No trust? Don’t bother…

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The results of the preliminary research are known. Great results for both customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction. No less than 80% of customer satisfaction is accounted for by the variables I included in the research. That is sky high. But there is one factor which stands out above the rest…
In order to gain an idea of the elements which play a role in customers’ satisfaction with customer service, I started by studying more or less all the scientifically justified material published on the subject. At the end of this study, I was still of the opinion that certain variables would play a role, which had not been included in previous research, as had been the case for employee satisfaction.

Focus groups

In order to test whether certain elements were indeed missing, I put together focus groups comprising customers of three participants. During the initial session with customers, they showed themselves to be actually very satisfied and not to have many ideas regarding the importance of customer service for their satisfaction…. A sense of fear gradually came over me: does customer service (really) play a role in customer satisfaction….? In other words: did my doctoral research even touch on what is truly important to customers or should I find myself a new subject? I headed into the second session with somewhat renewed courage and soon a sense of relief: an enjoyable group of customers who could barely squeeze all their frustrations and constructive criticism into the two-hour period, telling me exactly how they thought things should work. Session number three was equally lively, and confirmed the variables which were eventually presented in the earlier sessions.

Reliable model

At the end of these three sessions, I began translating the results into a questionnaire, in order to also quantitatively test which variables really play a role and to measure the true impact of these various variables. This quantitative analysis proved itself to generate a (statistically) very reliable model (though it’s always a case of waiting to see whether such a questionnaire will eventually also produce scientifically justifiable data…). The model accounted for no less than 79% of customer satisfaction (50-60% is generally already very high). One factor alone (of the 8) was even responsible for 74% of satisfaction!

Knowledge and trust

I have named that factor “ Knowledge of and trust in the employee”. For this factor, think in terms of variables such as: first time fix, employee knowledgeable about the own organization, all questions answered, employee asks the right questions, confidence in the accuracy of the answer, consistent information over all channels (the PDF gives all variables which jointly form the “Knowledge of and trust in the employee” factor). Most striking (in my opinion) was that “Employee behavior” (which is a separate factor in the model) did not directly influence customer satisfaction. It did however have great impact on the “Knowledge of and trust in the employee” factor. Roughly translated, this reads as: I prefer an oafish type giving me the right answer rather than an extremely friendly type who can’t answer my question. The other factors which are included in the model and which all play their own role are: Eye for customer needs, Customer interest has priority, Sense of personal experience, Waiting, Selection menu, Accessibility. I could fill many pages writing about all these, but the enclosed PDF gives the results in detail.

I shall suffice with summarizing the crux of the results, in my experience: as a customer service department, you’re not going anywhere unless you can create trust and allow customers to feel that they matter to you.

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