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by Technews
Issue Date: June 2007

Call centres – help or hindrance?

14 June 2007

Pieter du Preez, Spescom DataFusion Marketing Manager, tackles some hard hitting questions on consumer perceptions of call centre efficiency in SA.
Why are call centres delivering poor service?
If it s going to solve problems, the call centre must be a hub with an effective interface to the back office. Often, this is not the case because the business sets up a call centre and then makes it solely responsible for service delivery. If the links back to the other departments are not well planned, service delivery becomes impossible. The call centre has to be empowered with appropriate resources.
Why am I always on hold?
Call volumes fluctuate. Companies cannot afford to maintain excessive numbers of agents and it will inevitably happen that callers end up on hold. One technique for dealing with this is to include a call-back option in the voice menu with the proviso that calls are promptly returned. This is one example of available technology improving the user experience.
When do I make contact with a human being?
There are critical areas to be considered and the first is contact. A voice menu, or interactive voice response, is a cost-effective way of eliminating routine queries like account balances but it must not become a barrier to contact. There must be inherent logic and awareness of the business process in the menu design, as well as agent availability. Successful contact, with a person or machine, implies that the customer’s problem or query has been resolved.
Why is it the agent often does not understand my query?
The core function of the voice menu is to route calls to the right agent. If that fails, there is already a serious problem. Once contact is made, the quality of the user experience is solely dependent on the person who deals with the query. Personality, skills and knowledge are critical here. Success also depends on how well integrated the call centre is with the rest of the business processes. We have the technology to support the desired outcome of fewer customers having bad experiences.
There is a vast amount of planning and analysis of the business processes which must be done before a technology solution is deployed or an agent is put into action. After that, it is a matter of what the company can afford.
Will contact centres ever be able to live up to their name ie contact?
The basic reason why call centres fail to deliver is that the path of contact breaks down somewhere.
Some call centres really do handle customers efficiently, routing queries to the right people. That level of service is achieved through good planning and an ongoing commitment to improvement through management, superior technology, quality control and continuous training.
Successful contact, be it with a person or with a machine, implies that the reason for calling is resolved.

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