Study Reinforces Benefits of Virtual and Cloud-Based Contact Centers
The latest research by contact center industry analysts at ContactBabel has confirmed that joining multi-site contact center operations together into a single 'virtual' contact center in the cloud has reduced queue times and problems associated by call spikes. This is according to the more than 200 contact center operational leaders surveyed for "The US Contact Center Decision-Makers' Guide 2012" -- a major annual survey produced by ContactBabel and sponsored by Enghouse Interactive.
The survey showed that 71% of virtualized contact centers reported a decrease in queue lengths, with almost two-thirds also seeing a smoothing of call spikes. Homeworking was seen to have moved forward once again: 42% of survey respondents now allow some agent homeworking to take place, with the overall number of homeworking agents more than tripling since 2007.
The survey also revealed that 27% of multi-site contact centers have not virtualized their operations. When questioned about the inhibitors to this, 43% of the respondents strongly agreed with the assertion that there were too many different IT systems at each site to make this feasible: a case of legacy systems holding back businesses from moving forward. The ContactBabel analysis clearly indicates the need for contact centers to improve IT systems and technology, which has increased notably in importance within the past 12 months.
The uptake of cloud-based and hosted solutions provides the contact center with flexible choices to consider in upgrading or replacing their existing technologies. The survey indicated that 68% of the users of cloud-based contact center solutions said that they now had more powerful and flexible functionality, 63% experienced a lower cost of ownership and 66% said it was easier to make changes to the system.
Social Media Raises the Stakes for Customer Service
Americans are growing more frustrated with customer service and businesses are feeling the heat as consumers tell an increasing number of people about both their positive and poor service experiences. The 2012 American Express® Global Customer Service Barometer also found that consumers who have used social media for service wield the greatest amount of influence. They tell significantly more people about their service experiences, and say they’d spend 21% more with companies who deliver great service – compared to 13% on average.
The survey, which was conducted in the U.S. and ten other countries, also reveals a sorry state of service in general. Nine in ten of Americans surveyed (93%) say that companies fail to exceed their service expectations. What’s more, one out of two respondents (55%) walked away from an intended purchase in the past year because of a poor customer service experience.
The most popular ways consumers address service inquiries continue to be speaking to a live representative (either on the phone or face-to-face), and through company website or e-mail. That said, one in five consumers (17%) say they’ve used social media at least once in the last year to obtain a customer service response, and this relatively small group of consumers is extremely engaged and vocal.
People who have used social media for customer service at least once in the last year are willing to spend substantially more (21%) with companies they believe provide great service – in contrast with the general population (13% more) and those who have not used social media for customer service (11% more). They are also far more vocal about service experiences, both good and bad. In addition, more than 80% of these consumers say they’ve bailed on a purchase because of a poor service experience, compared to 55% overall.
Consumers who have used social media for customer service do it for a number of reasons. The “Social Top 5” activities for these Americans are:
1) Seeking an actual response from a company about a service issue – 50%
2) Praising a company for a great service experience – 48%
3) Sharing information about your service experience with a wider audience – 47%
4) Venting frustration about a poor service experience – 46%
However, these consumers feel companies are getting better at social media service: 60% of this group feels companies have improved their response times through social media over the past year.
Eyes on the Prize
Social media is not the only way people are spreading the word about their customer service experiences. The general population will tell significantly more people about their customer service experiences than in 2011, highlighting the importance for businesses of treating every customer interaction as an opportunity to build customer loyalty and a positive brand image.
Americans will tell an average of 15 people about positive experiences – up 67% from 9 last year.
Americans will tell an average of 24 people about poor experiences – up 50% from 16 in 2011.
More than three in five Americans (61%) feel companies have not increased their focus on providing better service, and of this group, 32% feel businesses are paying less attention to providing good customer service – an increase from 2011 (26%).
This dissatisfaction with the state of customer service overall helps ensure companies that deliver great experiences are recognized – and rewarded.
Two in three Americans (66%) said they would spend an average of 13% more with a company that provides excellent customer service – matching 2011 and up from 9% more in 2010.
Top Customer Service Gripes
Nerves are fraying because of subpar service. More than a third of respondents (35%) report that they have lost their temper with a service professional in the past year. When asked about the top customer service irritants most likely to lead them to switch brands in 2012, eight in ten (79%) Americans cited one of these “Big Four Gripes”:
The Big Four Service Gripes
1) Rudeness: An insensitive or unresponsive customer service representative – 33%
2) Passing the Buck: Being shuffled around with no resolution of the issue – 26%
3) The Waiting Game: Waiting too long to have an issue resolved – 10%
4) Being Boomeranged: Forced to continually follow up on an issue – 10%
How long are Americans willing to wait for customer service before slamming down the receiver? The average consumer hits his or her boiling point after 13 minutes on hold – creating a golden opportunity for companies to increase customer satisfaction by beating the clock. Similarly, Americans will wait an average of 12 minutes for in-person help at establishments such as banks, retail stores or restaurants.
Customer Experience Enters Top 10 CIO Technology Priorities for 2012
CIOs ranked customer relationship management (CRM) as their No. 8 technology priority for 2012, according to a global survey of CIOs by Gartner, Inc.'s Executive Programs. CRM moved up from the No. 18-ranked technology in 2011.
Additionally, Gartner's 2012 CEO Survey found that CEOs cited CRM as their most important area of investment to improve their business over the next five years. Gartner predicts that by 2014, refusing to communicate with customers via social channels will be as harmful to the relationship as ignoring their emails or phone calls is today.
Gartner said worldwide CRM software revenue reached $12 billion in 2011, a 13.5 percent increase from 2010, and it is forecast to grow 7 percent in 2012. Gartner analysts added that a growing percentage of this revenue is accrued through software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing. In 2011, SaaS accounted for 32 percent of the CRM software market and is expected to grow 16 percent in 2012.
As competition intensifies, service providers will either have to grow their own CRM practice to incorporate cloud computing, social CRM, digital media and mobility -- or they will have to form partnerships with specialist vendors. Service providers that are still focusing on traditional on-premises CRM solutions today will gradually lose out to the competition during the next one to two years.
Survey Shows Connection Between a Good Sound Environment, Employee Satisfaction and Increased Productivity in the Contact Center
Contact centers can be noisy places to work. The sound and disruptions from the many calls taking place at the same time can result in missed sales opportunities, misunderstandings and reduced productivity. A recent study conducted by Jabra and analyst firm, Frost & Sullivan, found that 73% of contact center managers surveyed rated quality headsets as the number one factor for creating a satisfactory work environment. The study polled 250 contact center managers in five countries around the globe to research the connection between a good sound environment, employee satisfaction and increased productivity in the contact center.
Distracting sounds that break the concentration of a contact center agent are an issue within both outbound and inbound contact centers. Ninety one percent of the contact center managers surveyed actively strive to reduce sound disturbances by removing background noise caused by loud coffee machines or copiers away from the active work area and by laying carpets over wooden floors. Just as important, 89% are working on improving the sound quality of the actual conversations.
Reducing background noise is especially crucial for large contact centers with 500 or more agents. According to the survey, 95% of these managers were acutely aware of sound disturbances and, in addition to helping reduce the background noise, have chosen to implement headsets with noise cancellation features in order to optimize the sound quality of conversations. Seventy three percent of managers polled responded that a quality headset was the most important factor in creating a good work environment in the contact center. That number jumped to 91% in large contact centers where managers said that a quality headset is key to reducing stress and increasing employee satisfaction - and thereby productivity.
Emerging Markets will Generate $1.22 Trillion in IT Spending in 2012
Emerging markets will generate $1.22 trillion in IT spending in 2012, representing more than 31 percent of the worldwide total, according to Gartner, Inc. The emerging regions of Asia/Pacific (which exclude the mature markets of Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan), Latin America, the Middle East and Africa (minus mature Israel), and Central and Eastern Europe, continue to show positive IT momentum, despite economic deceleration and a high degree of financial uncertainty in mature markets.
From a regional perspective, Latin America will generate nearly $326 billion in IT spending in 2012, of which professional markets will represent 48.4 percent of the total IT market in reaching $157.7 billion in 2012. Consumer markets in Latin America will reach $168 billion in 2012.
IT spending in the Middle East and Africa is expected to reach $244 billion in 2012, with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and South Africa accounting for nearly 35 percent of this revenue. The Middle East and Africa professional markets represent 38 percent of the total IT market in the region, and will reach $93 billion in 2012.
Central and Eastern Europe are expected to generate nearly $158 billion in IT spending in 2012. Professional markets will represent 48.2 percent of this, totaling $76 billion, while the consumer market is predicted to reach $81.7 billion. Russia's share of IT spending in the region in 2012 is expected for be nearly 45 percent, followed by Poland with 11.8 percent, the Czech Republic with 7.7 percent and Hungary with 3.7 percent.
IT spending in emerging Asia/Pacific countries is expected to reach $496 billion in IT spending in 2012. Emerging Asia/Pacific professional markets will reach 42 percent of the total IT spending in the region, while consumer IT spending will reach $288 billion in 2012.