Dimension Data's Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report has a proud history of comprehensively investigating and reporting on the performance levels achieved and operational realities experienced by contact centres around the world. Since its initial publication by Merchants in 1997 in the United Kingdom, the report has grown to include contact centres from around the world.
Participation in the latest annual Benchmarking Survey includes 403 participants from contact centres from 42 countries worldwide providing an excellent representative sample from the following industries: Financial Services, Service Providers and Telecommunications, Government and Education, Consumer Goods and Retail, Business Services, Automotive and Manufacturing, Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals, Media and Entertainment, Technology, Travel and Transportation and Utilities and Energy.
SUMMARY OF THE FINDINGS
For each area we will review the key themes and findings.
1. STRATEGY AND DEVELOPMENT
The overall focus of this section is the strategies and development plans in place across contact centres. Contact centres are increasingly important business functions within organisations, as they operate both as a key point of contact for the company’s customers and as a tool for driving sales. Understanding this value, businesses have to develop a strategy to gain a competitive advantage in the field, finding their key drivers for growth and development. In this chapter, we assess what our research tells us about the building blocks of such a strategy, and what contact centres are focusing on.
1. There is a strong customer focus across sectors and regions
2. Staff availability is the top driver for contact centre location
3. Quality of service is a key issue and focus area
4. The scope of the contact centre continues to grow
5. Multi-channel development continues
• Customer satisfaction is ranked consistently highly as a part of development strategies; it scored 87.3% among all strategies. Quality and process improvements were second, with 80.7%, and staff satisfaction ranked third with a 70.2%.
• Cost-based strategies are being given less strategic priority. Cost reduction targets rank at 46.5% as components of development strategies and cost reduction is now only the second most important driver for location strategy
(after staff availability).
• The top strategic driver for contact centres is improving on service (ranked most important by 24.3% of contact centres and weighted ranking of 40.2%).
• Quality of service (QoS) is the top contact centre management issue (26.3% rank this first) by a considerable margin.
• Outsourcing evaluation and selection seems to have reached a peak and the growth in the percentage of contact centres evaluating and selecting this option has slowed considerably.
• The top three reasons given by organisations that decided to outsource are
(1) potential cost savings,
(2) flexibility to expand and decrease capacity in short timescales, and
(3) service improvement.
• Customer focus carries through to some degree in contact centre organising principles. The top four organising principles are:
a) Customer or market segments: 38.0%
b) Function (e.g. sales, service, marketing, finance): 31.1%
c) First tier to handle all segments, products and functions: 28.5%
d) Products or product groupings: 27.1%
• The top four development areas for contact centres are:
Planned Carried Out
a) Expanding the scope of the contact centre 58.6% 29.2%
b) Developing multiple channels 53.1% 34.3%
c) Consolidating different functions 27.5% 21.5%
d) Rationalising the same functions 27.5% 24.0%
2. FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT AND RATIONALE
While contact centres may be about delivering the best possible service to customers, whether it be through agents or some kind of automated process, when it comes down to reality, even the most successful contact centres have to be commercially viable for their organisations. This section explores the strategies and approaches to articulating the contact centre’s value as well as some financial metrics for the contact centre.
1. Financial independence and autonomy are still not widespread in contact centres
2. Contact centres are not yet articulating their value using strategic measures
3. Staff costs continue to comprise the largest component of contact centre operational costs
• Fewer than 50% of contact centres surveyed have any processes in place to measure the success of the centre against value metrics.
• Globally, salary costs alone make up 69.0% of the centre’s overall costs, reaching a high of 74.9% in North America and bottoming out at 64.0% in Africa and the Middle East.
• The average percentage of budget spent on technology is just 8.6%, with a high of 9.8% in the Asia-Pacific region and a low of 6.5% in North America.
• Cost per seat overall is USD 4,944 fully loaded and USD 3,413 without agent costs.
• There is a large difference in the costs of different channels, with letters (USD 7,13), faxes (USD 7,06) and emails (USD 5,34) most expensive and self-service channels cheapest.
• Agent-assisted phone interactions cost on average USD 4.66.
• The majority of contact centres (66.9%) do not charge external end-users or customers for service. The most popular means for those that do charge is to invoice the customer per transaction (21.9%).
3. CUSTOMER KNOWLEDGE AND MANAGEMENT
The focus on customer experience across the contact centre market has been a theme for several years now. In this section we explore some of the more tangible aspects of delivering this customer experience through strategies such as segmentation, personalisation, telephone number strategies and single views of the customer.
2. Personalisation of service has grown dramatically and is now used in about four in ten centres
3. A single view of the customer across channels, customer information, products and services and transaction history is still a challenge for most contact centres.
4. Contact centres are adopting a more mature, balanced approach to customer satisfaction measurement.
• With regards to telephone number strategies, the overall percentage of contact centres using a single number strategy has decreased from 35.8% to 32.7%, while regional segmentation has increased significantly from 4.7% to 12.4%.
• The overall percentage of organisations that are delivering a personalised and segmented service through their contact centres has increased markedly from 28.3% last year to 42.8% this year. The top six verticals delivering segmented services are:
a) Service Providers and Telecommunications: 55.8%
b) Business Services: 52.0%
c) Government, Education and Health: 48.8%
d) Manufacturing and Products: 47.4%
e) Technology and Media: 47.4%
f) Utilities and Energy: 46.2%
• Just 36.0% of organisations have a single view of the customer across the multiple channels they offer. That number increases to 50.8% when it is just across products and services; 48.2% have a single view of the customer across customer data and 46.0% have a single view of the customer across transaction history. Incredibly, 30% of contact centres believed that developing a single view of the customer did not apply to them.
• Overall customer satisfaction remains similar to last year’s levels (82.0%). The overall average customer satisfaction score is 81.5% and varies from a high of 86.7% in Government, Education and Health to a low of 73.8% in Technology and Media.
• This year, 72.4% of contact centres have the ability to either fully or partially measure the impact of service changes on customer satisfaction, compared with 62.9% last year.
4. PERFORMANCE MEASURES AND METRICS
In this section of the Benchmarking Report, we assess how the contact centre industry is performing against a
range of metrics and KPIs. The findings cover three sections, namely: inbound traffic management, outbound traffic management, and performance measurement.
2. One in five interactions are non-telephone
3. Web self-service and SMS / text messaging have grown to comprise the largest portion of non-telephone
4. Do not call legislation is affecting outbound call volumes but solicited outbound activity generates much better results than other campaign types
5. Performance measurement remains focused on tactical, operational measures, not metrics that will assist in articulating value and strategic progress
• Inbound call volume growth has peaked for the industry as a whole, although the Telecommunications and
Service Provider sector and large call centres are still showing rapid growth in call volumes.
• There was a major drop reported in first call resolution (FCR) by the initial agent over the past 3 years from
82.1% in the 2005 Report to 80.7% last year and now 69.8% this year.
• However, there has been a significant positive change in the resolution time on enquiries requiring follow-up within the contact centre (a 54.0% cut in turn-around time from 6.5 hrs in the 2005 Report to 3.0 hrs this year) and in the broader enterprise (a 57.5% cut in turn-around time from the 2005 Report at 21.6 hrs to 9.2 hrs this year).
• There has been a significant upturn in the use and success of self-service by phone. Self-service completion
rates continued to climb with a 19% compound growth on last year’s completion rates.
The majority of industries this year reported that they answer more calls within 20 seconds than they did last
year. Overall, 74.2% of calls are answered in 20 seconds.
• Allowing customers to request a call-back rather than wait in a queue is a strategy used in some contact centres. However, a call-back is more expensive than handling the call on its first presentation:
a) Call-backs have 10% longer talk- and wrap-times compared to inbound calls (177 seconds talk time and 72 seconds wrap time for inbound compared to 198 seconds and 81 seconds for outbound),
b) There is an additional overhead for call-backs due to the pre-call preparation time.
• Non-phone based interactions constitute 22.0% of all contact centre inbound and outbound contacts. Of
those, just under half (48.6%) are web-based and the remainder are split between email, fax, postal and SMS
• This year’s responses show a slow-down in outbound dialling overall. The slow-down is pronounced in regions where do-not-call lists have gained support.
• Outbound cross-sell and up-sell campaigns directed at the existing customer base or appointment setting from a qualified lead and followed up by the field sales force are over 200 times more effective than calling to a prospect list.
• While the range and focus of the strategic KPIs contact centres are using have not improved, operational KPIs have:
a) 58.0% of contact centres measure quality/error rates and 52.3% measure first contact resolution.
b) Workforce optimisation tools and principles are playing a larger role too; 41.6% of contact centres are using capacity forecasting accuracy as a KPI.
• Agents spend around 60% of their time speaking to, reading emails from or responding to clients. Multi-channel agents spend less time interacting with clients (60.7% for phone, 58.6% for email and 54.3% for multi-channels) and report a longer wrap-time, a longer idle time and spend more time in training and meetings than their single channel counterparts
5. PROCESSES AND PROCEDURES
Processes and procedures determine the ‘how’ of contact centre operations. It’s critical to the success and growth of contact centres that effective and repeatable processes are in place to guide activities and deliver optimal value. Many organisations are focusing on the potential for process automation, and overlooking the inescapable fact that automating a poorly defined or executed process will not make a bad process better. In this section of the Benchmarking Report we review the progress made and challenges faced in managing the customer processes and procedures in the contact centre.
1. Process automation continues to be a key focus area
2. Integration of the organisation and contact centres at a process level still has some way to go
3. Multi-channel process design is underway, enabling true multi-channel service delivery
4. Customer enquiry tracking is now widespread and should lead to improved customer service
• The dominant trend in process re-engineering or improvements is automation (54.9%)
• There is some degree of misalignment of processes and data between the enterprise and the contact centre:
only just over a half (54.9%) have full or active co-operation with their broader organisation on process design
• Over 80% of contact centres report some level of documented process across multiple channels
Three quarters of contact centres have service level agreements (SLAs) in place:
a) However, of these, over 40% report that the SLAs are effectively useless because they are not enforced.
b) Almost 70% of contact centres have the ability to monitor and manage SLAs related to handoffs to other business areas.
c) Almost 80% of contact centres track enquiries, with approximately half of these centres tracking only those calls which stay within their own environment, an improvement on last year.
• The overwhelming majority of contact centres - 90% - use some formal method to benchmark their operations. Internal assessments continue to decline (as in previous years), and use of this Report increased significantly (to 63%) from last year (50%).
• Ninety-three percent of contact centres will make identification on at least some transactions, while half go one step further and authenticate the caller.
• When it comes to decisions that have financial consequences, 60.0% of contact centres allow their agents
some level of decision-making. This represents a 10% decrease from last year’s results and overall, in every
industry and region, there was a drop.
• Globally, the average contact centre is open for business for 20 hours of the day.
• Sixty-six percent of contact centres report that they do not use load balancing. Of those that do employ load
balancing, over 50% base the strategy on the simplest metric - the number of calls in the queue.
• Just 49% of contact centres report that they have a disaster recovery plan in place and that they test it.
People management is a critical issue in any industry or corporate department, but is especially important in
contact centres, an industry well known for its high staff attrition rate. A true understanding of how agents, team leaders and managers are being supported is vital for the continued growth and development of this sector. In this section of the Report, overall organisational and HR strategies, practices and performance indicators are reviewed to see how contact centres are managing their people to drive customer service delivery.
1. Contact centre reporting lines continue to climb, reinforcing the importance to the organisation as a whole of an efficient and effective contact centre
2. A significant, but still minority, proportion of contact centre staff are equipped to deliver multi-channel service
3. Attrition and absenteeism are ongoing issues. The industry loses a large portion of productive days to
absenteeism and sick leave
4. Lack of commercial discipline to demonstrate the value of the contact centre activities spills over into HR and training (with, for example, few centres measuring the benefits of training against costs)
• Seventy-eight percent of contact centres report to director level and above.
• Staff retention is ranked by 48.8% of contact centres as their number one HR strategy driver.
• A much stronger emphasis is being placed on active career advancement within the contact centre environment with 50.7% defining a career development path for staff. This offers two distinct routes:
a) Multi-skilling of agents across different query types and channels (59.8%)
b) Developing more specialist roles and focus areas for agents (53%)
• The majority of agents (73.1%) are only equipped to handle telephonic support. However a substantial number manage email (13.2%) and multiple channel (29.0%) responses.
• Overall, the ratio of actual to available working days is 87.0%, resulting in 13.0% of available time being lost to absenteeism and sick leave.
• Agent absenteeism is 11.0% - no improvement from last year.
• The interviewing and selection process is still dominated by the traditional face-to-face interview (93.2%).
Telephonic screening and interviewing is not commonly used as a selection method in the European region (only 39.6% use telephone screening and 46.0% use telephone interviewing), although both are used some 60% of the time across the remaining regions.
• The average cost of hiring a new permanently employed agent is USD 1,673.78. This varies by regions:
a) Asia-Pacific: USD 802.82
b) Africa and Middle East USD 1,802.89
c) Europe: USD 2,080.78
d) North America: USD 2,473.23
• Contact centres allocate 18 hours per month of coaching time per agent. In Europe this jumps to a massive 25 hours, while at the lower end of the scale is the Asia-Pacific region, which allocates about 11 hours.
• The average salary earned by full-time agents in the industry is in the region of $ 21,000 per annum, rising to as much as $ 25,000.
• Only 50% of contact centre staff can clearly state the objectives or targets of the contact centre.
• Average agent attrition is 24.0% overall. This is highest in North America, at 31.0%, and lowest in Africa and the Middle East at 16.0% (quite possibly due to the high unemployment rates in this region).
7. TECHNOLOGY ENVIRONMENT
The modern contact centre is a super-user of information and communication technology (ICT) systems. Today’s contact centre is a prime benefactor of two closely related and extraordinarily powerful currents sweeping through the ICT industry: those of Internet Protocol (IP) and the concept of convergence. The impact of IP is likely to be profound and lasting. However, the undeniable advantages that a single standard can bring are tempered by the reality of historical infrastructure: contact centres are faced with the challenge of adopting IP, and the advantages it brings, and at the same time continuing to use and extract a return from legacy equipment. In this section we explore the technology trends that are driving efficiency, effectiveness and performance across the industry.
1. Convergence is a reality; the majority of contact centres now have some IP technology in place
2. Organisational alignment and integration are yet to cascade through to technology infrastructure for most
3. Convergence and the adoption of IP are driving more sophisticated use of CTI and multi-channel strategies are being supported by the increasing adoption of universal queues
4. Self-service technologies are seeing continued investment and focus
5. There is renewed focus on customer database and customer relationship management technologies
• More than 60% of contact centres have introduced IP-based or hybrid PBX/ACDs, which is significantly up from the 50.0% recorded last year.
• Flexibility of architecture is the top reason given by contact centres (68.9%) for the adoption of IP.
• Only 45.0% of contact centres have both a defined technology strategy and architecture in place for their
contact centre. Thirty percent have neither a strategy nor architecture in place.
• The majority of contact centres have a separate architecture from the enterprise architecture (60.5%).
• The most commonly used routing approach is call prioritisation (currently used by 64.9% of contact centres). For multi-site routing, contact centres rely primarily on call transfer and networked automatic call distribution systems:
a) Sixty percent use networked ACD and 41.1% use call transfer across sites.
b) Networked automatic call distribution has increased by three times from 21.0% in the 2006 Report to 60.3% this year.
c) Virtual, in-the-cloud (typically over the wide area network) routing is used by just 28.0%.
• Over half of respondents currently use CTI (53.4%) and a further 23.3% plan to use CTI services in the future.
• Universal queues have been implemented in 28.0% of contact centres with a further 15.9% planning to install.
• The majority (69.3%) of centres are recording calls. Twenty-one percent of centres are planning to upgrade and a further 14.3% report that they are planning to install recording platforms.
• Voice driven self-service technologies are receiving particular focus:
a) Twenty-seven percent (26.7%) of contact centres are looking to upgrade their IVR platforms
b) Twenty-five percent (24.7%) are planning to install speech recognition
c) Nineteen percent (18.6%) plan to introduce text-to-speech solutions
d) Twelve-and-a-half percent (12.5%) intend implementing voice authentication / verification solutions
• The top three non-voice channels from a technology adoption and investment perspective are:
Currently Have Plan to Install
a) Online self-service systems: 53.4% 12.5%
b) Email management: 47.0% 26.4%
c) SMS or text messaging: 31.0% 17.0%
• The most commonly used workforce optimisation (WFO) tools are workforce management (scheduling and
adherence), performance management, quality management, voice logging and agent analytics; 60% or more
of contact centres are using, upgrading or planning to use these applications.
• Seventy-five percent of contact centres currently have or are planning to install a customer database system. Seven out of ten (71.0%) are using or planning to use some form of customer relationship management (CRM)
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