According to a report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI®), customer satisfaction in the U.S. dropped to a score of 73.2 out of 100 in early 2022, its lowest point in 17 years. This continues a sharp decline that began in 2019, after about a decade of flattening customer satisfaction and economic growth.
While these numbers are still in decline, the good news is that the drop in customer satisfaction in the first quarter of 2022 was a decrease of just 0.1 from the fourth quarter of 2021, so the rate of decline may be slowing. However, companies face a significant uphill climb in satisfying today’s savvy consumers in uncertain economic times.
What is the importance of customer satisfaction?
Customer satisfaction is an important business performance metric for companies as it provides an insight into things like customer loyalty, likelihood of churn, and also helps identify issues with the product or service. Companies that provide a high level of customer satisfaction can also use it to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
The importance of customer satisfaction was highlighted by an Accenture study, which showed that 83% of customers said a company providing better customer service would have impacted their decision to switch providers. What’s more, PwC found that 32% of customers would stop doing business with a company after just a single bad experience, and NewVoiceMedia reports that 42% of survey respondents said they have, in fact, left a business due to poor customer service. By increasing the level of customer satisfaction, you can reduce customer churn rates at your company.
Similarly, a high level of customer satisfaction reduces negative word of mouth. CFI Group found that 36% of customers will tell others about their customer service experience, whether good or bad. And according to Customer Care Measurement and Consulting (CCMC), “Rage is shared like never before with friends and neighbors. 17% seek to raise public awareness of their experience, dissatisfied complainants tell twice as many people about their negative experience than satisfied customers do.”
One thing companies who provide a low level of customer service sometimes overlook is the collateral damage caused by unhappy customers. It is bad enough losing business because you provided a customer with a low level of service, but what about losing 15 more customers as a result? Customer satisfaction can have a massive impact on your business and appropriate care should be taken.
You should also remember that acquiring new customers is a lot more expensive than keeping the clients you already have. Misallocating resources and overlooking customer happiness as you chase new business opportunities is a common mistake that must be avoided.
How do you define customer satisfaction?
There are a number of definitions of customer satisfaction flying around, but they are all focused on the same thing – how a company’s product or service measures up to customer expectation. Companies place a great deal of focus on customer satisfaction because it can have a major impact on revenue – the higher the level of customer satisfaction, the more likely customers are to remain customers. Furthermore, a high level of customer satisfaction increases the likelihood of revenue generated from customer referrals and helps you build your brand.
Many call centers use customer satisfaction surveys at the end of calls. Customers are asked to complete a quick survey after every call to and rate the level of service they received and understand how the customer feels about your business. Customer satisfaction surveys help companies to uncover problems with their service in a timely manner. They also provide visibility into the performance of each member of your team.
If your call center uses customer satisfaction surveys it is important that you turn the data you collect into action. If agents are consistently getting low scores in surveys, coaching sessions should be set up to identify and eradicate the behaviors that result in negative customer sentiment.
What is client satisfaction?
Though similar, client satisfaction does differ from customer satisfaction, but is equally important to consider in your overall strategy. A client is a type of cusomer who purchases professional services from a business, such as accounting, real estate or legal services.
What makes a great customer experience?
There are many factors that impact the customer experience at every touchpoint throughout the customer journey. So, what is it that makes a great customer experience? The truth is that what makes a great customer experience for your customers might look a lot different than what makes a great customer experience for another business’s customers. That’s why it’s crucial to gain deep insights into your customers’ behaviors, preferences, and sentiment. You need to understand where your customers are interacting with your brand and how they feel about those interactions at every touchpoint.
However, traditional ways to evaluate the customer experience fall short. Customer satisfaction surveys and manual reviews of recorded calls cover just 1 to 3% of customer interactions, so they don’t paint the full picture. That leaves you without insight into most of your customer interactions, and the feedback you do have is likely to be slanted towards customer opinions on the extreme ends of the spectrum (highly satisfied, highly unsatisfied).
Conversation analytics provides insight into 100% of customer interactions across all channels and touchpoints, identifying behavior and sentiment patterns to understand your customers’ expectations, interpreting nuance, and providing deep insight into what your customers want and need in real-time. Companies leverage this data to improve customer interactions and create personalized customer experiences that drive customer satisfaction and loyalty.
While the ingredients that create a great customer experience vary from company to company, there are some common things many customers prefer when conducting business with a brand:
- Frictionless processes to complete purchases and get support
- Easily accessible and thorough self-help resources
- The ability to get in touch with a human support representative easily
- Empathy from sales and customer support representatives
- Knowledgeable support representatives
- Speedy issue resolution
- An omnichannel experience
- Personalized interactions
- Feeling as though the brand’s values are in line with their own
- Feeling as though the company listens to and cares about what they think
- Proactive issue identification and resolution
- Employees who go above and beyond to ensure a positive customer experience
With these ingredients in place, your customers will have a smooth, stress-free, and satisfying experience throughout every interaction with your brand.
What is a good customer satisfaction example?
Let’s take a look at two companies that take customer satisfaction to the next level – and earn their customers’ long-term loyalty as a result.
Zappos is often mentioned in discussions of companies that offer top-notch customer service. Where Zappos particularly excels is in its frictionless purchase and returns experience. The company offers free shipping for purchases, returns, and exchanges, plus it gives customers a full year to return products.
Another way Zappos stands out is through its friendly, engaging, and even humorous customer support staff. The company responds personally to every email it receives, and sometimes, the responses can put a smile on the face of any customer.
In 2004, Zappos was having difficulty finding enough qualified call center representatives to staff its call center in San Francisco, where the company was headquartered. “But we’ve found that on average, our customers telephone us at least once at some point, and if we handle the call well, we have an opportunity to create an emotional impact and a lasting memory,” CEO Tony Hsieh explained in an article published by Harvard Business Review. “We receive thousands of phone calls and e-mails every day, and we view each one as an opportunity to build the Zappos brand into being about the very best customer service. Our philosophy has been that most of the money we might ordinarily have spent on advertising should be invested in customer service, so that our customers will do the marketing for us through word of mouth.”
Ultimately, Zappos decided to relocate its entire headquarters to Las Vegas, and eventually, the company was purchased by Amazon in 2009. Still, Zappos continues its strong commitment to customer service today, delivered by its Customer Loyalty Team (CLT) and a mission to “Wow” every customer.
JetBlue has long been a name that has emerged when discussing companies that excel at customer satisfaction. The airline first entered the scene in 1998 with a mission to “bring humanity back to air travel,” as Frankie Littleford, JetBlue’s VP of Customer Support Experience, Operations, and Recovery, told Forbes. Littleford explained that building a strong company culture of respect and trust was the key to ensuring satisfaction with JetBlue’s customers.
JetBlue stands out in several ways, not the least of which is its Chief People Officer, who is tasked with many responsibilities, such as protecting and positioning JetBlue’s unique company culture as a competitive advantage, engaging crewmembers, and overseeing JetBlue University, where new hires receive onboarding and training while staying at the JetBlue Lodge and enjoying its gym, pool, and bar during their stay.
JetBlue is well-known for its Customer Bill of Rights and its small efforts that make a big impact on customers, like the time an employee hand-delivered a Starbucks coffee (along with some mints) to a customer who wasn’t able to grab his much-needed cup of joe prior to boarding, as the terminal he was flying out of didn’t have a Starbucks – all in response to a tweet. In 2020, JetBlue gave back by offering free flights for medical professionals and supplies during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Proven ways to improve customer satisfaction
So, what are some ways companies can drive customer satisfaction in today’s consumer-centric landscape? The following is a curated list of 25 different tactics to improve customer satisfaction, from a variety of sources:
1. Develop Customer Service Communities
“The most advanced companies are using [customer service] communities to generate product ideas and test new products. Seventy-two percent of respondents [who participated in a Get Satisfaction survey] are using communities to get feedback on how existing products are used; 67 percent use them to collect ideas for new products or features from customers; and 46 percent rely on them for feedback on prototypes or beta products.”
(Source: Smart Customer Service)
2. Map the Customer Experience Journey, but Don’t Stop There
“You need to be mindful that mapping your customer journey is not a linear process. It’s important to have qualitative and quantitative feedback across all the segments incorporated. This will help you identify opportunities to enhance the customer experience.
Mapping your customer journey is like having the foundation laid for all your sales and marketing campaigns to drive growth by delivering delightful customer experiences. "
3. Provide Multichannel Support
“Contact centers that implement omnichannel operations blend a variety of communication channels together to form a cohesive communication strategy. Each unique channel is made available to customers for communicating with a given company, while agents are presented with a simplified system for handling interactions seamlessly. Unlike multichannel strategies, an omnichannel approach goes a step further, making it possible for a multitude of channels to be used intuitively by agents as though they were really a single cohesive unit. This makes it possible for customer interactions to persist across channels, retaining key insights along the way.
In a world where customers have largely grown dissatisfied with impersonal approaches and purely scripted interactions with brands, the omnichannel strategy has proven to be appealing to most and even capable of winning new leads over.”
4. Make Employee Satisfaction a Priority
“The correlation between the satisfaction of your customers and your financial performance is easy to see. This is especially true if your employees are interacting with customers a lot. Studies confirm that employee happiness correlates with employee efficiency, creativity, and productivity. This, in turn, has the same effect on customers– proving that happy employees make customers happy.”
5. Encourage Agents to Take Ownership of Problems
“Encourage operators to take ownership of problems and spend time dealing with the customer, rather than escalating or passing over the problem. This gives advisors a real sense of pride in their job and means they are taking their own action and really shows excellent customer service.”
(Source: Call Centre Helper)
6. Turn Customer Survey Data into Action
“Good data reflects the experiences your customers actually have with your company. Furthermore, good data equips your company to take action. [The key is to] develop a satisfaction survey that probes truthfully into the heart of your gaps and opportunities.”
(Source: Smart Customer Service)
7. Figure Out What the Customer Really Wants
“Figure out what the customer really wants, if you can solve the problem they will pay; the value is often not in the discount you can offer but rather in the solution you can provide.”
8. Focus on Your Cultural Values
“Company culture is a guide to how the company operates and performs far beyond official rules and requirements. While employees may be obligated to answer a phone call, it’s a company culture that will determine how the call is answered, the attitude with which it is answered and the overall outcome of the call. … Naturally, a company’s reputation stems from its customers’ opinions. When customers are interacting with positive, enthusiastic and work-oriented employees, their impression of the company will be much better.”
9. Stay Current on Customer Reviews
“Both positive and negative reviews can be a great method of identifying what customers want from your business. Online reviews will highlight areas of your business that require attention and improvement whether that’s better customer service or more accurate service quotes.
When you clearly understand what customers want and expect from your business, you’ll find it easier to make improvements and maintain a stronger base of loyal customers.”
10. Offer Proactive Customer Service
“The key here is to contact your customers before they need to pick up the phone and contact you! To be effective, these contacts should be timely, personalized and relevant to the consumer.
The best proactive strategies make regular contact throughout the customer journey and lifecycle. Examples include: payment reminders, fraud monitoring, and personalized loyalty and reward schemes. This strategy can reduce inbound calls and improve agent efficiency. This proves that offering great customer service isn’t just good for the consumer, it’s good for the business as well.”
(Source: Call Centre Helper)
“In everything you do, make sure the customer feels like he or she is the only one that matters. Use the customer’s name, refer to personal information and congratulate a customer on his or her birthday. Make them feel at home.”
(Source: Tech Target)
12. Slash Wait Times
“Everyone is busy, and if your company can’t provide the highest levels of service your customers won’t hesitate to find someone who can. Customer wait time needs to be eliminated or managed. Bureaucracy needs to be replaced with customer-friendly processes. Be easy to do business with, and your customers will reward you over and over again.”
13. Put a Social Media Plan in Place
“When building a brand or a community for your customers, engagement is exceptionally crucial. In an analog sphere, customers can only engage with you when they’re in-store. However, in a digital space, there are many opportunities for customers to engage with you. You can host giveaways, share unique content, provide instant support, and more. The possibilities are endless.
You can also reward a customer for liking your products and services to build a more compelling connection. If a customer mentions you in a tweet or makes a post about you on Facebook, a basic response is a surefire way to make anyone’s day. But if you encounter a negative review, you can control the narrative. Sure, you can’t control what your customers are feeling, but you can control how you respond. Who knows? You could even convert the negative experience into something more positive with one reply.”
14. Rethink the Approach to Doing Business & Building Relationships
“Because consumers are operating differently today, and more differently tomorrow, companies must embrace the environment in which we’re operating. It’s only fair to customers that companies rethink their approach to doing business and building relationships with them.”
15. Demonstrate Product Knowledge
“When our customer service staff know the products inside out and can provide thorough and enthusiastic explanations about features and benefits it is likely that will have a very positive impact on customers. Usually, customer service teams that show passion and interest towards their product are likely to make a very positive lasting impression on customers, and this again would help strengthening your brand and improve sales.”
16. Benchmark Customer Satisfaction
“Benchmarking is the process of comparing your own organization or operations against other organizations in your industry or in the broader marketplace.
You might compare your most successful competitor’s customer processes and satisfaction with your own. Or, you might look at a firm outside of your industry known for remarkable customer service practices. Establishing a benchmarking initiative is an important component of measuring and improving your customer service and satisfaction.”
(Source: The Balance Careers)
17. Set Clear Expectations and Exceed Them
“Basically, to go the extra mile comes down to doing more than is expected by the customers, trying a little harder, and going above the norm. And needless to say that excellent customer service is a key attribute that many customers value more than the price or quality of the product.
For example, it’s the extra time a sales agent spends helping customers to make the right selection or the customer support rep who takes a few minutes extra to ensure you have all of your questions answered and won’t need to call back.”
(Source: REVE Chat)
18. Study Complaints and Compliments
“Every message from a customer presents an opportunity to improve customer satisfaction. Compliments show you what to reinforce, while complaints point to new ideas and action steps for improvement.”
(Source: UP! Your Service)
19. Hold Daily Stand Up Meetings with your Team
“Problems tend to come in waves. You might have a bug of the week, a new release causing more questions or a seasonal volume increase. Instead of letting agents figure out how to deal with this on their own, take it on as a team with daily stand-ups. You’ll start the day on the same page and fire up.”
20. Ask How Your Clients Would Like to be Responded to
“Research shows 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. Providing an excellent customer experience means meeting and surpassing customers’ expectations of your business. And to offer a top customer experience you need to communicate with customers in their channel of choice.”
21. Provide Additional Benefits
“Who doesn’t like added benefits? Or, a special offer once in a while? Surprising your customers with a free goodie unexpectedly can go a long way in building concrete relationships.
Sometimes, an unanticipated discount on the products your customers have been eying for some time can work. On other events, you can consider throwing in an additional accessory or a week’s worth post-purchase support for free. You would be amazed at how effective these little things can be in building a positive image of your brand. It helps in increasing customer satisfaction immensely.”
(Source: Tweak Your Biz)
22. Offer Free Product Training and Support
“This is a clear, business-winning decision. Nothing decreases customer satisfaction more than being confused with how to make a product work. And free product training and support will be how you alleviate this customer frustration. Why does this work? For starters, when people spend money on something, they tend to doubt themselves and their ability to make the product work right. With detailed, free training, you’ll alleviate that self-doubt and win a life-long customer.”
(Source: Social Triggers)
23. Press Reset After Every Call
“Dale Carnegie said “Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face, especially if you are in business. Yes, and that is also true if you are a housewife, architect or engineer.”
Each new customer interaction should be entirely fresh and new for you. I used to imagine an actual reset button that I would press after something frustrated me. Shed any frustration before you interact with the next customer with a few deep breaths. Then, visualize the amazing potential of your new opportunity to interact with your next customer.”
24. Ask Open Text Questions on Surveys
“Open text questions allow you to collect open-ended responses from your respondents. You can gain more detail about your customer’s experiences and you might uncover new insights you didn’t expect.”
25. Empower Your Agents
“Agents who have been carefully hired and properly trained then need the authority to handle customer issues before they need escalation. No customer really wants to have to ask to speak to a supervisor they want to be talking to someone who can solve the problem in the first place. Giving your reps the power to make their own decisions makes your customers happy, and it also keeps your reps happy, reducing agent turnover. More operational cost savings!”
Leverage 100% of Customer Conversations
“Customers today expect every buying experience to be personalized and effortless. In response, companies in every vertical are turning to conversational analytics to better understand what customers want – and how to meet and exceed their expectations at every touchpoint.
Conversational analytics delivers clear insight into the mindset of the customer by monitoring and analyzing their behavior and emotion during every interaction. By categorizing, tagging, and scoring 100% of customer interactions, customer conversation analytics reveals the opinions, desires, and needs driving customer choices and gives companies a deeper understanding of what is required to create exceptional customer experiences.”
While there’s no one solution for improving customer satisfaction levels, the key is to develop a customer-centric mindset that will help inform decisions and company direction. Staying up to date with call center best practices is also something to keep in mind. The above list of recommended tactics from a wide variety of sources represents only the beginning – the possibilities are endless.
Additional resources on customer satisfaction
To help you learn more about customer satisfaction and what you can do to increase customer satisfaction at your company, check out the following resources: