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Few departments within companies have grown as quickly in the last few years—and become as expensive—as the call center function. Some studies show that inbound calls from customers to companies have grown from a mere 11 million in the mid 1980’s to over 15 billion calls in 2000, with an estimate of doubling to 30 billion calls by 2005. Because of this wildfire growth, most companies have focused primarily on just “containing” the phenomenon, i.e., adding people, telephone lines and information technology, just to answer the callers’ questions and minimize blocked and abandoned calls.

As call center costs have skyrocketed, so have the requests by management to keep the costs down, but at the same time management wants to provide more services to callers more efficiently. Better utilization of existing equipment and people are often the short-term goal of the call center manager. But efficiencies are only half the equation and, alone, can cause more damage than good in the long run.

Forces of Change and Resulting Demand for Better Call Centers

Competition is the biggest reason for the increase in demand for better call centers that can handle calls more effectively.

Competition in virtually every industry is rapidly changing. In the last twenty- five years, global competitors have captured a dominant share of basic industries, then moved to electronics, automobiles and banking (to name a few). Entrepreneurs saw unfulfilled needs and filled them, stealing customers from muscle-bound giants. The number of new business startups and outsourced service providers have soared to provide multiple channels of contact, including Web, chat, and e-mail response.

As a result, companies can no longer afford to be unresponsive to customer requests. If one company doesn’t meet their needs, another one will. These are good times for consumers. They really are “The Boss” now, and they are using their newfound power of choice to demand the products they want, the way they want them and when they want them. Listening to the customer has become key to survival.

The resulting demand on business is customization. Customers demand a custom fit. To gain an advantage, smart companies are using call centers to monitor customer demands and continually develop new products, services, packaging and delivery, based on unfulfilled customer needs.

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