In a nationwide survey from Consumer Reports, sixty-seven percent of respondents had hung up on customer service without having their problem addressed. What can be done to address this problem?

One group has formed to create 100,000 customer service representative jobs in the US in an effort to help improve both customer service and the economy. The group, called Jobs4America, is a coalition of firms and customer service companies including Sprint, Nextel, XO Communications, the American Teleservices Association and third-party customer service providers such as Accent Marketing Services, Aegis Global and Novo 1.

On Jobs4America’s website, they offer 3 reasons to increase on-shore call centers:

  • Create US jobs
  • Create jobs for the Disabled (via telecommuting)
  • Improve Customer Satisfaction

The first two reasons are inarguable but the last reason is supported with questionable data. They cite a study which reports customers feel 27% less satisfied when they believed they were talking to an off-shore worker.  There was no actual data collected as to whether it was or was not an on or off-shore call center; it was completely based on the perception of the customer. What isn’t obvious is that once a customer perceives the customer service representative is off-shore, it is much more likely that there was already an issue which impeded communication.

Some have asserted that off-shoring customer service doesn’t affect customer service as long as the customer service representative is “understandable” and provides “good quality answers.”

Complaints relating to customer service go beyond the on-shore vs. off-shore debate. In the Consumer Reports survey mentioned earlier, customers ranked the issues that annoyed them the most. Topping the list was “Can’t get a human on [the] phone.”  A majority of customers prefer to use the phone to address their problems. Despite their preference for the telephone, widespread use of automated menus is the cause of frequent complaints. Almost half of the people who reach an automated telephone menu will bypass the options to try to speak with a human directly.  “Seventy-one percent of survey respondents were “tremendously annoyed” when they couldn’t reach a human on the phone. And 56 percent felt that way about having to take multiple phone steps to reach the right place. (CR)”

The take-away from all this?  On-shoring Customer Service jobs should boost the economy and lower unemployment. However, don’t expect complaints to disappear without the proper infrastructure manned with qualified and trained customer service representatives. What the customer cares about is reaching a human that can understand…and solve their problem.