Call centre investment surges

Australian call centres are expected to invest up to $400 million recruiting 25,300 new staff over the next three months.

Customer expansion is one of the drivers fuelling growth, according to the latest Aspect Software Australian Contact Centre Index released this week.

Almost half of the centres surveyed indicated they would increase staff numbers by an average of 35 employees in the first quarter of 2006. Only 7 percent of call centre managers said they expected to decrease headcount, mainly due to technology improvements, skills-based routing and seasonal fluctuations.

The finance, telecommunications and outsourcing industry sectors are most confident of increasing staff numbers. However, some finance and telecommunications centres are also likely to decrease numbers over the same period as the implementation of self-service platforms changes the type of agent skills they require.

The level of full-time agent absenteeism on an average day fell from 7 to 6 percent, with more than half the centres reporting figures of 5 percent or less. Average agent turnover for the quarter was 17 percent, with agents averaging 27 months tenure at a particular role.

On the technology downtime front 54 percent of call centres said incidents which hit business needs occurred less than once a month, while 25 percent experienced downtime weekly or more often.

Call recording and quality management and customer relationship management (CRM) software remained the most useful technologies purchased over the last 12 months. However, both technologies ranked second and third to workforce management, which 12 percent of call centre managers indicated will probably be the next item to be purchased - almost double third-quarter results.

Nearly 30 per cent of call centres increased their revenues for the fourth quarter by greater than 10 percent with a quarter of respondents able to reduce cost per transaction through the introduction of new technology and process reviews. The average cost per voice call transaction, using either live attendant or interactive voice response (IVR), was $6.70 - although 36 per cent of managers surveyed did not know the cost.

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