A Marketing Call to Action for Call Centers

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Call centers lack access to customer data.
Call centers lack access to customer data.

Fewer than 60% of company contact centers are able to deliver actionable customer service information to agents due to data overload and a lack of focus on customer satisfaction, according to a survey of more than 542 contact center professionals released this week by WhitePages.

WhitePage's analysis, “Using Big Data in the Contact Center,” discovered managers stymied by too much data flowing in from too many sources that is inefficiently consolidated and utilized. Half of contact centers collect and use data around customer satisfaction, but more than a third collect none at all. Fifteen percent collect it but don't use it. The primary use for data, named by two thirds of respondents, is “managing agent performance.”

“You're not going to enable agents to take the next step in customer satisfaction until you've empowered them with the supporting data to deal with the purpose of the call.  First contact resolution has always been paramount, but its smarter to stay with a customer as long as is needed to solve the problem,” says WhitePages Director of Accounts John Neely, a former call center manager for PSINet, MindSpring, and EarthLink.  “Companies should take a look at the experience they provide online and try to replicate that in their call centers.”

But contact center reps are not as connected to relevant customer data, and for good reason. More than 40% of customer contact information is still manually input by an agent instead of being fed through an automated API or Web-based system.  As a result, half of call center agents said they faced productivity challenges by having to ask customers for basic contact information.

“At one company where I ran the call center, I used to get ice water in my veins when the CFO would approach me and quiz me about how many people I needed to get the job done,” Neely says. “They continue to look at contact centers as cost centers instead of revenue centers.”

Neely says that companies must look at contact centers with new sets of eyes. If they decide to use them to sell or upsell products and services, they have to empower agents to sell better.  That means updating data systems so that agents will immediately know who's calling, what age group they're in, what they've bought before, and even why they might be calling at a particular time.

“Companies need to distribute the right data to agents to make centers more actionable. In a competitive and commoditized business environment, you have to look at call centers as a competitive advantage,” Neely says. “Agents able to use the training they've been given are happier in their jobs. They'll stay longer in what is a high-turnover profession and the company will see results improve.”

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