This is part one in a two-part series. Read part two here.

Customer loyalty isn’t what it used to be.

In fact, a recent report from NewVoiceMedia revealed that 44 percent of customers have left a company or brand in the last year due to a negative customer service experience. That’s a lot of customers both in flux and ready to move at the drop of a hat. It’s vital that your customer service phone support is up to par, especially when it’s the first line of defense against a negative customer experience in your operation.

Is Your Customer Phone Support Up to Par?

Knowing if your answering service is delivering the service your customers deserve might be a little harder than simply asking them if they’re doing a good job.

They’re obviously delivering a service they believe is good enough. But if you’ve noticed a decrease in sales or customers are complaining, it might be time to take a long, hard look at your answering service company.

Here are some questions to ask before you decide where to assess blame:

What’s the average hold time for my callers? NewVoiceMedia also found that callers are surprisingly tolerant to hold times if you can get them to hold at all—but 53 percent of callers will hang up straight away if they don’t get to speak to a person. If your callers are being placed on hold before being handled, this can create a huge barrier between you and them. There’s no excuse for an answering service to be placing callers on hold under normal operating parameters.

How much training are your operators receiving? Operator training is vital to providing a great customer service experience. If your answering service is only giving your operators a few days of training before putting them on the phones, that’s hardly any training at all. Your operators should be well-versed in all elements required to create an ideal customer experience, otherwise your customers are going to suffer even more than you already realize.

What other metrics do you track? An answering service should be a lot more than picking up the phone and taking a message when necessary. It should be tracking calls and statistics in order to improve the customer experience with every single call. Ask your service what other metrics they’re tracking so you can see how interested they really are in improving your customers’ experience. Things like time spent on the phone and first call resolution are important quality checks every answering service should be making.

Hiring an answering service is a great step to increasing your customer happiness, but if your answering service isn’t up to par, it’s vital that you move on to a service that is. These questions should get you started determining how much attention your current service is paying to the little things—and how it’s affecting your customer experience.

In part two of this two-part series, we’ll discuss ways to bring your telephone customer service up to par or find a new service that will provide the level of service you’d like to provide for your customers. Good customer service can seem like a moving target, but it’s always worth striving for improvement.