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Monday, 11 August 2008 05:21

An endangered species: the customer service operator

Want customer service from a real human being? Well your chances are diminishing as companies are trying their hardest to replace them with much, much cheaper automated responses. And they are succeeding.

According to the 2008 Datacraft / Dimension Data Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, human agent transactions account for just over 50 percent of all inbound transactions to contact centres, but ten years ago, 90 percent of all inbound transactions were completed by a human agent.

31 percent of all inbound transactions to contact centres are completed entirely on a self service channel. Ten years ago the figure was only 10 percent. Of this 31 percent interactive voice response (IVR) accounted for almost half (15.5 of total transactions), followed by web self service (13.7 percent of total transactions), with speech self service and web co-browsing making up the balance.

According to Karina Majid, Datacraft Asia’s general manager for customer interactive solutions, "Employing self service applications provides a staggering cost benefit to organisations – simultaneously freeing up agents to deal with more complex and emotive inquiries...It’s estimated that a successful self service transaction amounts to only 15 percent [$US4] of the cost of a human agent call [$US34]."

However she says cost reduction is not the only driver of the move to self-service: "Contact centres are under pressure to deal with far higher volumes of calls, and to execute queries faster and more effectively...[and] increasing numbers of customers are demanding information immediately, and it must be correct. Gone are the days when customers accepted slow responses from the contact centre... The contact centre industry is fast approaching the threshold when it will no longer be able to manage the volumes of demand from customers."

Despite this, she claims that most contact centres still have a way to go in order to realise the cost benefits of self service. "Customer expectations, increased complexity of inquiries, and highly dynamic environments are just some of the considerations that impact a successful self service offering... [and] the cost of getting it wrong is significantly higher than the cost [benefit] of getting it right."

The Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report was first published in the UK in 1997 by Merchants, Dimension Data’s specialist contact centre outsourcing and operations division. It is now jointly researched and published by Dimension Data, Datacraft and Merchants with input from 300 contact centres across 36 countries in five continents. It claims to provide call centre managers with a set of best practice standards and benchmarks, including staffing and training, performance metrics, technology usage, budgets and development plans. It can be ordered online , price $US1500.

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