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It Takes Just 120 Seconds: Predicting Satisfaction in Technical Support Calls


  • The authors thank Claire Rawlings (Getronics) and Amy Callen/Kathy Keus (CompuCom) for their support in data gathering, and Henry Boc, Jessica Katz, and David Kramer for assistance in gathering and analyzing the ratings.


This study investigated whether information gleaned from the first two minutes of technical support telephone conversations could predict the callers’ satisfaction with the technical support person. The first two minutes of 84 calls from employees of a company to their help desk (47 technical support persons) were measured using (1) new participants who listened to or read the conversations and rated their impressions of the technical support person and their satisfaction while playing the caller role (proxy callers), and (2) other raters who rated the caller and aspects of the interaction as a whole. A word count software program (Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count, LIWC) was also used to examine the support persons’ communication style. Proxy callers’ satisfaction, their ratings of the support persons’ behavior (particularly on items indicative of a positive, caller-centered behavior style), and the support persons’ use of the first person singular category of the LIWC were all significant predictors of the original callers’ satisfaction. These findings have implications for companies’ selection and training of customer support employees.