• April 9, 2003
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Execs Say Contact Center Is Critical

Earlier this week Aberdeen Group, with help from CNET Networks, released the results of a report highlighting new technologies and emerging business models for call centers. The report, "The Customer Contact Center: Technology, Trends, and Investment Plans, 2003-2004," polled 380 CNET readers at the executive level to identify their technology investment priorities for contact centers over the next 18 months, including multichannel contact centers, IP contact centers, enterprise routing, and analytic tools. The most surprising takeaway from the report, according to author Christopher Fletcher, vice president and research director at Aberdeen, is that 45 percent of executives surveyed maintained that the contact center was a "critical" part of their company's product and customer strategy. "[The result of the report showed] the call center is a very highly valued and very well-respected channel with which to manage customer relationships. I was surprised at that. I thought many would neglect the call center," Fletcher says. "What surprised me in terms of the technology is that analytics is one of the leading technologies that people are going to invest in over the next 18 months, as it will help to get a cohesive view of the customer." Naturally, call center vendors are enthused by the response from respondents. "I was excited to hear that such a large percentage of folks are intending to make investments in call center analytics," says Michael Chen, president and CEO of Enkata Technologies, a provider of said technologies. "It's like having these great 300 horse power cars running at 20 percent. The whole CRM promise is being underdelivered, because of the lack of analytics." As for the respondents' top management concerns, Fletcher says, "The biggest challenges are understanding new technologies and ways to integrate them [according to 48 percent of the respondents]." One of the key findings of the report suggests traditional voice-based interactions continue to dominate this segment. "Voice-based interactions account for 61% of customer interactions; 11% of customer interactions take place over the Web; e-mail interactions accounted for 19.3% of the volume; and chat amounted to 3.1%," the report stated. Interestingly, while the report does not do any trending on customer interaction investments, Fletcher says voice-based interactions are going up despite investments in Web and email interactions used to deflect calls from the call center. "Call centers are getting more calls than ever...partly because customers are getting tired of solving their own problems over the Web." The 47-page report covers call center technologies, but you won't find any call center vendors mentioned in it, which Fletcher says is an intentional move on Aberdeen's part to maintain vendor neutrality. However, while Chen says the report, which is one of roughly three of this magnitude that come across his desk each year, is comprehensive, he maintains that users would benefit from a vendor ranking or profile so they know which vendors compete in this space. The report is available as a free download at www.aberdeen.com or CRM Access, Aberdeen's online community for CRM professionals, or at the following link: http://www.aberdeen.com/ab_company/hottopics/cnetcallcenter/default.htm.
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