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UK call centre lines to go dead in five years

9 September 2002

UK call centre lines to go dead in five years

IF you're among the people hanging on for the demise of the call centre then you have only five years to wait, according to a researcher at Aston University, Birmingham.

Gary Fisher drew this conclusion after analysing the way in which call centres are run. He studied detailed information from over 100 'contact centre units' throughout the UK before pronouncing their imminent death.

He says that it will not be economically feasible in five years' time to employ people to perform basic and simplistic customer interactions in the UK: 'they must change if they are to survive,' he said.

'If they don't become contact centres that provide sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) services, then they will not last at all,' he continued. By this Fisher means the new type of centre will need to be able to identify their most valuable customers and develop long-term, profitable relationships with them. Many organisations are already making the mistake of outsourcing to providers in the developing world. Such a deal, however, gives no incentive for the provider to improve the business or indeed remove the fault or failure that prompted the call in the first place.

Fisher has invited representatives from the companies he analysed to a conference at Aston University in November in a bid to share good practices among organisations where contact centres are an integral part of the business.

One of the key speakers, Fujitsu's Steve Parry, managed to improve staff attrition rates of his call centre help desks from 42% to as low as 6%. He will speak on his successful strategy of restructuring the business from the bottom up rather, as is often the case, than from the top down.

This model has worked particularly well for Fujitsu. They took their help desk staff away from the phones for a month or more so they could learn more about what their customers actually wanted and then empowered them to deliver it. This has helped them be better communicators between their colleagues and the company's customers. It seems simple but few companies actually do it.

'Too many companies simply bolt a call centre onto their business in line with cost reduction principles rather than strategically integrating it with the rest of the organisation so that they will be capable of adding value to their customers,' Fisher continued. 'For these companies CRM is just a technological upgrade. Little wonder then that approximately 50% of CRM projects are abject failures. Unless the business is moulded around the people communicating directly with the customers, even the most sophisticated CRM technology will deliver only very disappointing results.'

The conference on the future of contact centres is to be held at the Lakeside Conference Centre, Aston University on 22 November 2002. For further information see the website: www.aceo.abs.aston.ac.uk/fnews.html or email Jasmin Desai at: jasmin_desai@hotmail.com

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For further information please call 0121 204 4549 or email: b.a.l.coombes@aston.ac.uk

Note for editors
Copies of Fisher's research The Centre for Economic Performance Contact Centre Report are available on request from Jasmin Desai (contact details as above).

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