January 2007 - A recent survey of over 1600 UK consumers by Empirix and industry magazine CCF found that moving house was the only thing rated more stressful than having to call a contact centre. Over half of those surveyed call a contact centre at least once a month. Over 40 per cent of those thought the level of service had deteriorated in the previous 12 months.
Other key survey findings include:
- The most common reason for calling a contact centre was to complain or resolve a problem
- 65 per cent of 25-34 year-olds call a contact centre at least once a month.
- People in the north east dislike contact centres more than those in the south (55 per cent compared to 36 per cent).
- Being made to wait before your call is answered, and the agent not being from the UK are the two biggest complaints.
- Consumers rated the banking sector as providing the best customer service through contact centres.
- Being transferred from agent to agent remains a common complaint.
- 66 per cent said that on average they had to wait over five minutes before getting through to a live agent.
- 10 per cent said they had to wait over one hour before talking to a live agent.
- Nearly 20 per cent found automated systems frustrating.
The report also surveyed over 100 contact centre managers; 42 per cent felt that the reputation of the industry had declined in the previous 12 months and 19 per cent thought it had improved. Most respondents blamed the industry's own performance for its bad image - over 69 per cent agreed that poor customer service was the major reason, 22 per cent admitted that consumers struggling to understand agents' accents was a serious problem, as was long waiting times.
Over three-quarters of consumers (80 per cent) said that they much preferred speaking to an agent they knew to be in the same country. Women felt much stronger about this than men; over 82 per cent preferred talking to UK-based agents. However, there was a general feeling among managers interviewed that the media was partly to blame in the way it reported issues such as off-shoring trends and only 7 per cent thought that consumers were concerned about this issue.
More than 48 per cent of managers surveyed said that in the previous 12 months they had employed more agents to help combat these problems and 43 per cent had introduced customer relations training for agents.
Mark Aldridge, EMEA director of Empirix, commented:
"We conducted the research to get an insight into both sides of the story. The results show that businesses still underestimate the feeling of discontent about contact centres. In today's business world there are many new technologies that companies can implement. It is widely acknowledged that businesses need to use automated systems as well as live agents. However, the key is getting the right balance. Businesses need to focus just as much attention on their automated systems as on their live agents, a significant number of the problems that consumers are facing could be resolved using effective automated systems. Implementing a planned and effective testing and monitoring strategy for its automated systems, using the correct resources, such as Empirix's OneSight, can generate actual calls that emulate real-world conditions, and can improve customer service levels, the customer experience and a business's bottom line."
Claudia Hathway, editor of CCF, added:
"It's extremely worrying to see that the public perception of call centres has plummeted by a further 42 per cent this year. However, it does present the industry with one advantage. Customers calling into a call centre are expecting to have a bad experience, which makes it easier to impress them with a good call - and that's a positive impression of the company that they will take away with them. It's really vital that call centres start getting the basics right. Customers want to have their issue resolved quickly and effectively -which means the agent they are talking to must be easy to understand and have all the information they need about that customer's relationship with the business at their fingertips. It's easy to blame the media for bad publicity, but the only way call centres can counter negative coverage is to start providing a standard of customer service to be proud of."