Assume for a second that your company screws up and causes a problem. The customer comes in or calls to complain – Do you apologize? Of course you do – but then what? For the most part, small and mid-sized businesses are fantastic and solving problems and making customers happy. What comes after an apology for most customer service professionals is mostly natural. However, given the rise of data analytics, now there is starting to be a science. In this article, we explore what it quantitatively takes to not only restore customer satisfaction but to make it better than before.

The Data

Every couple of years, the Customer Care Measurement and Consulting Group (CCMC) together with the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State, interviews 1,000 consumers to collect data on customer problem resolution. We took their data and turned them into “probabilities of action” that links each customer service action with the probability of either restoring/exceeding the customer satisfaction level that was present before the problem or the opposite – what action would help materially decrease satisfaction.

The Top 10 Ways To Make Things Better

It is no surprise that if you don’t take the problem seriously and show respect in either words or actions, you have very little chance of pleasing the customer. Statistically, that number is about 13%. You can give an apology, make the customer economically whole and even offer further compensation, but it will not matter. The customer will remain upset at their treatment.

It also goes without saying that you have to either fix the problem or take steps to fix the problem. If you can articulate that to the customer, you have a 79% chance of restoring satisfaction.

Below is the data on the ten most typical items that come up during a problem resolution session and what the related probability is to restoring or exceeding previous satisfaction levels that were present before the problem. The items in blue are areas where banks presently do an excellent job and often get it right. The items in orange, however, are areas of improvement.

For example, giving an assurance that the Company will look into how to prevent the issue from occurring in the future or that you fixed the problem in such a way that it will not happen in the future has a 79% correlation to restoring satisfaction. Unfortunately, in our testing and estimation, only 12% of the companies offered any type of statement to that effect. Thus, if you are looking for areas of improvement, these are the areas where you can obtain the fastest increase in the customer experience.

A graph showing the probability of increasing customer happiness

Fixing Problems From The Bottom

We want to be quick to point out that in the majority of the time, deficiencies in customer service have little to do with the personnel. The bulk of the deficiencies that we encountered during this research were a result of either poor training, unclear communication, lack of given authority, or the lack of provided tools.

For example, thanking the person for their business to start the call is statistically proven to increase the satisfaction level. Yet, few branch and call center staff that we spoke with for this research actually trained to this standard. The same also goes for offering additional compensation for the customer’s trouble. Store or call center staff are rarely trained or even have the authority to provide any compensation above and beyond the customer’s economic loss. This compensation for their trouble could take the form of a gift card, a discount, a free service or product, or other gift.

Top 5 Ways To Upset The Customer Further

In like manner, there are also some statistical ways to make problems worse. The main culprits are the inverse of the above. Not treating the customer with respect, offering an apology, or fixing the problem is the surest way to customer experience disaster. However, outside of the above list, there are still some things that banks sometimes due to drive satisfaction down.

While this is largely influenced by the national corporate experience, the below items are still instructive to keep in mind to assist your customer service team as your company grows. For example, confuse the customer with industry jargon, and you stand a 22% chance of having lower satisfaction after the call than when you started.

5 Best Ways To Decrease Satisfaction on a Customer Problem Call

Putting This Into Action

If the problem is out of your control or the Company did nothing wrong, then there is likely no need to offer an apology. However, If there is a legitimate problem that your company caused or was partially responsible for, then consider the data on the best way to handle the problem to garner you the highest satisfaction possible.

If you are looking for an easy training aid, below is our checklist to consider that is derived from thousands of customer service calls that will give your company the highest probability of turning a customer frown into a smile.

The data-driven checklist of a customer service problem call


The articles presented contain summaries, personal opinions, viewpoints and analyses of the author of the article and not those of CenterState Bank. The articles are intended to provide general information on finance, current events, strategy, leadership, risk management, and other related topics and are not intended to be complete or to provide any specific recommendations or advice. Readers should consult their own legal or financial professionals for specific advice on any particular topic.