Survey: Contact Centers Looking to Upgrade Technology

How’s this for a disconnect: 75% of contact centers have a customer database system, but only 53% have computer telephony integration (CTI), according to the ninth annual Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report from IT solutions provider Dimension Data. That means phone agents often cannot access information that the customer has already provided the company—even information such as account number that the customer was instructed to punch in while he was waiting on hold for “the next available operator.”

That, in turn, means customers are subject to redundant requests, a common consumer complaint. Other common consumer complaints—long hold times, poor voice recognition software, hard-to-understand agents, the absence of live agents—contributed to a sharp drop in customer satisfaction in North American contact centers. According to the report, satisfaction rates fell from 84% in 2005 to shy of 63% in 2006.

To address consumer complaints and boost satisfaction and operational effectiveness, contact centers are introducing a wide variety of technologies. Many are adopting converged Internet protocol (IP) technologies, which facilitate the implementation of multiple new applications. In fact, more than 60% of contact centers have introduced IP-based or hybrid IP telephone systems and automatic call distributors (ACDs), which ease wait times and allow contact centers to route calls more effectively.

To reduce wait times, 65% of contact centers are using call prioritization to route calls efficiently, based on some form of customer identification or according to the service the customer requires. Even so, North American contact centers reported an average hold time of 64 seconds, a 73% increase from 37 seconds the previous year.

Universal queues have been implemented in 28% of contact centers, with another 16% planning to install them. These give equal attention to consumers making inquiries via a variety of channels – phone, e-mail, interactive voice response (IVR), online.

More than a quarter (27%) of contact centers are looking to upgrade their IVR platforms, while 25% plan to install some form of speech recognition technology. Nineteen percent plan to introduce text-to-speech solutions.

Contact centers plan to increase their use of Web chat, collaborative browsing, and call-back systems two to three times over current levels, empowering agents with the tools they need to deliver optimal service. More than half (53%) of centers use online self-service systems, and 12.5% intend to install them.

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