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ContactBabel

55% of UK contact centres expect lower live call volumes in 2019

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The majority of contact centre operations expect their live inbound call volumes to decrease in 2019, according to a new study.

The survey of over 200 contact centres undertaken by ContactBabel for its UK Contact Centre Decision-Makers’ Guide report also found that despite this expected drop, live telephony is still seen by businesses as the most effective channel for customers to use for sales, service or complaints.

The report also finds that:

  • Average cost per call is slightly higher than email and web chat (£4.27 / £3.81 / £4.24)
  • Web chat, interaction analytics & AI are expected to show the strongest growth in 2019
  • At 41 seconds, mean average speed to answer is more than 2.5 times as long as it was in 2004
  • UK average new agent salaries rise to £17,507; contact centre managers’ to £40,785.

Steve Morrell, Principal Analyst at ContactBabel, said: “The steep rise in digital channel usage (email, web chat and social media), as well as customers’ increasing familiarity with web self-service means that, for the first time in the 18 years that we have been studying the industry, the majority of contact centres expect fewer calls in the next year.

“Yet many businesses believe that customers would usually be better-off calling the contact centre, rather than using a digital channel. Although many see email as a good channel for resolving complaints, and web self-service for account-based issues, live telephony is still viewed by businesses as the gold standard for customer contact. ”

The 2018-19 UK Contact Centre Decision-Makers’ Guide is downloadable from www.contactbabel.com/reports.cfm.

Based on detailed interviews with over 200 UK organisations, the report provides hard data about every aspect of UK customer contact management, technology and strategy, including AI & machine learning, customer personalisation, digital channels, robotic process automation, agent engagement and HR/operational benchmarking statistics.

UK insurance contact centres ‘battle 60% rise in call duration’

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

UK insurance companies expect to make significant investments in AI-enabled web chat, automated customer identification and interaction analytics technology within the next two years.

A survey of over 200 UK contact centres undertaken by ContactBabel shows that insurance operations expect their use of web chat to grow from 44% today to 94% by the beginning of 2020.

The use of interaction analytics is expected to rise to 43%, as is automated speech recognition, with much of the latter being used to reduce fraud and the time required to take phone customers through security.

In 2012, only 7% of inbound interactions with insurers were through email, but this has risen sharply to over 15% today.

Due in part to increased automation, the sector will see a drop in contact centre employment of around 5,500 jobs by 2020.

The report’s author, Steve Morrell, Principal Analyst, ContactBabel, said: “With average call lengths in UK insurance contact centres having risen by over 60% since 2010, the industry has embraced the opportunities that digital channels can bring, especially in terms of automating simpler interactions.

“AI-enabled web chat can handle a large proportion of straightforward customer requests, while automating the customer identity process will shorten call times and reduces fraud. The insurance sector has also seen very significant rises in the average time taken to answer calls, as well as the length of calls. The significant growth in digital activity, particularly email, shows that insurers are understanding how their customers wish to contact them, while managing the cost of service.”

The report is downloadable free of charge from www.contactbabel.com/reports.cfm.

Web chat high on UK financial services agenda

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

UK financial services companies expect to make massive investments in AI-enabled web chat, automated customer identification and interaction analytics technology within the next two years.

A survey of over 200 UK contact centres by analyst ContactBabel shows that financial services operations expect their use of web chat to grow from 24% today to 89% by the beginning of 2020.

The use of interaction analytics is expected to rise from 33% to 77%, and automated speech recognition from 17% to 52% in the same timescale, with much of the latter being used to reduce fraud and the time required to take phone customers through security.

Due in part to increased automation, the sector will see a drop in contact centre employment of around 7,500 jobs by 2020.

Steve Morrell, Principal Analyst at ContactBabel, said: “With average call lengths in UK financial services contact centres having risen by over 50% since 2010, the industry is looking for ways to manage their costs while maintaining the quality of customer service, and making each customer more profitable.

“AI-enabled web chat can handle a large proportion of straightforward customer requests, while automating the customer identity process will shorten call times and reduces fraud. Analytics gives businesses an insight into how and why customers are contacting them, and provides opportunities to grow the business through providing contact centre agents or the automated channel with timely and relevant cross-selling and up-selling offers.”

The full report is downloadable from www.contactbabel.com/reports.cfm.

REPORT: Ringing the changes for card payments

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Robert Crutchington, director of payment solutions company Encoded, takes a closer look at contact centre payments…

The UK Contact Centre Decision-Makers’ Guide (DMG) revealed several surprises in terms of PCI compliance and card fraud reduction in its 15th edition. This major report studying the performance, operations, technology and HR aspects of UK contact centre operations is produced annually by analyst ContactBabel. Taking a random sample of the industry, 218 contact centre managers and directors answered a detailed structured questionnaire during the summer of 2017.

In the PCI DSS* Compliance and card fraud reduction section of the report there were three main surprises highlighted by the research:

  • Pause and resume or stop-start recording which aims to prevent sensitive authentication data and other confidential information from entering the call recording environment remains consistently the most popular method of compliance with 60% of respondents using this method.
  • The number of respondents using DTMF tone suppression, the often promoted alternative to pause and resume, fell from 22% last year to 14% last year.
  • The cost of compliance is causing organisations to rethink how payments are taken in contact centres, with 7% of respondents no longer accepting payments in this way.

What do these surprises mean?

Increasingly at Encoded we are seeing that the requirements and costs associated with payment technology, processes and training outweigh the benefits of taking payments by phone in contact centres. However, there are ways to reduce these costs and the complication often associated with PCI DSS compliance.

For almost three-quarters of survey respondents software and/or payment technology is the single largest cost associated with compliance (particularly in small and medium-sized operations). While in the largest contact centres, training staff in card fraud prevention techniques and processes is the greatest cost in 36% of cases.

It would appear the cost of compliance is therefore causing many organisations to rethink how they take card payments. We find an agent processing card details is still the preferred method and offers the best customer service, but there is confusion around the need for tone suppression (whereby DTMF tones are captured and altered making them unidentifiable), and this in particular is pushing up the cost of technology to support card payments.

However, one of the other surprises of the report was that the use of DTMF tone suppression was down this year from 22% to 14%. While price and reliability may be contributing factors to this decline, there is the added problem of discrimination and a potential legal and social media backlash. By restricting the contact centre to only accept card data via DTMF tones could mean that some people are effectively being discriminated against by not being able to make a payment or have increased difficulty to do so, particularly if they are either elderly or disabled in anyway.

Therefore, it was good to see “pause and resume” still performing well. Despite some commentators claiming pause and resume is dead, ContactBabel’s Report shows that it remains consistently the most popular method of compliance and used by over 60% of respondents. It is typically far cheaper to implement than almost any other option and offers the highest level of customer service.

It was also good to see other less expensive options for maintaining PCI DSS compliance mentioned in the report for example:

  • Improving agent processes and training – according to the report, this is the second-most widely used method by contact centres. The relatively low cost of training and education of the risks can go a long way in making staff vigilant to safeguarding data. Regular training including the perils of phishing emails, often a far bigger risk than a rogue staff member writing the odd card number down, can prove vital to securing data.
  • IVR Payments – although used by only a few, especially large contact centres, automated IVR process to take card details from the customer cuts the agent risk out of the loop entirely.
  • Third-Party Cloud-Based Payment Solution – no cardholder data is passed into the contact centre environment, whether infrastructure, agents or storage. As such, this can de-scope the entire contact centre from PCI compliance, but does rely on the security processes and operational effectiveness of the service provider.

Before implementing any new technologies or processes relating to achieving compliance, it’s important to consider the level of risk, the time and effort required to complete self-assessment questionnaires (SAQs), the cost of technology and the effect on customer experience.

Whatever solution a contact centre employs, if compliance is being achieved at the expense of customer service, then maybe it’s time to think again.

*Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) – the creation of five of the largest card providers: VISA, MasterCard, American Express

Contact centre speed to answer increases by 27%

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Analyst ContactBabel has revealed that the Average Speed to Answer for contact centres has increased by 27%, from 28.4 seconds to 36.1 seconds.

The findings are part of the fourth edition of The UK Contact Centre HR & Operational Benchmarking Report 2014/15, a study of 215 contact centre operations examining salaries, attrition, recruitment, absence, training operational performance, budgets and growth, with forecasts to 2017.

The report also found that new agent salaries have risen on average to £16,027.

Speaking with Call Centre Helper, the author of the report, Steve Morrell, explained how the growth in email and web chat was having a direct impact with the findings.

“The continued strong growth in both email and webchat, as well as mobile and web-based self-service, means that the remaining agent-customer voice conversation is now on average longer and more complex, requiring different skills and capabilities from agents, which current systems and processes may not yet support,”

“Furthermore, the connected increase in call handling times – now almost five minutes for a service call, and six and a half minutes for a sales call – supports the finding that the voice queue is often under pressure.”

“Twice as many contact centres are planning to increase headcount in 2015 as are expecting a decrease, which suggests that the movement towards self-service has not yet taken the pressure off the voice channel,” he continued. “In part, this will be due to the disconnect across channels found in most businesses, where the customer may have to engage multiple channels repeatedly in order to get a resolution to their query – a case of ‘multichannel’ rather than ‘omnichannel’ – where the final destination for many is still a live voice call.”

 

 

 

6 ‘major pain points’ identified in ContactBabel’s annual report…

800 450 Jack Wynn

The 14th edition of ContactBabels annual ‘UK Contact Centre Decision-Makers’ Guide’ has been released by the industry analyst firm, which focuses on the operations, performance, technology and HR aspects of UK contact centre operations.

Based on a random sample of the industry, a detailed questionnaire was presented to 216 contact centre directors and managers to complete between June and August 2016, and analysis of all collected responses was conducted in September.

Six ‘major pain points’ were identified throughout the report: strategic decisions; increasing profitability; improving quality and performance; HR management; maximising efficiency and agent optimisation; and new media and the customer of the future. Each ‘pain point’ is allocated its own section, and solutions to solving each issue – with analysis of the primary research data – are provided.   

 

Access the full report here 

EvaluAgent: Unhappy call centre workers costing UK economy £2.3 billion…

800 450 Jack Wynn

Partnering with ContactBabel and basing its research on the UK Contact Centre HR & Operational Benchmarking Report, the provider of workforce management software, EvaluAgent, has calculated that unhappy call centre employees are costing the UK economy an estimated £2.3 billion every year.

Managing director at EvaluAgent, Jaime Scott, said: A major challenge faced by many is delivering a great experience to customers that are more demanding and vocal than ever. As the call centre continues to play an increasingly important role in the customer experience, customer service leaders need to invest not only in CX technology but also in technology that engages, motivates and empowers the humans behind the technology.”

Read more on the research here

Report highlights ‘telephony’ self-service status in the UK market…

800 450 Jack Wynn

In the ninth installment of its ‘Inner Circle’ series focusing on subjects including; cloud-based contact centres, self-service, outbound & call blending, customer interaction analytics and PCI DSS compliance, findings of ContactBabel‘s The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel Customer Contact’ report indicated that 32 per cent are currently offering a full ‘telephony’ self-service channel in the UK; with the platform becoming more prevalent in the utilities and finance sectors.

Retail & distribution and insurance sectors were least likely to be doing so, and the report found a distinct pattern in full self-service regarding contact centre size, with 63 per cent of respondents from large contact centre operations (200+ agents) implementing this; compared with 27 per cent in the mid-sized sector (51-200 agents); and only 15 per cent of small contact centres (50 or less agents).

Download the full report here