95% of call centres fail to resolve customer problems on first contact

17th Nov 2014

Contact centres have historically focused their agent success metrics on lowering average call handling times (AHT), however there is a growing consensus that the measurement leaves too many customer issues unresolved – especially with the rise of alternative contact channels other than the telephone.

Instead, some experts now believe call centres should focus on ‘first contact’ resolution taking precedence over AHT, and a new poll from Censuswide appears to suggest consumers want the same.

In research commissioned by Netcall, Censuswide found that 95% of consumers felt contact centres were falling short in providing first contact resolutions across various channels, which was leading to 50% of people picking up the telephone as a secondary point of resolution, instead.

Once on call, however, 43% of consumers are still being overly frustrated by having their issues immediately escalated to someone senior within the contact centre, prolonging interactions and adding cost to both customer and business.

In contrast, the research found one in three (32%) call centre agents felt they lacked sufficient knowledge to help customer issues and 22% said incorrect or inconsistent customer information held on different systems was a problem.

Continuity across engagement channels was also an issue, with 44% of customers that had used more than one method to make contact on a single topic or issue complaining that each time, the company didn’t really know who they were.

“These results show that, by improving and simplifying the way interactions are managed, customer-facing organisations have a huge opportunity to increase brand loyalty and reduce the overall cost of call management,” said Richard Farrell, CTO of Netcall.

“Loyal customers develop relationships with organisations which must be cultivated each time they make contact. This makes it more important than ever that contact centres empower their agents with a complete history of the each customer and put strategies and technology in place to reduce the likelihood of repeat contact by delivering a comprehensive multichannel engagement experience.”

Live chat is one channel that is becoming increasingly popular with consumers, with recent research from ContactBabel stating there were over 250m live chats taken in UK contact centres through the end of 2013/2014.

Despite this, many call centre agents are yet in a position to feel comfortable resolving most first contact queries via alternative channels. In April, BT’s Dr. Nicola Millard suggested that rising customer expectations were forcing contact centres into rethinking their strategy towards agent training, with the concept of ‘superagents’ centred around a need for all agents to be more skilled in understand the products and business they worked for.

However, in a talk last week, Brainfood Consulting’s managing director, Martin Hill-Wilson stated that call centres may need to be completely redesigned to focus on proactive resolutions as well as reactive, using unstructured data analysis from channels including social media.  

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