Age of the $US33 billion contact centre seat

Automation is critical

Organizations are spending $US5,000 per month per agent to provide customer service through contact centres.

This figure includes staff, technology and other facilities as well as management costs. When applied to 6.5 million contact centre seats worldwide, it translates to an investment of $US33 billion, according to the ninth annual Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report 2007.

Compiled by Dimension Data, the report surveys 403 contact centres across 42 countries covering the Asia Pacific, Europe and Nth America.

It examines productivity and resource allocation with the author, Cara Diemont, pointing to call resolution and automation as two key levers for improved efficiency.

The report shows a drop in the percentage of calls resolved by the first agent over the past three years: from 82.1 percent in 2005 to 80.7 percent in 2006 and 69.8 percent this year.

Agents spend around 60 percent of their time speaking to customers, responding to e-mails and handling queries.

Diemont said these two findings are a concern as 40 percent of investment made in agent seats is not directly linked to customer interaction and when it is, only seven out of 10 calls are resolved by the first agent.

"Unresolved calls frustrate customers and cost organisations money. If companies improve call resolution and agent utilisation, contact centre effectiveness can be substantially improved," Diemont said.

The second lever is automation, which is regarded as critical.

The 2007 report shows that automating processes or parts of processes is the top re-engineering and improvement priority for the year.

"Many organisations focus on process automation and overlook the inescapable fact that automating a poorly defined or executed process will not improve the situation," Diemont said.

Self-service is an automation strategy that is increasingly being adopted by organisations. Currently, 13.5 percent of contact centres use speech recognition while a quarter plan to implement it.

Completion rates on self-service operations continues to climb with an annual 19 percent compound growth rate.

Another significant finding in the report is that permission-based sales and marketing campaigns to prospects and existing customers are more than 200 times as effective as calls to a prospect list.

Cross and up-sell calls to existing customers, and appointment setting from a qualified lead are 225 and 212 times more effective than calling to a prospect list.

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