Total impatience: improving the call centre

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on December 2, 2005

When it comes to waiting for call centre operators to answer, US consumers have turned into the world's most impatient callers, with call abandonment rates far exceeding those of any other nation, according to Dimension Data's latest 'Contact Center Benchmarking Report'.

Dimension Data's annual global contact centre survey showed that Americans are generally very impatient when waiting in queue, and are quicker to abandon calls than other consumers worldwide. More than 360 contact centres worldwide were surveyed by the company over a period of nine months.

Patience wearing thin?
In fact, contact centres in North America report that Americans are willing to wait an average of only 37 seconds for their calls to be answered, while the rest of the world exhibits greater patience: consumers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa are willing to wait 67 seconds before abandoning a call, and people in Asia-Pacific were the most patient among those surveyed at 72 seconds.

The Wise Marketer's own research, however, reveals the opposite extreme in developing economies such as South Africa, where consumers are regularly required to wait for 25 minutes (and up to 51 minutes in the worst case recorded) for a contact centre agent.

Call centre improvements
Based upon these preliminary findings, the company makes the following observations and recommendations for companies trying to make their call centre operations more efficient and customer-friendly:

  • Agent empowerment
    Contact centre agents are more empowered than ever to help customers. Many companies are seeing the value in letting agents make financially-oriented decisions to help resolve a customer's problem. Seventy-three percent of responding North American companies said they are willing to let agents make decisions with financial consequences - for example pricing, special deliveries and refunds.
  • First-call resolution
    Push to get the problem resolved on the first call. If you can't get a problem solved during the first call, Dimension Data found that organisations take three times as long (21.6 hours) to resolve calls that are handed off to functions outside of the contact centre than if the problem is solved within the contact centre (6.5 hours on average).
  • Lead generation
    Consumers are in the driver's seat, the survey found. Companies want extra business from their customers, and agents are often given incentives to keep customers happy. The survey suggests that contact centres' top business challenge is to sell more, so consumers have the power to drive or hinder that objective. Three out of five contact centres (62%) ranked identifying, increasing lead generation and sales opportunities among their top five business issues.
  • Best service for best customers
    Nearly 30% of contact centre personalisation depends upon what campaign the contact centre is running and what value the customer represents to the organisation (for example, based on Customer Lifetime Value or simpler RFM segmentations). Some 17% of the contact centres surveyed said they personalise their approach for higher-value customers.
  • E-mail interaction
    North American consumers said they like e-mail interaction. Globally, one in ten interactions handled in the contact centre are now via e-mail. In fact, North American centres handle 150% more e-mail interactions than contact centres in other parts of the world. But the challenge for contact centre operators is to ensure that those who send e-mail queries don't end up waiting an unnecessarily long time before they get a useful response. In North America, the wait time averages 11 hours for an e-mail response  (the shortest e-mail waiting time worldwide), while Europeans will typically wait up to 25 hours, and those in Asia-Pacific will wait up to 28 hours.

According to Cara Diemont, editor of the Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report at Dimension Data, "As companies give contact centre agents more autonomy and authority to win customers over in order to hit customer service goals, the busy holiday season could potentially deliver the best ever customer service levels."

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