Call centres of today should allow customers to use their preferred means of communication, easily identify issues impacting response time, facilitate personalisation and feedback, and must also be cost effective.
According to recent research, entitled “The efficiency and quality dilemma: What drives South African call centre management performance indicators”, call centres are an inevitable component of service delivery to resolve queries, find additional information or lodge a complaint.
The research outlines how call centres have become multi-channeled facilities offering fax, email, web chat and the internet as communication channels for the customer. Call centres have moved from occupying a relatively small niche to being a significant part of the global economy. In South Africa, this industry has experienced a remarkable growth, as stated by the National Business Process Outsourcing and Call Centre Report.
Tony Smith, CEO of Oxygen8 SA refers to the findings of the report, and adds that the function of call centres has fundamentally changed from outbound communication to inbound communication or outbound in response to inbound requests. “The demands of work, commuting, family, and life admin put increasing pressure on free time. Consumers want to choose when and how they interact with service providers and retail brands. They don’t want to be called when watching their favourite soap opera or having dinner with the family – they want to interact when it’s convenient to them.
“The proliferation of social media, Over-The-Top (OTT) Messaging, Instant Messaging has created an environment where consumers are spoilt for choice for communication and tend to gravitate to a channel of their liking. A call centre of today should allow clients to use their preferred means of communication that addresses issues of response time, personalisation and feedback, and of course, is also cost effective,” says Smith.
Most businesses in South Africa still overlook the significant role that SMS communication should play in customer service environments.
Smith says that using SMS communication from a consumer provides an efficient mechanism to activate a call centre. When one is advertising or marketing to customers across multiple channels, for example, TV and outdoor media and broadsheet print, a customer initiated SMS also provides a subjective measurement of the effectiveness of specific channels.
“A good example of this is one of South Africa’s largest mutual assurance societies, who uses Oxygen8’s solution to activate their call-centre using consumer initiated SMS, tracked across multiple advertising channels. Customers are asked to respond with a key word to a short code, which prompts the call centre to automatically call them back. Oxygen8 provided the facility for this call back service, which initiates a voice call to the customer,” says Smith.
The Oxygen8 Whitepaper on ‘Benefits of Cloud Centres’ identifies three key challenges for corporate call centres, and these include credibility, sales, and technology gaps. “Corporates have only one chance to get it right,” adds Smith, “and we often hear companies stating that customers are the centre of their universe. The question however, is do their actions match this statement? According to research conducted in the UK, 85% of missed calls will not call back, and 75% of people will not leave a voicemail, and four of five people say that they have hung up when faced with a lengthy call centre queue.”
In addition, poor call handling procedures can affect the credibility of your business, which translates to the bottom line being affected negatively. Smith says that call centres should embrace inbound communication channels and alternative technologies. “Messaging as a Service, or messaging from the cloud, allows a call centre to add inbound channels to their infrastructure, with no investment in hardware and only a minor investment in integration”
Oxygen8 states that the problems of the ‘traditional’ call centre are leading what may be described as a revolution in the sector, and the concept of a cloud-based solution is gaining traction among decision-makers who are willing to embrace and use technology to deliver best customer service solutions. “Cloud based solutions are quick to deploy, without costly investment in new hardware and software. Companies will not only save on upfront investments, but ongoing costs can be lowered substantially, because cloud solutions require less maintenance and management from IT, which allows resources to be reallocated to other projects in the business,” explains Smith.
“Companies should also look at adopting a multi-channel approach to call centre fulfillment by using the full host of technologies to respond to customers’ preferred method of communication, which not only drives efficiencies, reduces costs but enhances service levels, which in turn translates into an improved quality brand experience,” concludes Smith.