It was the best of times

Poor sys­tems let down con­tact cen­tres

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - BENE­DICT KELLY

FIN­WEEK has, since late last year, been call­ing lo­cal con­tact cen­tres and rat­ing them on their per­for­mance. There are es­sen­tially two types of con­tact cen­tres: sales-ori­en­tated and cus­tomer-ser­vice ori­en­tated con­tact cen­tres. On the whole, sales-ori­en­tated or­gan­i­sa­tions fared much bet­ter than cus­tomer-ser­vice or­gan­i­sa­tions driven mainly by the abil­ity of the sales or­gan­i­sa­tions to keep their sys­tems fo­cused on get­ting the cus­tomer in touch with the agent as quickly as pos­si­ble. In this area it was com­pa­nies such as McCarthy Call a Car, Dial Di­rect, 1Life Di­rect and DHL com­ing out tops. One of the key is­sues is the abil­ity to keep the interactive voice re­sponse sys­tem (IVR) as sim­ple as pos­si­ble.

Typ­i­cally, in cus­tomer-ser­vice or­gan­i­sa­tions there are two key is­sues faced by cus­tomers. First there’s a daunt­ing set of menu op­tions, of­ten with cur­rent pro­mo­tions be­ing pushed to the front of the queue, leav­ing clients to wait longer be­fore get­ting the help they need.

The sec­ond is­sue is typ­i­cally the long time it takes for calls to be an­swered. While it’s rea­son­able for calls to be an­swered in less than a minute, some of the calls Fin­week made were an­swered af­ter more than four min­utes and an­other went to­tally unan­swered.

What’s clear from in­ter­ac­tions with the vast ma­jor­ity of th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions is that the agents are help­ful and com­pe­tent, but they’re badly let down by in­suf­fi­cient staff num­bers and sloppy sys­tems de­sign. Big losers in this space were Vo­da­com, which has menu op­tions that go unan­swered and too many op­tions in the IVR, and Mul­tiChoice, which a num­ber of Fin­week read­ers have sug­gested fails to cater for cus­tomer needs in a num­ber of ar­eas. The bot­tom of the pile of call cen­tres that Fin­week sur­veyed are both gov­ern­ment de­part­ments – Joburg Con­nect

Sales-ori­en­tated or­gan­i­sa­tions fared much bet­ter than cus­tom­erser­vice or­gan­i­sa­tions.

and the SA Rev­enue Ser­vice, for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Rev­enue couldn’t trans­late ef­fi­ciency in the con­tact cen­tre to progress in real world is­sues, and Joburg Con­nect couldn’t an­swer a sim­ple query, pre­fer­ring to fob off the query to an­other de­part­ment that isn’t set up to cope with pub­lic en­quiries.

With con­tact cen­tres in­creas­ingly be­com­ing the pre­ferred method of pro­vid­ing cus­tomer ser­vice, the op­tion for cus­tomers to speak to an agent when nec­es­sary is paramount, and suc­cess in this re­gard will be the bench­mark against which com­pa­nies are mea­sured.

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