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SA call centres save millions with SMS

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First National Bank and Santam Insurance are saving millions in call centre costs by using SMS.

According to a 2008 Aberdeen study surveying 4 500 respondents,­ concerns over a potential recession is a top-three business challenge for companies this year; in another study, Aberdeen found that 88% of best-in-class companies considered corporate profitability to be a key metric driving the need to manage telecom costs ­ including in the call centre.
"We have all been there ­ we call for service only to be number 134 in the queue when we simply need a balance update or tracking number," says Pieter de Villiers, CEO of Clickatell. "Consumers are increasingly mobile and interact with a myriad of companies through call centres, often using their mobile phones ­ they demand quick response times and easy to use systems.
"SMS provides an easy to use mobile solution that doesn¹t require long wait times or interactive voice response systems. To better serve mobile customers and save money, organisations with call centers should take advantage of text messaging."
The recent Aberdeen study found that 80% of best-in-class call centres are leveraging text messaging, and also concluded that there is a marked difference in adoption in non-best-in-class organisations which are not taking advantage of an opportunity to add a cost-effective touch point between a given company's expert resources and their customers through the use of text messaging.
In addition, the cost of using SMS for customer contact is a fraction of the cost of live agent communications as well as interactive voice response systems. UK-based call centre analyst firm ContactBabel reported that live-agent service calls average about $12.00 per call, while SMS costs pennies per message.
SMS efficiently replaces the need for live agents, as well as IVR systems, for many simple service inquiries including order status, payment reminders, account activity alerts, delivery notifications, security alerts, and more, allowing live agents to spend time on dealing with more complex customer inquiries.
With SMS, customers can rely on immediate, cost-effective and reliable text messages to be sent directly to mobile phones. In addition, SMS enhances "anytime, anywhere" automated self-service, enabling call centre agents to reach customers and obtain real time responses from anywhere in the world.
"Our customers prefer SMS ­ it saves them the trouble of having to dial in to the call centre or visit a branch to get the account information they need," says Len Pienaar, chief executive of Mobile and Transact Solutions for First National Bank, which implemented its text-based inContact service in 2002 and has seen adoption achieve more than 80% of its entire retail customer base.
"With SMS our customer gets convenience and FNB saves money. In addition to delivering a better customer experience, SMS has also greatly reduced call centre costs associated with communicating routine account information."
Santam Insurance has seen a 500% growth in SMS text alerts during claims processing which lead to significant cost reductions in live agent query handling.
"Interacting with customers through SMS costs a fraction of what a live agent costs are ­ so the cost savings for us have been tremendous," says Fanus Coetzee, head of Santam Insurance Services Support. "And, the communications are effective and pleasing to the customer which helps our business."