Back in March, I blogged about how bad call center experiences spoil millions of daily opportunities to drive business value. But the business value of improving these interactions varies, of course, by industry and by individual company — and my most recent report, "Call Center Experiences Leave Consumers On Hold For Something Better," sheds some light on this.

For example, satisfaction rates for the five banks in our study spanned nearly 40 percentage points. An independent credit union took top honors with an impressive satisfaction score of 90%, while Bank of America came in at just 53%. Ouch. The credit card industry fared similarly: Discover Bank took the top spot with 81% consumer satisfaction, while Citi and Capital One tied for last place with twin scores of 58%. Meanwhile, phone interactions with the four Internet service providers (ISPs) in our study — AT&T, Comcast, Road Runner (Time Warner Cable), and Verizon — were universally loathed. The average satisfaction score for the ISPs was the lowest of any industry, and scores for the individual brands saw only an eight percentage-point spread.

Low call center satisfaction is admittedly bad news for brands, agents, and callers alike. But it also means that firms have a near-term opportunity for big-time brand differentiation through the call center customer experience.

Opportunities are greatest for ISPs and health insurance plans. Satisfaction scores for the individual brands in the wireless service and health insurance industries are low — AND they're also so tightly grouped that a first mover with a satisfaction rate jump of just 5% to 7% could create a meaningful point of differentiation from its pack of competitors.

Companies with existing customer experience initiatives also have an advantage. Call center executives who work at companies where customer experience professionals are already at work should consider themselves fortunate. Regardless of their industry, these execs are well poised to make solid improvements by tapping into companywide change efforts, like voice of the customer programs and informal rewards for customer-centricity.

But success is well within reach for any organization that truly wants to make the effort. Let's face it: Some companies are focused solely on squeezing every last dollar out of their call centers. Because customer experience is barely on their radar, their call centers will continue to have dismal customer satisfaction rates. But our research has shown that call center satisfaction and related business metrics can improve through relatively simple efforts — like having agents actually listen to what callers have to say before getting bogged down in call handling procedures and data entry.

Will your company seize this opportunity? Why or why not?

To learn how to boost the business value of your call center, please join my upcoming teleconference, Building A Strategic Call Center That Supports Your Brand And Business, on Wednesday, May 18, 2011, 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. Eastern time (18:00-19:00 UK time).