Call centres failing in ‘avoidable contact’
Contact centres, particularly in the public sector, are falling short in efforts to stop avoidable calls from customers.
In the recession call centres are increasingly under pressure to become more cost efficient by avoiding customer callbacks and routing suitable calls to automated channels, freeing staff up to handle more complicated contacts.
The pressure is being felt strongly in the public sector where the UK government recently introduced National Indicator 14 (NI14), which mandates that local authorities must record levels of ‘avoidable contact’ and reduce them.
Cutting down on avoidable contact improves efficiency and saves both businesses and consumers time and money. Council contact centres are particularly prone to getting repeat calls from customers over issues such as the emptying of litter bins.
According to research from Rostrvm Solution, one third of UK local authorities do not have appropriate data collection systems in place to meet NI14. CRM systems are considered to be the simplest method of data collection, but 31% of users said that their system cannot be readily adapted to measure avoidable contact.
“Efficiency is the name of the game and contact centres are under pressure to increase first call resolution,” says Darren Standing, VP products and marketing at speech search products company Aurix.
He adds that to improve efficiency contact centres must know how their call volume is broken up and what percentage can be automated.
Calls that are likely to have negative outcomes are often suitable for automation according to Standing: “If you deny someone a request it is sometimes better to do it through an automated call than in person.
“You can go through a process that can take three or four minutes and does not have a positive outcome for either party.”
He gives the example of a travel company offering a limited number of seats on flights with extra legroom. Most requests for this are likely to be unsuccessful so should be dealt with through automated channels.
The Rostrvm Solution survey found that many public sector call centres are still not making the most of technology such as computer telephone integration (CTI) to improve efficiency. Rostrvm identified that a third of the local authorities surveyed used manual methods to record and analyse avoidable contact.
Chinwe Achebe, sales and marketing researcher, commented: “Whilst manual collection might appear to be an easy and cost-effective method of collection, it is fraught with problems – the biggest of which is increased workload and higher overheads for call operations. In some situations manual collection can heighten the risk of inconsistencies and can also make it difficult to analyse data accurately. Without trustworthy data, it’s a waste of time.”
Just over a quarter of councils surveyed using manual methods of collection did so because of issues with their CRM, such as flexibility restrictions and/or problems accessing reports.
Rostrvm found that of those councils using computer applications to support their data collection, a third purchased additional software to help. The remaining two-thirds had to make significant, costly changes to their operating systems to capture avoidable contact.
Straightforward software solutions can save considerable upheaval and expense, especially at a time when cost-saving measures are high on everyone’s agenda.
“Tackling this issue successfully means you can afford to have less agents and dedicate them to other valuable areas,” says Darren Standing of Aurix. “There are key issues that need people to talk to clients and get better outcomes on these.”