Call centre staff struggle to keep pace with customer queries

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Companies are struggling to keep up with the new demands placed on their call centre staff, according to a new survey conducted by BT and Avaya, the business communications provider.

Despite the growth of smart phones and self service web sites, consumers still like to speak to a real person in a call centre, says The Autonomous Customer research; which found  90% smart phone owners expect to use call centres in the future.

More than half (56%) of those surveyed think the subjects of their calls are becoming more complicated as the vast majority (81%) of them do their initial engagement with organisations online.

But, with the explosion in communication channels available, almost two thirds (60%) of the people surveyed admitted they constantly change the ones they use.

And, even the most connected generation of consumers see a call as the most obvious way of resolving an issue, particularly when it comes to complex queries, says the report.

But, when it comes to managing these queries, organisations are falling way short of the mark.

Despite 86% of consumers stating a good experience on the phone will make them more loyal, more than two thirds said they felt agents try to rush their calls to an early conclusion.

And 90% of consumers said they were encouraged to visit a web site instead.

Andrew Small, global head of customer relationship management, BT Global Services, said: “For many consumers, calling the contact centre is the favoured way to resolve the most complicated queries. The vast majority of people have used the internet to do their own research first, so by the time they pick up the phone, the organisation they’re calling is either close to a sale or close to a fail.

“This survey shows how vital it is for contact centres to have a pool of highly-trained agents who are capable of solving complex issues. By connecting these agents with the latest social media and unified communications tools, contact centres can share their knowledge across multiple sites — including homeworkers — to create ‘networked experts’ who are much more able to satisfy enquires from increasingly demanding customers.”

The survey also showed 83% of people tend to buy more from companies that make things easier; whilst 44% said convenience was more important than price.  Three quarters of consumers said a free-phone number would go down well.

Gary Bennett, BT account director, Avaya, said the research is in line with what Avaya customers most frequently require from a technology provider.

“Consumers expect resolution to simple tasks often without the need for two-way communication – a self-service approach,” he said. “But when there is a critical element to the contact – the ‘sale or fail’ scenarios –  the customer’s choice of communications channel is critical, and companies have to be ready to communicate with their customers via any channel they choose. This requires more complex communications systems, but by adopting a multi-channel communications strategy, organisations can easily tap relevant experts and bring them into complex/critical queries. The result is customers get agents who truly see their entire picture, and can respond to them in the manner they’ve chosen. That’s true customer service.”

The survey highlighted the importance of consistency and flexibility across different communication channels with 60% of respondents liking the idea of speaking to exactly the same agent by email and telephone.

Three quarters were irritated at having to repeat identity details when they had already keyed them in, whereas almost half liked the idea of using a speech recognition to identify them by their voice.