• December 7, 2010
  • By Koa Beck, Editorial Assistant, CRM magazine

Call Centers Becoming Profit Centers, According to Portrait Software Research

Large business-to-consumer (B2C) companies are realizing their contact centers are critical to increasing revenue, according to new research from Portrait Software, a provider of customer interaction optimization software (now a part of Pitney Bowes Business Insight).

The Portrait Software Customer Insight Research report was conducted in August and September. CATI (computer-assisted telephone interviewing) was used to speak with a variety of professionals in strategic decision-making roles in in-house contact centers of 50 seats or more. The report was comprised after 65 interviews were conducted with managers in the United Kingdom and 70 were conducted in the United States.

The study, conducted by Loudhouse Research, an independent research consultancy based in the U.K., concluded that:

  • Sixty-nine percent of large B2C organizations view their call centers as business-critical revenue generators.
  • Sixty percent see the need for better integration of interdepartmental customer data as a key focus for the next 12 months.
  • The need to integrate call center data with online customer service is a primary focus for the next 12 months, with 54 percent of decision makers citing this as a key challenge for the year ahead.
  • Eight-six percent of respondents think call center staff need a broader range of skills to deliver revenue in all inbound customer interactions.
  • Eight-five percent of respondents think call center interactions with customers are drivers for conveying their organization's brand values

Luke McKeever, CEO of Portrait Software, said in a statement that these results prove, "Organizations are realizing that traditional, outbound marketing, particularly via the telephone, offers diminishing returns for the business. As such, the future of the customer relationship resides in sustained, informed, and tailored customer service, and the call center is a critical factor in this process. While customers may not expect to be sold to, they expect to be understood and for their needs to be met at all times. For progressive organizations this represents an opportunity to build loyalty and revenue at all levels of customer engagement. Looking ahead, as markets continue to become more competitive, it will be those organizations that use intelligent, company-wide data to fully understand the needs of their customers and to make relevant and timely offers, that will ultimately succeed."

 Jeff Nicholson, vice president of product marketing at Portrait, adds that the survey indicates "a shift in attitudinal perspective on what the call center is all about," mentioning that "the recession really forced us to do this [research]."

When asked if this attitudinal change in the contact center is indicative of changes in customer behavior as well, Nicholson responds, "Yes. A lot of it was the economy. When the economy downturn occurred and we saw the crunch in staff, consumers had less funds to spend on various things, certainly on disposable things, [like] their cell phones plans, etc. [Customers] looked to make sure they were getting the most out of their money. [With] social media, they had a larger voice and a bigger influence from their peers. When it comes  down to consumers and going to another company, they are more inclined to jump ship in the recession."

Nicholson also thinks the research shows a strong need for real-time decision making for agents and customers alike. "We view the opportunity for real-time decision making really should be treated as a multichannel or cross-channel opportunity. When you consider the customer as a whole, and [that] they view your organizations as a whole, it ensures all touch points, a dialogue that moves across touch points," he says.

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