Contact Centers Rely on CRM -- Some of the Time

Just because America was founded by the English, it doesn't mean we necessarily speak the same language when it comes to customer service: In fact, today's priorities for contact centers vary widely between the United States and United Kingdom, according to two recent studies released by British analyst firm ContactBabel. The latest edition of ContactBabel's "UK Contact Centre Operational Review" reports that 52 percent of survey respondents place accurate measurement of customer satisfaction as the top priority for their contact centers, with workflow optimization coming in a distant second at only 19 percent. Meanwhile, according to the analyst firm's corresponding survey of American contact centers, increasing customer satisfaction in the U.S. ranks only third, behind achieving specific call metrics and reducing costs. Steve Morrell, author of both the U.K. and U.S. reviews, says traditional ways of thinking and internal pressures both contribute to customer satisfaction not being as high a priority for U.S. contact centers. "In the U.S., there is perhaps more of a disconnect between the contact center operation and the head office, making the latter more likely to run the contact center on a cost center, command-and-control basis," he explains. U.S. contact centers are transitioning from a service-based cost-center model to a sales-focused profit-center one, ContactBabel's report finds. That may be problematic for many U.S. contact centers: only 32 percent of contact center agents were able to either cross-sell or upsell to customers, according to the report. The study suggests that businesses need to take a more strategic approach to their contact centers in order to reduce lost revenues and opportunities. With this in mind, contact centers in both countries are starting to heavily incorporate CRM into their arsenals in order to deliver quality results -- 63 percent of U.S. respondents and 61 percent of U.K. respondents say they have incorporated CRM into their contact centers. That leaves more than one-third of centers ripe for CRM uptake. Using CRM tools to make contact centers' operations more efficient could save businesses millions per year, and also free contact center agents to spend more time speaking with customers -- only 60 percent of agents' time is spent on exclusively speaking with customers, according to the U.S. study. CRM strategies can also help streamline identity verification -- traditionally a very costly process: In the U.S. alone, identity verification procedures cost contact centers more than $11.7 billion per year, according to ContactBabel. Despite the growth of Internet-based services, both studies state that the voice channel among contact centers remains strong -- in fact, continues to grow -- because customers want to speak to a real person when they need issues resolved. Morrell says the only way contact centers can continue to effectively serve customers' needs moving forward is by investing in CRM. "Self-service will take up the majority of simple, transactional interactions, so the agent of the future has to be able to deal with complex issues in nonstandard situations," Morrell says. "This doesn't mean that the CRM application has to keep popping up in the middle of the conversation, but the information has to be there in the background if the conversation deems it necessary to provide more detail." The entire U.S. report and the U.K. executive summary are available free of charge at www.contactbabel.com.

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