Chaos at the PC Call Center

A survey says that 75% of dissatisfied customer service callers mull switching PC brands.
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It's no secret that PC companies haven't won many fans with their telephone customer service.

A new report shows just how woeful, and costly, the PC industry's customer service has become: The PC industry placed dead last in a survey of six industries that measured satisfaction with call centers.

According to the survey, nearly 73% of people who have had a bad experience with their PC maker's call center will consider buying their next PC from a different vendor; 30% said they will definitely do so.

The report, conducted by consulting firm CFI Group found that the PC industry scored a rating of 64 on the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index 100-point scale. Scores in the 60s are generally considered worrisome, according to CFI.

Problems with the PC call centers included everything from ineffectiveness in handling the issue to representatives not speaking in an understandable manner.

The poor report card comes as complaints about customer service have taken a toll on big PC makers.

As sales began to slow at

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

last year, the company unveiled a plan to "regain its leadership position in customer experience."

In August, Dell said it was investing $150 million to improve its customer service capabilities, adding new sales and support personnel as well as call centers.

Meanwhile, some PC makers are focusing on customer service as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition. In March,

Velocity Micro

, a private, Richmond, Va., PC maker, unveiled a so-called concierge service.

According to Velocity Micro, the concierges act as a customer's main contact within the company, complementing the existing technical support staff.

CFI Group conducted online surveys of more than 900 participants to examine the following six industries: insurance, banking, catalog retailers, cell phone service, cable/satellite TV and PC. The industry with the highest call center satisfaction was the catalog retail business.

The trend of offshoring call centers to foreign countries had a negative effect on satisfaction across all the industries examined by the report.

In the PC business, though, offshore call centers proved particularly thorny. The difficulty in understanding speakers from another country, combined with the technical jargon inherent in solving PC problems, creates a "recipe for significant communications issues," says the report.

According to the survey, nearly a quarter of PC callers hang up with their issue unresolved.

"Too many companies treat call centers as cost centers rather than seeing them as an opportunity to solidify the customer relationship, resulting in increased loyalty and retention," said CFI's Sheri Teodoru, who authored the study.

"Based on this research, any company that isn't putting resources into making sure that the call center is delivering customer satisfaction rather than frustration is taking a huge risk with its customer asset."