Call centre reps suffering software overload

12 Jun 2008

Call centre workers in the UK spend less than a third of their time talking to customers and the rest navigating an increasing array of software applications, new research has revealed.

On average, just 16pc of call time is spent conversing with the customer about the query at hand and 13pc on building a rapport or having a general conversation – amounting to only 29pc of time being spent actually talking to the customer, the independent research commissioned by Siemens Enterprise Communications found.

The remaining 71pc is then split between entering data, making notes, seeking advice and reading from information screens.

The research found that customers are increasingly likely to be held in queues due to operatives making notes or inputting data from a previous call.

On average, workers use five separate software applications when dealing with a call, with 5pc claiming to use 15 applications.

It was found that while most respondents reported significant IT upgrades in their organisations in the past year, two thirds rated IT slowdowns as having either a high or medium impact on productivity.

Some 61pc said further IT improvements were needed, particularly better systems for managing calls. Some 52pc cited difficult customers as a major drain on productivity.

Some 41pc of call centres workers surveyed believed that more training in IT systems would improve their productivity, 40pc wanted more training in how to deal with difficult customers and 33pc saw leadership training as key to improving productivity.

The report concluded that while technology has helped give operatives more information and better service to customers, it is also still seen as the major stumbling block to increased productivity.

“These findings are interesting, as too often contact centre research is focused on generalisations and statistics, rather than aspects of the work from the individual employee perspective,” said Anne Marie Forsyth, chief executive, Customer Contact Association (CCA).

“Contact centre work has become much more complex over the past five to 10 years due to increased regulation, product complexity, speed to market ambitions and of course rising expectations from time-poor customers.”

“The general commitment to regular significant IT upgrades is encouraging but there are clearly gaps between those upgrades and the actual infrastructure demands of the contact centre,” said Tim Bishop, head of strategy at Siemens Enterprise Communications. “The results suggest that the infrastructure itself has some ground to cover before enhanced productivity is delivered across the board.”

Almost 300,000 people are employed in contact centres in the UK, equating to 1pc of the UK workforce. The research questioned over 500 contact centre workers in the UK, comprising a combination of inbound and outbound workers across both the public and private sectors.

By Niall Byrne