Cost cutting backfires on call centres

Call centres are more popular than ever, but the proportion of customers that abandon their call before it is answered is increasing at an alarming rate, which can be attributed to cost cutting exercises, according to a new study.The Merchants Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report 2005, which is funded by IT services company Dimension Data, was published on Tuesday and found that 13.

Call centres are more popular than ever, but the proportion of customers that abandon their call before it is answered is increasing at an alarming rate, which can be attributed to cost cutting exercises, according to a new study.

The Merchants Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report 2005, which is funded by IT services company Dimension Data, was published on Tuesday and found that 13.3 percent of callers hang up before the phone is answered. In the telecommunications sector this figure is as high as 20 percent.

The figures mean that companies are not making the most of the technology available to them, according to Andrew Briggs, chief executive of Customer Interactive Solutions (CIS) at Dimension Data.

"They are fixated by their perceived need to reduce cost through headcount reduction and automations, when in reality these are the very things most likely to make customers annoyed, frustrated and even move to a competitor," said Briggs.

The study also found that most call centres are reporting increasing call volumes - with more than half reporting that the number of calls is increasing every year by around 20 percent. In addition, callers are less impatient. The study found that callers are only willing to wait 65 seconds before the call is answered whereas in 2003 they would wait 71 seconds.

Briggs said the combination of more calls, less money and less patient customers means companies are failing to exploit the full benefit of using a call centre in the first place.

"Organisations are taking a short-term view and failing to see contact centres as playing a strategic role that adds value to their businesses. The contact centre is now the main interface between a business and its customers, but our research finds that performance continues to suffer at the expense of cost-cutting and failure to exploit the benefits of integrated technology," said Briggs.

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