Call centres not optimizing CRM investments

Contact centers are not optimizing the value of their investments in customer relationship management (CRM) practices.

This is one of the findings in the 2008 Datacraft/Dimension Data Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report, which includes survey responses from 300 contact centers in 36 countries across five continents.

(Canadian companies are also adopting a wait-and-see attitudetowards CRM tools)

Minimal progress has been made in adopting a more customer-oriented, CRM-based approach within the contact center environment over the last 10 years,” said Karina Majid, Datacraft Asia’s general manager for Customer Interactive Solutions. “When we compared this year’s findings with those from our inaugural 1997 Report, the picture is not positive.”

The global contact center industry is estimated to be worth US$130 billion per annum. But demand for overseas outsourcing continues to dive amidst slowing economic growth.

A key CRM indicator is the establishment of a single view of the customer. Ten years ago, 39 per cent of participating contact centers already possessed this capability, with a further 45 per cent of centers planning to implement a single view within the following two years. However, this year’s results show that the percentage of centers with a single customer view has decreased to 34 per cent.

In addition, in 1997 many organizations stated their intention to deploy a more sophisticated set of customer metrics within their contact centers . These metrics included customer lifetime value and profitability. However, this year’s statistics reveal that contact centers that are able to measure or actively employ these types of metrics are in the minority. For example, less than 10 per cent of centers surveyed have the capability to measure lifetime value, and only 18 per cent of centers use customer profitability as a metric.

Another key CRM indicator is the deployment of ‘trigger events’ within inbound customer service contact centers. These involve the initiation of an outbound customer contact as a result of the nature or outcome of an inbound call. These trigger events usually relate to either customer dissatisfaction, retention of a customer or a policy, or new revenue generation such as an inbound inquiry about a policy surrender. According to this year’s report, only 21 per cent of contact centers actively engage in this type of customer management activity.

“These findings indicate that the development of a more holistic and sophisticated approach to customer management is less of a priority than it was 10 years ago, and there is a back-to-basics trend with contact centers focusing more on basic performance efficiencies and cost reduction,” said Majid. “This is also reflected in the commercial drivers of contact centers. Only 16 per cent of participating centers ranked ‘creating direct customer relationships’ among their top three commercial drivers, compared with over 50 per cent 10 years ago. This underscores that there has been a major shift away from the tenets of CRM over the last decade.”

Call resolution is the greatest indicator of customer service improvement from an end-user/customer standpoint. The report also revealed that organizations that employ the right service fundamentals will enhance their customers’ experience and retain them longer. It revealed that 38 per cent of contact center managers polled believe that a contact center agent’s ability to resolve a query during the first call is the most important factor in service improvement, while 74 per cent rated it in their top three. In addition, the time the customer waits before the call is answered had the second greatest impact on service improvement with 47 per cent of participants ranking it in their top three. Furthermore, agent communication and service skills were ranked third with 34 per cent of participants including this among their top three improvement indicators.

“This year’s survey confirms that when the basic service components are firmly in place, customer service experience improves, and client retention accelerates. When we compared these service components to the level of priority or attention organizations place on them, the results were enlightening,” said Majid.

Meanwhile, the choice of medium (or channel) was ranked among the lowest methods for customer service improvement–less than 2 per cent of participants selected this option in their top three choices for impact on customer satisfaction. “Taking into account that call resolution is the greatest indicator of customer service improvement, we were surprised to learn that not all contact centers have aligned themselves to its measurement and targeting,” said Majid.

Majid said that contact centers still rely on the standard efficiency metrics. Abandon rate is the most commonly used target with 90.1 per cent of participating centers using it as a key metric, while only 63.4 per cent of centers use First Call Resolution as a performance target. “These findings indicate a discrepancy between what customers want and what contact centers focus their costs and energy on,” said Majid. Meanwhile, the average number of hours allocated to teaching telephone communication skills during agent induction training is 11 hours. This equates to only 7 per cent of the total induction time. In addition, contact center agents receive an average of only six hours of coaching per month.

“Compared to last year’s Benchmarking Report, these figures highlight the ongoing trend by organizations to reduce investment in training, even though agent communication and service skills enhance customer satisfaction and the service experience,” said Majid.

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