Industry Research : Contact Centres Ill-prepared for Rapid Shift to Social Media
Dimension Data's annual global contact centre benchmarking study shows that, worldwide, organisations are struggling to adapt their customer contract practices to match the rapid shift away from the phone call to social media as customers' preferred means of communication.
The survey - now in its 15th year - found that direct interaction with a human agent had dropped to about 33 percent of all transactions, from about 65 percent in the last decade with the remaining 67 percent spread across email, web, IVR and other channels.
In 2011, 18.6 percent of participants reported using social media channels and this has rocketed to 33.1 percent in 2012. There have also been notable increases in the use of web chat and IVR self-service and one in five contact centres are managing smartphone application services.
According to Di Data, a customer revolution enabled by mobility, and fuelled by social media is underway as consumers increasingly dictate how, when and for what purpose they will adopt available interaction channels.
"The mega trends of mobility, the prevalence of Internet-based services including video, web-chat, and social media are completely transforming the way the world wants to talk to organisations, who are rushing to implement new channels to meet customer demand, rather than at their own convenience," Di Data says.
"What we see is that people are still driving their operations very hard to maintain performance but it is an ongoing challenge as more complexity comes into the environment," Robert Allman, general manager customer interactive solutions for Di Data Australia said.
The study concludes that the role of the human agent will have to change over the coming two to three years in response to this shift. "Multi-channel enabled and multi-skilled agents are definitely going to become the norm; it's just depends on how quickly organisations can facilitate this evolution."
It adds: "The challenge is considerable and often the starting position is weak. Some 54.5 percent of providers say their current capability is still in a learning and developing phase - only 6.7 percent believe their operations highly advanced.
"Despite 80.6 percent organisations acknowledging or working towards the contact centre being a differentiator, contact centres are being challenged by expanding responsibilities, and it's the supporting agents who are dealing with much increased complexity and the initial slack on processes that haven't caught up."
The study also found that call centres are failing spectacularly to assess the effectiveness of their implementations of these new communication channels. "As organisations rush to establish a presence in new channels, there's a widespread neglect of measurement in self-service and an absence of user feedback being actioned," it said.
"The absence of cost measurement is staggering. Only 27.9 percent of contact centres are measuring Internet interaction costs, 19.4 percent of web chat, 9.9 percent of social media and 6.1 percent of smartphone applications. Of those companies using a self-service channel such as speech, SMS, web chat or social media, nearly half don't collect any customer feedback at all."
Even the more established channel of self-service IVR is not being properly implemented, the study found. "Over half (50.6 percent) of contact centres don't schedule any regular IVR process reviews and nearly three quarters (72.4 percent) are needlessly frustrating their customers by not passing information collected within the IVR to agents."
The study also found that, with the growth of new channels, the wider enterprise is taking control of the overall contact centre strategy, but call centres often lack the technology to implement the strategies developed and feel 'left out of the loop'.
"Contact technology strategies are progressively migrating into the wider enterprise customer management strategy – now at 66.8 percent, and this is transforming how technology is sourced, implemented and supported. Flexibility, agility and mobility are key and cloud is on the radar.
"The big challenge is that many contact centres are wrestling with ageing technology, which is expensive to maintain and upgrade, whilst they are under increasing pressure to deliver customer service through a multiplicity of channels and customer contact points. Legacy systems are becoming outdated and expensive to maintain or replace with premise-based solutions, causing serious consideration of pay per use cloud applications...
"Our view, based on current trends, is that organisations must build more flexibility and agility into their operating models so that they can respond appropriately to the increasing changes in customer demand and behaviours.
This year 637 companies from 72 countries participated in the survey which required responses to some 350 questions. The survey, now in its 15th year, was supported by 29 industry associations.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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