involve quality-monitoring initiatives, improving agent engagement, investing in technology, better customer communication and reductions to “avoidable contact”.

Curiously, given the previously acknowledged concern about the service impact of too few staff, only one per cent of organisations say they are considering increasing the number of staff as a means of improving the customer experience.

Despite the rise in digital channels for servicing customers, still less than 20 per cent of Australian consumers will use a social media or mobile application for customer service. Over 80 per cent of consumers will still turn to the telephone channel to interact with organisations. Hence continued focus on the contact centre by senior management as one of the core channels to deliver customer experience remains critical.

About the Author

Dr Catriona Wallace is the CEO of Fifth Quadrant.