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Aspect Contact Center Satisfaction Index – Europe 2007 study reveals falling levels of customer satisfaction, with UK consumers rating agents’ Empathy and Advocacy skills 7 percent lower than in 2006 -

Aspect Software, Inc., the world’s largest company solely focused on the contact centre, and Leo J. Shapiro and Associates, a premier market research company, today announced the results of the 2007 Aspect Contact Center Satisfaction Index™ Europe, the first and only published independent survey of consumer experience versus expectations of contact centre interactions in Europe. As the balance of power continues to shift from businesses to consumers, the Aspect Index - Europe study provides practical, objective insight into consumer attitudes and behaviours that organisations can use to close the gap between consumer expectations and experiences.

The Aspect Index – Europe 2007 surveyed more than 1,250 consumers in six European countries (the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy and Spain).

UK Overview

The UK portion of the study reveals that customer satisfaction with contact centre-delivered service fell between 2006 and 2007. UK consumers rated their satisfaction with their last contact centre interaction with a 62 percent score, an E grade on the Aspect Index – Europe. This compares with 67 percent, a D grade in 2006.

The number of UK consumers saying that their last contact centre experience met or exceeded their expectations also fell – from 76 percent in 2006 to 64 percent in 2007 – despite expected satisfaction levels changing little between 2006 and 2007 (6.5 out of 9 in 2007, compared with 6.3 out of 9 in 2006). In addition:

- UK consumers were particularly critical of contact centre 'Empathy and Advocacy’ skills – rating their last interaction with a 63 percent 'Empathy and Advocacy’ score, 7 percent lower than in 2006.

- Consumers reported that it took more contacts to resolve a single query than in 2006 (the number of interactions required rising from 2.1 in 2006 to 2.4 in 2007); while on 52 percent of ‘typical experience’ calls, customers had to repeat information (repeating ‘most’ of the information given on 61 percent of occasions).

- The phone is still the dominant customer interaction channel in the UK – although its popularity is declining in favour of email. Email contacts accounted for 30 percent of UK customer interactions in 2007 (up from 24 percent in 2006) while phone contacts accounted for 67 percent of total customer interactions (down from 72 percent in 2006).

- A higher percentage of customer queries are resolved at the first point of contact in the UK (50 percent) than across Europe as a whole (39 percent) for the second year running. The corresponding numbers for 2006 were 56 and 52 percent, respectively.

"Every interaction is an opportunity – an opportunity to delight or disappoint, to enchant or disillusion, to reinforce a customer relationship or to lose it,” said Isabel Montesdeoca, senior director of marketing, Europe and Africa, for Aspect Software. “While pleasing everyone all of the time is a Herculean task, by focusing investment on 'listening to consumers' and ensuring that agents, processes and contact centre technologies are able to respond quickly and cost-effectively to consumers’ needs, Aspect Software believes that more and more contact centre interactions can become exceptional. Ultimately, the companies that are able to learn from exceptional experiences and apply those lessons to their operations will reap the rewards in terms of enhanced consumer satisfaction, increased business and potential market leadership."

The Aspect Index – Europe survey takes into consideration 25 attributes across three categories:

- Empathy and Advocacy: the human aspect of customer interactions, such as patience, knowledge, professionalism, and friendliness

- Efficiency: the overall quality and speed of the experience including being able to quickly speak with an agent, authority to resolve issues, and clear connection

- Automation: explores ease-of-use of technologies like automated menus, multiple contact choices, and access of contact information from a company’s website

Impact on Business

The Aspect Index – Europe study examined the impact of good and bad customer experiences on future business, finding that 33 percent of European consumers who were ‘satisfied’ with their last interaction would conduct more business with that company; with 8 percent of these saying they will do much more business. Conversely, nearly half of customers who were ‘unsatisfied’ claimed they will conduct less business; half of these saying they will do much less business.

40 percent of European consumers that were asked to repeat information after being transferred from an automated system to a live agent said they will conduct less business with a company; and, overall, 20 percent of European consumers said they were “likely to switch companies based on their latest (actual) interaction”.

"The Aspect Index shows clearly how the quality of a customer experience can impact a company's top line," said Margaret Mueller, Sr. Research Analyst, Leo J. Shapiro & Associates. "The survey results show that customers can be won or lost over the course of a single interaction. We hope that by calling out the criteria or actions that appear to create a pleasant experience, we can help contact centres determine what specific actions to take to satisfy their customers and grow their business."

UK Exceptional Experiences

The 2007 Aspect Index – Europe also measured some new data this year including identifying the criteria that distinguish an exceptional customer experience allowing contact centres to better understand what consumers are looking for in their interactions with companies. And, for those companies that deliver an exceptional contact centre experience to their customers, the outlook is much brighter.

UK consumers stating they had an ‘exceptional experience’ gave a much higher 87 percent satisfaction rating, an ‘A’ grade on the Aspect Index, with nearly two-thirds of these customers stating they would do more business with that company.

55 percent of ‘exceptional experience’ consumers conducted their last interaction by phone – with 79 percent of these customers opting to use the phone because they ‘wanted to talk to a live person’. UK consumers who reported having an ‘exceptional experience’ on their last call:

- Rated satisfaction with their call 11 percent higher than their expectation prior to the call taking place

- Required only 1.5 customer contacts to resolve their query (compared with 2.4 contacts for customers reporting a ‘typical experience’)

- Repeated information on 36 percent of calls (compared with 52 percent of calls for customers having ‘typical’ experiences), and

- Required fewer interactions to resolve a single enquiry than a ‘typical’ experience customer (2.1 compared to 2.7)

“While the Aspect Index – Europe 2007 survey shows that UK consumers are less satisfied with contact centre-delivered service than in 2006, the study also points the way forward for contact centre operators. By resolving queries quicker, cutting queue wait times and removing the need for callers to repeat information, they can turn ‘typical’ experiences into ‘exceptional’ experiences, thereby raising satisfaction levels and boosting future sales” says Aspect’s Isabel Montesdeoca.

“‘Empathy and Advocacy’, ‘Efficiency’, and ‘Automation’ are three key areas that contact centre operators must address” she continues. “UK consumers that reported an ‘exceptional experience’ on their last customer contact rated that experience with an 88 percent rating for Empathy and Advocacy, an 86 percent rating for Efficiency and an 82 percent rating for Automation.”

Key European Findings

a. German customers are the most content with their actual contact centre experiences for the second year running, rating their last interaction at 72 out of 100, while French and Spanish customers are the most unhappy, rating it 61 out of 100.

b. 28 percent of consumers in Europe said that their last contact centre interaction fell short of their expectations (22 percent in 2006).

c. Consumers in the Netherlands have the highest expectations of contact centre-delivered service at 6.9 out of 9 in 2007, and French consumers the lowest at only 5.9 out of 9.

d. 44 percent of interactions with communications companies fell short of European consumer expectations compared to only 20 percent of retail company interactions and 21 percent of financial company interactions (35 percent, 17 percent and 16 percent, respectively, in 2006).

About the Aspect Contact Center Satisfaction Index™ Europe

In 2005, Aspect Software, Inc. established the Aspect Contact Center Satisfaction Index™ to provide a measure of consumer satisfaction of telephone and internet-based interactions with companies and their representatives.

The Aspect Index – Europe study covers a cross-section of age groups, incomes, professions and education levels. The independent survey conducted by Leo J. Shapiro & Associates LLC adjusts over time to reflect changes and trends in contact centre performance, relative use of various communications channels and the changes in the importance that consumers place on various components of service. It is a new measure of experience versus expectation related to contact centre interactions.

The inaugural Aspect Index – Europe study was conducted in 2006, with the second study conducted in 2007. Each covered six countries – the UK, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. The 2007 Aspect Index - Europe study measured many of the same attributes as in 2006, but also gathered some new data, including:

- The specific distinctions between exceptional contact centre experiences and the typical customer experience

- Greater detail on how automated systems are affecting the overall customer experience

- Increased detail on how and when consumers are using contact channels

1,031 interviews were completed with consumers, producing a survey sample with an overall confidence level of +/- 3 percent. A more detailed qualitative study was also conducted with 257 consumers who stated they had an ‘exceptional’ experience.
The Aspect Index – Europe is the first and only published independent survey of consumer experience versus expectation of contact centre interactions in Europe.

The Aspect Index – Europe uses the following grading method. A grades are 80 or more out of 100; B grades are 75 to 79; C grades are 70 to 74; D grades are 65 to 69; E grades are 61 to 64; and F grades are 60 or below.

About Leo J. Shapiro and Associates

Leo J. Shapiro and Associates is a premier market research company with more than 50 years of experience across a wide range of industries. The company has been behind a variety of indexes that measure consumer behaviours and attitudes, including retail customer service satisfaction, significant consumer trends, grocery store shopping and others. Learn more about Leo J. Shapiro and Associates at www.ljs.com.

About Aspect Software

Aspect Software, Inc. founded the contact centre industry and is now the world’s largest company solely focused on Internet Protocol (IP) and traditional voice-based products and services for customer service, collections, and sales and telemarketing business processes. Each day, Aspect Software powers more than 125 million customer-company interactions at thousands of in-house and outsourced contact centres around the globe. Its pioneering Unified IP™ Contact Center product line reduces complexity by uniting automated call distribution (ACD), predictive dialling, voice portal, email management, web chat and collaboration, and recording and quality management to provide consolidated administration, routing, reporting and workflow.

PerformanceEdge™, the industry’s first fully synchronised contact centre optimisation suite combines workforce management, recording and quality management, performance management, campaign management, and coaching and eLearning applications. And, the company’s trusted Signature product line delivers reliable best of breed ACD, predictive dialling, CTI and Voice Portal capabilities. Headquartered in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, Aspect Software has operations across the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. For more information, visit www.aspect.com.

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Aspect, Aspect Software and Aspect Contact Center Satisfaction Index are either trademarks or registered trademarks of Aspect Software, Inc., in the United States and/or other countries. The names of other companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

For further information, please contact:

Isabel Montesdeoca
Aspect Software
Tel: +44 (0)20 8589 1000
isabel.montesdeoca@aspect.com

Michael Gray
Gray Associates
Tel: +44 (0)20 8744 9168
michael@grayassociates.co.uk

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Gray Associates in the following categories: Business & Finance, for more information visit http://pressreleasewire.responsesource.com/about.