Call Centers have become a critical channel for success and building customer relationships for companies across various industries. In the PC industry companies are notorious for maintaining ineffectual call centers and are in effect losing customers due to its poor service, with nearly one-quarter of callers unsatisfied and ready to shop elsewhere.

The study, conducted by consulting firm CFI Group, included six key industries: banking, cable television, catalog retailers, cell phone service, insurance companies and personal computers. At the top of the list catalog retailers scored 80 out of 100 points - based on the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) methodology. PC call centers on the other hand, scored a worrisome rating of 64.

The report cites 'first call resolution' and 'offshoring' as the issues with major impact on customer satisfaction with call centers. Call resolution is crucial; customers who hang up dissatisfied are likely to defect to a competitor, but even more important, in a time where customers can broadcast complaints or compliments to millions with a click of a mouse, impressions formed by a call center matters more than ever. Also, customer service representatives (CSRs) in the PC industry receive low marks as they are perceived as difficult to understand and ineffective in solving problems - this is related to the frequency of offshoring - combined with the complexity of the product itself and users not being technologically savvy, magnifying communication issues.

"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 Sheri Teodoru, Program Director at CFI Group and author of 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."
Poor customer service in the PC industry overall provides an opportunity for manufacturers to differentiate themselves based on customer service instead of focusing on a cost-cutting approach, with companies such as Dell - which came under sharp criticism from consumers last year - already investing heavily to improve its customer service capabilities.