UK Call Centre Workers spend just 16% of their time helping customers?
The recurring themes of the much maligned contact centre worker is that most do not know what they are talking about and are ill-equipped to deal with calls and resolve issues.
Furthermore, while technology has helped give operatives more information and better service to customers, it is also still seen as the major stumbling block to increased productivity.
Independent research, commissioned by Siemens Enterprise Communications has been launched which provides a focus on the processes and technology behind a professional listener’s job.
Contact centre working has traditionally been focussed, and rightly so, on communication with the customer. However the research shows a shift away from this, due to a growing trend towards data entry and administration. On average, just 16% of call time is spent conversing and 13% on building a rapport or having a general conversation; only 29% is therefore spent actually talking to the customer. The remaining 71% is then split between entering data, making notes, seeking advice and reading from information screens.
Worryingly, the average customer is more likely to be held in a queue due to operatives making notes or inputting data from a previous call.
Application overload Compounding customer service, workers use on average five separate applications when dealing with a call, with 5% claiming an astonishing 15 applications.
The research highlights that, although most reported significant IT upgrades in last year, 66% rated IT slowdowns as having either a high or medium impact on productivity. However, 61% said that further IT improvements were needed – in particular, better systems for managing calls would provide the most positive improvement.
Challenging calls or difficult customers was the second most common option for productivity drains, with 52% citing this as having a high or medium impact.
Complexity Anne Marie Forsyth, chief executive of the Customer Contact Association (CCA) commented on the research, “These findings are interesting, as too often contact centre research is focussed on generalisations and statistics rather than aspects of the work from the individual employee perspective. Contact centre work has become much more complex over the last five to ten years due to increased regulation, product complexity, speed to market ambitions and of course rising expectations from time poor customers.”
The survey also uncovered areas where respondents felt that further training would positively impact their productivity. 41% believed that more training in IT systems would improve their productivity, while 40% wanted more training in how to deal with difficult customers, and 33% saw leadership training as key to improving productivity – an interesting point that links to career aspirations.
“The research uncovers an interesting paradox. Despite the majority of respondents reporting a significant IT upgrade in the last year, IT slowdowns are the biggest drain on productivity. However, instead of citing poor technology provision as the issue, the more realistic challenge is how contact centres keep pace as improvements lead to greater sophistication and throughput of calls,” said Tim Bishop, head of strategy at Siemens Enterprise Communications.
“Contact centre management is a balance between systems efficiency, employee motivation and overall expertise and the professional listeners research throws up some interesting issues for the contact centre industry. The general commitment to regular significant IT upgrades is encouraging, but there are clearly gaps between those upgrades and the actual infrastructure demands of the contact centre. The results suggest that the infrastructure itself has some ground to cover before enhanced productivity is delivered across the board.
Interesting information: UK contact centres are responsible for employing almost 300,000 people in the UK – this equates to 1% of the UK workforce – about the same percentage as teachers. Through automation of processes over the past decade, contact centre managers have a vast array of data at their disposal to inform strategy and business decisions. The research questioned over 500 contact centre workers in the UK, comprising a combination of inbound and outbound workers across both the public and private sectors.