If your brand runs a call center (and even if you don't), don't think for a second that you can't make it  a tremendous competitive advantage due to how poorly so many are call centers are operated and how poorly phone calls are handled.

Dimension Data surveyed 300 call centers in 36 countries across five
continents from 1997 – 2007 and here are a few key disappointments:

  • Call abandon rates, due to long hold times, increased during the 10-year period
    by nearly 127 percent, while the average time to answer a call rose by some 70%, from 23 to 39 seconds.
  • The percentage of calls that were answered in less than 10
    seconds decreased by nearly 12% from 72% of all calls to 64%, while callers on average abandoned a call after waiting for 45 seconds
    in 2007, compared to 53 seconds in 1997.

The report also states that contact centers are finding it increasingly
difficult to retain employees. During the 10- year period, annual agent
attrition rate rose by nearly 93%, increasing from 14% to 27%.

Some of the difficulty in retaining employees could be related
to the increased outsourcing of agent seats. The survey found a 220% increase in outsourcing, with 16% of agent seats outsourced in 2007
compared to 5% in 1997.

So what's the deal?

Here are a couple of reasons for poor call center performance:

  • Hiring the wrong people
  • Not doing the right things to hold onto the good people (it's even happening overseas)
  • Look at call centers as cost centers vs. profit centers

done right, you see increases in customer loyalty, employee
retention, and shareholder values. Just ask or try Costco, Zappos and L.L.Bean!

An excellent book on this subject is, "The Best Service is No Service." And, here is a brief interview by Guy Kawasaki and the book's author.

In short, here's The Best Service Is No Service seven principles to deliver the best service that ultimately leads to “no service”:

  • Eliminate dumb contacts

  • Create engaging self-service

  • Be proactive

  • Make it easy to contact your company

  • Own the actions across the company

  • Listen and act

  • Deliver great service experiences

To the list I'd add – make a great product or deliver a great service in the first place!

Source: The 10th annual "Call Center Benchmarking Report" from Dimension Data.