Multimedia Contact Centers Face Major Challenges, Study Finds

We take it for granted that multichannel operations have changed retailing in ways we couldn’t ever have imagined, but we often forget one area where that change is even more far-reaching—the call center. Traditional call centers are now almost entirely a thing of the past. With today’s multimedia “contact” centers being called upon to provide a plethora of services, managers face serious challenges with regard to hiring, training, and evaluating staff.

A new report from Incoming Calls Management Institute sheds light on those challenges and provides benchmarks by which the contact centers of the future can measure themselves. The study surveyed 648 contact center leaders from a wide variety of industries and geographic locations. Key findings include the following:

1. The vast majority (92.4%) of respondents work in contact centers that handle traditional phone calls and at least one of the following: e-mail, fax, chat, VoIP-based Web calls (“click-to-talk” or Web call-through), Web callback transactions, and Web self-service.

2. The most common service level/response time objectives reported are 80/20 (80% of calls answered within 20 seconds) for phone calls; 4.01 hours to 24 hours for e-mail; 90/20 for chat; 80/20 for Web call-through; and 4.01 hours to 24 hours for fax.

3. First-contact resolution (FCR) is considered a critical performance measurement, but many contact centers currently do not measure FCR for any of the channels they handle: For example, 50.4% of contact centers handling fax do not measure FCR for fax, and 45.2% of those handling e-mail do not measure FCR for e-mail. A startling 32.8% of respondents do not measure FCR for calls handled by live agents.

4. Only 44% of facilities handling e-mail currently have an e-mail response management system in place to improve e-mail routing, tracking, and reporting.

5. At 62.2% of the contact centers surveyed, agents handling chat handle more than one chat session (multiple customers) at a time. Most (63%) of these agents handle a maximum of two to three sessions simultaneously, although handling as many as 10 sessions at a time is not unheard of.

6. The majority of respondents (66.6%) indicate that workforce management (forecasting workload and scheduling agents accordingly) in the multichannel environment is more challenging than it is in a traditional call center. Only 28.3% of respondents have a multiple contact management (MCM) system—a unified system that routes, tracks, and reports on all contact types that the facility handles.

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