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Contact Centers to Spend on Productivity via IVR, WFM/PM, Home Agents: Knowlagent

February 25, 2010

The days of budget cuts and layoffs at contact centers resulting from the downturn appear to be coming to an end, but do not expect in the next uptick big hiring and facilities growth that occurred in the last economic expansion.
 
Instead, centers will be investing in solutions that boost productivity and performance from existing assets mainly their people: including with training, monitoring, scheduling, home agents and deflecting simpler calls via self-service.
 
Those are the among the findings of Knowlagent’s 2010 benchmark study: The Post-Recession Call Center – The Focus, The Spend & The Case for Talent Management. The study, based on a December 2009 survey of more than 100 contact centers, focused on the impact of the last 18 months on contact center performance and budgets. The survey also asked where centers will focus improvements and investments in the coming year.

 
The results indicate that – for the first time in many months – contact centers are looking ahead, exiting survival mode and focusing on how they will gain a competitive advantage by improving customer service and satisfaction levels in a post-recession environment.
 
The majority of respondents said they had no plans to reduce headcount or slash budgets in 2010. Instead they plan to do more with what they already have or make additional technology investments with high discretion. Some 35 percent said they expect to grow this spending while 48 percent say this will remain the same.
 
Tellingly where the technology spending will be targeted on is getting more from contact center staff or instead of them:
 
*          Quality monitoring (QM): 45 percent
*          IVR: 42 percent
*          Workforce management (WFM): 38 percent
*          Performance management (PM): 34 percent
*          e-Learning: 28 percent
*          Analytics: 25 percent
 
Moreover, some 55 percent of respondents said they plan to increase training frequency in 2010 and 54 percent said they will increase coaching. Also, 44 percent said they plan to increase agent communication or at least maintain the frequency of communications.
“Traditionally, talent management has been a low priority in the call center,” said Matt McConnell, Knowlagent CEO. “But as more executives recognize the call center as a highly overlooked area of opportunity, an increase in agent productivity could translate into millions of dollars in new revenue.”
At the same time more contact centers want to minimize calls being handled by traditional contact center agents inside internal premises. Reflecting the high IVR technology investment, what the paper says is “Perhaps the most ubiquitous trend across all call center sizes” 71 percent of respondents plan to increase self-service in 2010. Nearly 41 percent, mainly larger organizations plan to use more at home agents this year.
 
Also nearly half or 42 percent of large contact centers surveyed are planning to outsource more in 2010, though overwhelming majority of small and medium centers don’t plan to do it at all (70 percent and 68 percent, respectively). The net result is a 19 percent increase in this practice in 2010.
 
“The biggest challenge coming out of the gates will be getting a jump on the competition using the same processes and tactics,” said McConnell.

Brendan B. Read is ContactCenterSolutions’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Marisa Torrieri

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