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Retailers’ call centers for the most part are helping to solve their shoppers’ problems. But a drop in customer satisfaction should serve as a warning sign for companies to provide more training to associates, according to the just-released second Contact Center Satisfaction Index.

The Customer Service Representative Score for retailers was a healthy 81, above the overall score of 77, reports CFI Group, which created the Index. But the retailer number is down from the 85 posted last year. In addition, 77% of retailer call center users report that their issues are resolved by call centers, placing retail second only to hotels among call center sectors (which also include banking, cable and satellite TV, cell phone service, government, insurance, and personal computers). However, that figure is a 10-percentage point decline from last year, the first in which the study was conducted. Perhaps the major reason: as shoppers perform the more mundane tasks of ordering products over the Internet, they turn to call centers for more complex information.

“To some degree, they may be a victim of their own success,” Sheri Teodoru, CEO of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based CFI Group, told GlobeSt.com. “A lot of the simpler inquiries decreased dramatically. People now call with product support questions [such as lengths and sizes].”

CFI Group conducted an online survey of 2,200 qualified respondents who had called a contact center within the previous month and interacted with a customer representative. The University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index methodology was used to evaluate the respondents’ satisfaction.

Other sectors were not found as effective, possibly because U.S. retailers do not outsource their call center functions overseas to the same degree as other users. Many respondents in other sectors, such as computer companies, report that they sometimes found foreign accents difficult to understand over the phone.

To improve their scores, and differentiate themselves from their competition, retailers should begin building a customer database, as the hotel industry has done. As important, they provide their call center associates with more specific information about the products.

“They need to start monitoring the questions they get,” Teodoru advised. “You don’t want to wait six months to see you’re getting questions about an inseam size.”

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