Customer Satisfaction is People Interaction – Back to HRO Basics Part I

What creates and sustains HRO client satisfaction?

The more services are automated, the more the remaining direct person-to-person interactions assume greater importance in shaping satisfaction. Granted, technology is very important in creating competitively priced HRO services, benefiting both the client and the service provider. And yet, meeting basic services levels does not create longer term satisfaction, and effective low-cost transactions are quickly considered simply part of the expected services. Competitive prices and compelling technology-driven quality services are necessary but not sufficient. Long-term end-customer satisfaction – whether the customer is internal or external – is sustained by people interacting with people.

For example, recent research by Convergys shows that 68 percent of customers still prefer to speak with a live service representative. And what they want most is knowledgeable CSRs who address their needs on first contact and treat them as valued customers. A strong second choice is live chat with an agent, followed by use of the corporate website. And acceptance of self-service options is also gaining in popularity, with 25 percent of consumers preferring to use the Internet to contact a company, up from 18 percent per a 2004 Convergys study. And as you would expect, the younger generations are more likely to actually prefer automated, self-service channels.

The relationship with the HRO service provider is critical in achieving and sustaining the depth of customer satisfaction that builds a loyal client, which in turn results in contract extensions of scale and scope, renewals and strong client references that help win new business. For HRO customer satisfaction is segmented into key client stakeholder groups including employees and other end users of the services, and key HR and business leaders including the outsourcing governance team.

Convergys’ president and CEO, David Dougherty said, “Being able to manage the customer experience depends heavily on being able to manage the employee experience. There is a clear link between satisfied, well-equipped and well-trained employees and the ability to provide a good customer experience.”

Watson Wyatt’s August 2009 survey of U.S.-based HR leaders found that more than half (52 percent) of employers are now more concerned about retaining top performers and critical-skill employees than they were before the economic downturn.

The survey showed that the top employee engagement activity (as cited by 83 percent of respondents) was increased communications. Much less cited were expanded use of recognition programs at 27 percent and special compensation programs for high performers and/or at-risk employees at 18 percent.

Watson Wyatt agrees that effectively using communication is critical to keeping employees engaged, but it advises that companies should also be using the HR programs they would normally use, such as employee recognition, development opportunities, and targeted compensation programs, to help employees remain focused and engaged throughout the downturn and recovery.

As the increased effectiveness of self-service transactions reduces the number of live agent interactions, each interaction assumes greater importance, as does the capabilities and attitude of the agents.

While the above-cited surveys were U.S.- and Canada-based, the economic downturn reduced voluntary turnover around the world. HRO provider employee contact centers are located around the world, onshore, nearshore and offshore, creating a global workforce that varies in language, culture and employee engagement needs. One prominent India-based BPO provider recently told me their turnover is now under 10 percent. Great news, but what happens when increased opportunity arises? 

Want to build customer satisfaction? Have a full internal program of employee development and engagement to ensure live customer interactions are handled by knowledgeable, caring agents enabled to solve as many problems as possible on first contact.

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

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