Monday, November 10, 2008

Cultural Impact on Customer Loyalty

As I have noted in previous blogs, I have a large and growing data base of customer satisfaction data from information technology services. One of the areas I have studied is help desks (often referred to as technical support). I have been finding that there is a definite cultural component to high technology service. This may also be true for other areas but I can only speak to the service support for high technology equipment.

The largest difference I found in a recent study of help desks was between the United States and the Benelux countries. The sample sizes were large and met the criteria of a probability sample. For the United States the sample was 90,437 and for the Benelux countries the sample was 6600. Clearly, the sample sizes are sufficient to draw valid statistical conclusions. The really good news was the sample had wonderful characteristics; namely,
1. All data taken by the same survey organization.
2. All equipment had relatively the same complexity.
3. There were at least 10 companies in the data and all have very similar SLAs (Service Level Agreements).
4. All scales were the same (1 to 5 with 5 being highest and 1 being lowest).

To give an indication of the difference between customer satisfaction for help desk the United States and the Benelux countries, the 61.4 percent of the customers in the United States sample scored help desk satisfaction 5 whereas 28 percent of the Benelux countries sample scored help desk satisfaction 5.

The question is why would United States customers score a 5 for help desk service more then twice as often as the Benelux customers. Remember, the survey was taken for high technology companies that provide world-wide service at about the same service level.

This becomes even more interesting when I compared the percent of customers who scored 1 for help desk satisfaction. The United States had 3.3 percent and Benelux had 3.0 percent of their customers who decided that help desk satisfaction was very unsatisfactory.

The percent difference for scores of 5 are DRAMATICALLY HIGHER for the United States than Benelux but the difference for scores of 1 are not nearly as dramatic.

The difference is definitely at the high end of the scale. I am sure there are some excellent sociologists that cold give a plausible explanation. My first hypothesis about why this difference exists is that the attitude of the personnel on the help desk is different. I have not yet tested this but here is my reasoning:
1. It is easier to get rid of an under-performing technician in the United States than in the Benelux countries; therefore, the US tech has a greater downside for not performing well than the Benelux tech.
2. The customers in the Benelux countries may have a higher standard for service than the US customers.
3. Workload levels may be different between the United States and Benelux countries.
4. The training levels may be different and more comprehensive in the United States than Benelux countries.
5. The fact that the help desks in the Benelux countries has to deal with multiple languages could have an effect.

The bottom line is that customer satisfaction and the implied customer loyalty appears to have a very strong component. The next step is to isolate each of the contributing factors and assess which ones can be controlled and which ones are going to be there no matter what.

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