Call center problems go global

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Traveling teaches many lessons about the vast differences in cultures. In the contact center industry, my own travel and conversations have taught me how similar we all are in the issues that we face.

Recently I visited the Contact Center Global Forum in Cannes, France, as a speaker. At this show, trade groups and companies from all over the world were represented. With a wide range of people and backgrounds, there were still many common themes.

First, offshoring is a concern in each local market. Representatives from Australia, Europe, Asia and the Middle East voiced the same complaints about "foreigners" answering toll-free phone calls on behalf of products and services companies. Universally, there appears to be a distrust of someone outside of a person's own country handling a service or sales issue.

Second, technology without training has decreased customer satisfaction. Call center software Aspect has expanded its customer satisfaction index to include Europe but the results are similar to the United States. Consumers desperately want to experience first call resolution from trained individuals that are pleasant. The interactive voice response has replaced good satisfaction design in many cases and worldwide there is an epidemic of frustration about IVR jungles and lengthy queues.

Third, consumers are more frequently seeking government's intervention on outbound calls. Hong Kong, China, India, Australia and many other countries are contemplating or have adopted new do-not-call policies. Some standards mimic the U.S. approach and others are entirely new opt-in plans, which could virtually eliminate sales calls. Regardless of style, politicians view these laws as a means of satisfying their constituents and eliminating complaints.

Fourth, standards vary and are difficult to migrate from one country to another. The American Teleservices Association recently introduced its own self-regulatory organization standards for comment and review by the market. After reviewing the standards being forwarded by other countries, it is a pleasure to announce that we are still at the forefront on this vital topic. The world continues to look for standards that will mandate systems of support and even a few service levels for minimum performance. The ATA's standards, once implemented, attempt to bridge the gap and provide both types of standards for the channel.

Finally, regardless of language or country, consumers continue to express a very high interest in having personal service versus self-service. Although this is counterintuitive for the instant message/iPod/Internet generation, most experts agree that for service issues, a trained human is still the most desired means of addressing problems.

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