Call centre criticism falls on deaf ears

A major industry report has found contact centre service levels have fallen significantly in the last decade.

The 10th annual Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report published today revealed that customers are waiting longer to have their phone calls answered by contact centre agents.

Compared to the first report, commissioned by IT services provider Dimension Data in 1997, the average time to answer a call has risen from 23 to 39 seconds. As well, the percentage of calls answered within 10 seconds has fallen from 72 per cent to 63.5 per cent, and the average time taken to respond to a message left by customers has risen from 11 to 20 hours.

Contact centre service levels have deteriorated in line with increased pressure from callers' expectations, who are increasingly less patient. The report found that, in 1997, the average caller waited 53 seconds before abandoning their call. Now that has fallen to 45 seconds.

And calls abandoned prior to the caller being connected with an agent have more than doubled in the last ten years, from 6 per cent in 1997 to 13.6 per cent today.

Alex George, Dimension Data Benchmarking Report spokesman, said: "The increase in demand coupled with the need to contain costs has put significant pressure on contact centres - and is not always matched by the investment or the resources required to meet expectations."

But the report's findings were not all doom and gloom, as technology was found to be playing a greater role in facilitating customer self-service via the web or automated call technology. "The contact centre industry has reached the time when human agents alone can no longer manage customer demand and call volumes," George added.

Nearly a third (30 per cent) of all transactions are now handled without human agent involvement where, 10 years ago, a human agent conducted 90 per cent of all inbound contact centre transactions.

George said long-term strategies involving increased customer relationship management (CRM) system and self-service automation technology investments have focused on having sufficient capacity and capability in place to meet today's service demands.

This year's report surveyed 300 contact centres in 36 countries across five continents.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.