Customer Satisfaction Trends During Lockdown

6 April 2020

A number of our clients have continued with their customer experience research programmes during the lockdown, to help slow the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), and we are seeing some interesting results. Nigel reflects on the latest trends in an article released today.

Few people would have predicted this but customer satisfaction has gone up during the lockdown period. For a good degree of statistical reliability the conclusions in this article have been based on customer satisfaction surveys for 3 TLF clients for whom we survey large samples of customers – 2 insurance companies and 1 large housing association.

The data collection was by telephone interviews and online. Based on telephone interviews conducted between Monday March 23rd and Friday April 3rd, we have seen overall satisfaction scores for a housing association up to 87% compared with 83% a month earlier. For an insurance company, NPS increased from 73 in the first week of March to an all-time high of 86 in the last week of March (based on the weekly average of NPS scores from daily online surveys).

It is undeniable that service levels have been lower during the last fortnight, partly because suppliers have reduced staffing levels but also because customers have been trying to communicate more. Many clients report call volumes into call centres significantly up. This has led to a big increase in call waiting times and abandonments. But despite all this, customers who didn’t abandon have mostly been very positive about their experience when we have interviewed them and satisfaction scores for all 3 clients have gone up. (The positive conversations have been repeated for smaller clients and we are sure their customer satisfaction scores will be up but we can’t be definitive until sample sizes are larger.)

So why is this happening? There are several reasons. As we know, satisfaction is a relative concept not an absolute one. Relative to the expectations the customer had in the first place. Most people are reasonable. At the moment customers don’t expect service levels to be normal, so an experience that would have been seen as poor only a month ago is perceived much more favourably. However, it also seems that some companies have been able to train and motivate their employees to show great empathy with customers, delivering real “moments of kindness” even when they are working from home. This can be encouraged and rewarded. One of our clients has asked us to make a short video based on customer voxpops from the interviews to thank their home working call centre staff and to help them appreciate how much difference they can make to their customers’ lives.

TLF Client Manager, Iain Law, provided the following quote for the company’s internal staff newsletter:

In these extraordinary times we have seen organisations respond in many different ways in an attempt to provide the best customer experience possible. A number of organisations have really stepped up to the plate in financial services and xxx is one of them. Customers acknowledge the grave position we collectively find ourselves in and they appreciate the lengths companies, and particularly their employees, have gone to in order to continue to provide a positive service. This acknowledgment often manifests itself in ‘moments of kindness’ between customers and employees and is likely to be contributing to how they score. At the same time we have seen customers be more “forgiving” of policies or processes that do not work including the lack of ability to deal with things digitally.

It is also worth adding that conducting the telephone interviews has not caused offence but has been seen as positive by most people and that there has been no decrease in response rates. In addition, because we have added a couple of questions about how customers are coping during the crisis the interviews have also generated some hot alert information that clients have been able to respond to quickly.