Call centres seek your perfect match

Demographic matching -- even 'psychographic' matching -- is increasingly likely to be used to connect customers with a compatible agent when they speak to call centre personnel.

Demographic matching -- even 'psychographic' matching -- is increasingly likely to be used to connect customers with a compatible agent when they speak to call centre personnel.

The idea behind demographic matching is that contact centres either recruit staff from the same age group as their customers, or they route calls at least in part according to demographic criteria. The assumption is that a mature person calling a health insurance fund would prefer to talk to someone of similar age, for example.

Recent research conducted by Genesys Australia and New Zealand with 100 contact centre managers found that 57 percent believed demographic matching would be effective for their operations, and half of those expect to implement it within three years.

-Asia-Pacific is leading the world" in terms of call centre agent development and quality, James Brooks, Genesys' senior vice president for Asia Pacific claimed at the company's G-Force user conference in Melbourne, but -I think we can do better" in terms of one-to-one matching of customers and agents.

Psychographic matching goes a step further, and looks to allocate contact centre staff to customers on a wider range of criteria with the aim of establishing a rapport.

Kevin Panozza, CEO of SalesForce, observed that all a contact centre does is hold conversations to either obtain or retain customers. Conversations work best when the partners are comfortable, so it makes sense to get like-minded people talking to each other. Conventional sales training recognises this, he said, but contact centres allocate agents to customers -willy nilly."

SalesForce operates the largest outsourced contact centre in Australia and conducted 35 million conversations this year, he said, but probably 34 million of them were between people that weren't a natural fit with each other. The company will be putting its resources into this, said Panozza: -we want to be the leaders."

But Stuart McKinnon, chief manager of ASB Bank's contact centre, warned that while age and gender were worth taking into consideration, more finely-grained call routing may cause rostering and scheduling issues in smaller centres which could lead to increased costs.