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Tuesday 23 June 2009

What’s the call centre industry telling us?

Given that Corizon works with many customer service organizations to streamline and simplify the use of applications for agents and customers, we take a keen interest in what the industry is saying and how it is responding to the economic environment. One organization that collects and analyses this kind of information in the UK is the Customer Contact Association, and I thought some of the findings they presented at a briefing this week worth sharing more broadly, along with relevant insights from our own work with customers.

Impact of the recession
When asked about changes being made in response to the recession, the results from organizations are interesting. It seems that they are not rushing to outsource calls and contacts, but are more likely now to outsource back office processes. However, by far the biggest shift is in consolidation, accelerating moved from multiple smaller sites to fewer, large and more economic centres. Based on our experience, the former is perhaps an encouraging sign for the contact centre, evidence of recognition that they are not just cost centres, but can be the key to keeping customers happy and buying more – both essential success factors in the current climate. The latter clearly makes economic sense, but gaining even greater economies of scale will require an increase in mutliskilling, something that has been a problem in many of the call centres we visit due to the learning associated with different roles and the IT systems they require.

Role of technology
The demand for technology solutions seems to be running strong. 58% of those surveyed by CCA felt that performance was being hampered by out of date legacy systems, while 47% felt that new technology would be a better investment for improving performance than training and upskilling their teams; 57% said that they would invest in unified desktop solutions.
However, there is also a sting in the tail for technology vendors, with about half the respondents feeling they repeatedly had to fight off attempts to sell them unnecessary technology, and a significant number demanding that new applications are created with more user input than happens at the moment. While the first point probably needs no comment, the latter point resonates strongly with our experience. It seems obvious that adoption, productivity and process improvements all strongly correlate with making sure applications are actually fit for purpose and built around the users, but the evidence suggests it is too often forgotten.
It was also intriguing (not to mention counter to many stereotypes) to hear that the CCA found that women managers are more interested in adopting new technologies, and develop better relationships with technology vendors than their male counterparts.

Moving to multiple channels
Perhaps not surprisingly, the need to embrace and move to new channels is prominent in CCA’s research. 88% of respondents saw increasing self-service on the web as a key enabler of cost reduction in response to the downturn. In principle, this frees agents for more complex, “value added” tasks, but the reality at the moment seems to be that the volume of inbound calls is not reducing. Why this should be is not clear, but there is increased awareness that integration across channels is essential if the result is not to be increased, rather than reduced frustration.
Finally, although there is obviously awareness that social networking and social media represent an important shift in the environment and are impacting service providers, it seems that the full implications are still being digested before conclusions are drawn.

Interesting times
Conclusion? It seems that if anything the recession is crystallising the debate on the role and value of the contact centre, self-service and the technologies that underpin them, and is driving change in interesting directions.

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  • At 7 October 2009 at 20:01 , Anonymous preetpal said...


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  • At 20 April 2010 at 06:39 , Anonymous Call Center Outsource said...

    Easily, this article is the best on this noteworthy topic. I concur with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your upcoming updates. Just saying thanks will not be sufficient, for the great clarity in your writing. I’ll immediately subscribe to your feed to stay informed of any updates. Admirable work and much success in your business enterprise!


  • At 17 September 2010 at 09:06 , Anonymous Telemarketing said...

    "Finally, although there is obviously awareness that social networking and social media represent an important shift in the environment and are impacting service providers, it seems that the full implications are still being digested before conclusions are drawn." - I think that businesses are focusing too much on the potential of social media or social networking sites to respond to their customer support needs; but the purpose behind call centers is the personalize service that many consumers are looking for.


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