November 9th, 2012 by Leonard Klie

Dimension Data last week released the results of its 2012 Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report, which includes data collected from 637 contact centers in 72 countries. This year’s report found few surprises,  including the fact that rapid adoption of emerging communication channels – much of which is enabled by new mobile and smartphone devices, wireless connectivity, and social media – is making a significant impact.

As a result, organizations are now rushing to provide additional service channels. The telephone is no longer the consumers’ primary point of contact with companies, while at the same time, mobile and social media interactions are increasingly making the contact centers’ role more important than ever.

One in five (19.2 percent) contact centers are already managing smartphone applications, while 33.1 percent support social media – nearly double the 18.6 percent reported in 2011. A further 14.4 percent expect to be involved in social media within the next 12 months, by which time 46.3 percent will be using Web chat.  

Other key findings in this year’s report include the following:

Few businesses are gauging the customer experience of non-agent, self-help channels: Only 27.9 percent of Internet, 19.4 percent of Web chat, 9.9 percent of social media, and 6.1 percent of smartphone application contacts are being measured. Only 14.6 percent of companies plan to impose those measurements. This indicates significant neglect by organizations as they struggle to invest in new channels through proven business case validations.

Interactive voice response (IVR) self-service systems rank second only to Web usage as the most offered self-help path. However, 50.6 percent of contact centers don’t schedule regular reviews of their IVR systems, and nearly three quarters (72.4 percent) are needlessly frustrating their customers by not passing information collected in the IVR through to agents.

Aging technology is a big challenge: Many contact centers are wrestling with aging technology, which is expensive to maintain and upgrade. Due to the complexity of existing technology environments, integration, lack of flexibility, and upgrades are the most common challenges being experienced.

In addition, there is a progressive move away from applying a dedicated contact center technology strategy to incorporate it into the wider enterprise customer management strategy (now at 66.8 percent). Investment for upgrades and enhancements are harder to authorize and are driving the need to consider alternative sourcing models for specific functionality that include cloud-based solutions on a pay-as-you-use operating expenditure model.

Cloud continues to play an important role: Many organizations are beginning to recognize the benefits of cloud-based solutions. It has doubled in its importance from Dimension Data’s 2011 Contact Center Benchmarking results. As organizations will need to find a way to use, re-use and upgrade existing technologies, the inevitable migration will likely be using a hybrid approach, with an appropriate ownership model selected for each application. 

Contact center needs are being lost in overall technology strategy: Already, 30.4 percent of contact centers have no, or limited, involvement in the design of business requirements for new technology solutions. Of these, 7.2 percent state that it’s purely a contact center decision. For sourcing, it is 40.2 percent as the enterprise technology strategy takes hold. Just 59 percent of participants believe their current core infrastructure components (including CRM, CTI, routing, self-service and workforce optimization) meets their current needs, while for future needs, this figure drops considerably to 13.8 percent.

IP-based contact centers are a success: The deployment of Web-based contact centers has progressed, and traditional IP-based contact center functionality has a high level of success in meeting current and future needs at 64.7 percent and 13.5 percent respectively. Flexibility and compliance with enterprise wide technologies are the main benefits of IP-based solutions. 

“With the consumerization of customer service taking place (in large due to social media and smart devices), it comes as no surprise that the ripple effects of this trend is placing greater strain not just on the contact center but with the broader enterprise,” said Daniel Hong, lead analyst of customer experience and interaction at Ovum, in a statement. “As we roll out the tape over the next few years, and enterprises create a culture of cross-departmental collaboration to underpin customer experience strategies, we will likely witness a surge in customer care innovation on the backdrop of personalized customer experiences built around a cloud infrastructure.”

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