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Industry Research : Agent Churn and Unnecessary IT Support and Training Costing UK Contact Centres £2.53 Billion

A growing training and support gap in the UK’s nearly 6,000 contact centres is impacting customer service for the worse. Exacerbated by high rates of staff churn (nearly 25 per cent[1]) and the need to train new starters, this is costing the industry £2.53 billion in unnecessary time and resources, according to figures from knowledge transfer provider Knowledge Solutions.

While training staff is a recognised need in all sectors, the contact centre industry is particularly pressured due to:

•Staff attrition - High rates of agent churn mean that recruiting and training new staff takes a disproportionate amount of resource.

•The technology-intensive nature of contact centres – on average each agent uses five IT systems to carry out their job[2], meaning that strong support systems are necessary to avoid operational errors. This technology is evolving rapidly and every new system that goes live adds to the need for training and support.

•Shift working – Changing shift patterns mean that it is difficult, if not impossible to train all staff through traditional classroom based courses.

•Real-time operations – Customers want answers and information in real-time, meaning that agents need sufficient training and support to provide fast, accurate responses.

•Capacity issues – Fitting in large scale training courses dramatically reduces available agents, causing capacity issues for contact centres.

The £2.53 billion wasted comes from three sources, standard agent training, training new joiners and ongoing support queries.

Each of the UK’s 960,000 agents[3] spends 24 hours on training per year, according to statistics from Blue Sky Performance Improvement. Given the high rates of agent churn, most contact centres are continually training new joiners – with an average induction period of 9 days[4]. In both of these cases Knowledge Solutions believe that at least 50 per cent of this could be cut by better use of online learning and support materials that enable agents to train at their own pace.

Additionally each agent spends around 3 hours on ad hoc support queries each week – an overhead that often ties up team leader and management time. This could be removed entirely through the use of in-application support that delivers tailored help to users.

“The contact centre is at the front line of delivering customer service for the majority of organisations, meaning that agents must be equipped with the knowledge and support to meet customer needs,” commented Adrian Palmer-Geaves, CEO, Knowledge Solutions. “However, simply running overlong training sessions that aren’t tailored to agent roles leads to a colossal waste of resources – and often doesn’t improve customer service levels. Contact centre managers need to think differently when it comes to training and support and look at how they can reduce this overhead - given the rising levels of agent churn in the industry this problem is only going to increase.”

Marc Jantzen, Managing Partner of Blue Sky Consulting, which specialises in the optimisation of sales and service performance across all channels, added, “as well as equipping staff with the knowledge and skills to do their job, in our experience it is the training that captures “the hearts and minds” of staff and instils the correct behaviours and attitudes that really increases performance and decreases staff turnover.”

Knowledge Solutions’ methodology was based on the following research calculations:

•The UK has 5,935 contact centres employing 960,000 agents[5].

•Each contact centre agent costs £15 per hour to employ[6].

•The average agent spends 24 hours on training per year, costing £360 per agent. 50 per cent of this time (£180) could be saved through smarter use of training technology.

•Churn rates of 23 per cent mean that 220,800 agents are employed simply to replace staff that have left. Average induction periods of 9 days[7] therefore cost £1,012 in lost productivity. Again, 50 per cent of this time (£506) could be saved by introducing more personalised and tailored training.

•The average agent wastes 3 hours per week (156 hours per year) on ad hoc support requests, costing £2,340 – even excluding management time. This could be cut out completely by use of in-application support.

•Organisations are therefore annually wasting £2,520 per existing agent and £3,026 per new agent on unnecessary training and support.

•This makes the total bill for the industry £2,530,980,000 per year.

“The true picture may be even worse than our figures show,” concluded Palmer-Geaves. “It is impossible to quantify the damage to brand when agents are unable to navigate applications and provide fast answers to customers – simply blaming IT will not help. Additionally, for organisations looking to roll-out new applications or even update existing ones flexible knowledge transfer is critical to their success or failure, meaning that elearning should be central to their deployment.”

[1] Source: ContactBabel
[2] Source ContactBabel 
[3] Source ContactBabel
[4] Source Blue Sky Performance Improvement
[5] Source ContactBabel
[6] Analyst group IDC estimates that contact centre workers cost £15/US$31 an hour, including overheads and training
[7] Source Blue Sky Performance Improvement

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Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2007

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