Short Takes: Folie Deux

It may take two to tango, but if your partner isn’t coordinated, you go splat. We always knew that the New Economy call center isn’t quite as cozy with the Internet as it is made out to be — and here’s a study to prove us right. “The Multichannel Call Center Study Final Report,” released in August by the Incoming Calls Management Institute, is a comprehensive survey of 268 facilities that debunks much of the puffery about Internet/call center integration. For call centers to become truly connected across all selling channels, “there is still a long way to go,” notes ICMI president Brad Cleveland in an analysis of the findings.

Even the “oldest” of the new technologies, text chat, is in use among only 10% of the respondents, and use of Web callback and VoIP is negligible. But even more striking than the scarcity of technology is its mismanagement. Although nearly a fifth of the respondents report receiving 2,500 e-mail messages or more a month, and 82% of call centers have e-mail, only half measure customer satisfaction through this channel. Thirty percent do not measure agents’ e-mail productivity, and 32% do not monitor the quality of e-mail responses. Service levels are dismal, with 40% of respondents failing to meet their goals and 30% falling short of response time objectives. Among call centers with self-service Web sites, the majority (57%) report increases in agent workload. “The results suggest a fragmented approach to management in many centers, which will become increasingly unworkable as e-contacts grow,” writes Cleveland.

Ironically, Web technology, when implemented and managed properly, can do wonders for overloaded facilities. Three-fourths of the respondents with text chat report first-contact resolution rates of 91% to 100%, a rate that inbound phone calls achieve only 32% of the time. As always, take a tip from the Old Economy. “The planning and management process is the same for both traditional and Web-enabled call centers,” says ICMI consultant Tim Montgomery. “Break out each access channel, but apply the same principles to each one.”

For more information, contact ICMI at (410) 267-0700.

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