Traditional contact centres are set to be replaced by customer management centres as more organisations focus on expanding contact services beyond telephony and e-mail offerings.
According to research results published in Dimension Data’s 2011 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, of the 546 contact centres surveyed in 66 countries, 64% are already handling Internet, with 40% managing SMS interactions, and a quarter offering Web chat – all via the contact centre.
South African contact centres have less capability in this regard – with 62.3% handling Internet, only 15.9% offering SMS interactions, and 10.1% providing Web chat. Some 20% of organisations are planning to provide SMS facilities in the next two years, and 37.7% have a plan for Web chat.
Siva Pather, Dimension Data’s national GM of customer interactive solutions for the Middle East and Africa says that the difference in South Africa is partly due to a slower rate of consumer adoption of Web chat and online shopping, as well as organisations not yet having integrated SMS into their contact centres.
“It is also a reflection of both the lack of availability of broadband and the high costs of extra bandwidth in South Africa.”
This year’s report also reveals that social media interactions are high on the agenda of contact centre businesses. Just over 18% of research participants reported that they’re already managing these interactions, with 32% (including South African organisations) saying they’re planning to do so over the next two years.
And with products becoming more commoditised, service is increasingly being used as a differentiator as organisations recognise the contact centre as the heart of the business.
“The evolution of the contact centre to a full service customer management centre confirms that organisations view contact centres as profit generators,” Pather says.
“Where contact centres were traditionally regarded as cost centres, almost half (47.9%) of respondents said they regard them as profit centres – 18.4% of them based upon sales revenue generated (up from 8.6% in the 2009 Report).”
The research results also show that this year’s top priority commercial driver for contact centres is improving service.
“But, navigating this evolution will require a strong focus on process automation. Smart devices are dramatically changing the communication landscape and enabling increased numbers of customers to help themselves and decide how, when and where they engage,” warns Pather.
"Organisations will need to embrace smart applications in order to make popular transactions even easier for their customers. That’s because self-service is fast becoming the accepted standard for providing customers with more choices to engage with the organisation.”
Meanwhile, the top priority issue affecting contact centres across the globe is the drive to encourage customers to use these broader self-service channels.
“We see a new focus on customer lifetime value (CLTV) management with a high number of respondents ranking it as the number one issue,” Pather says. “This, in conjunction with improvements in customer satisfaction set to replace cost reduction as the prime self-service driver, underscores a renewed business focus on overall profitability.”
Ironically, although more South African than global organisations mentioned CLTV as their number one priority, their practical focus remains cost reduction rather than customer satisfaction improvement. Some 44% of respondents have a strong focus on increasing efficiency, putting pressure on cost.
Globally, however, the report indicates that there is a significant increase in the number of infrastructure upgrades being planned across contact centres as technologies become more affordable and advances in communications technologies continue to drive flexible change that makes CLTV easier.
“Businesses are pro-actively responding to customer demand while recognising improved service as the top commercial driver. In turn, they’re using customer management centres as the vehicle to generate better service and revenue opportunities,” concludes Pather.