British Business slow to embrace new Call Centre technology

British business is yet to embrace the call centre as an integral part of the organisation and is slow to adopt new generation call centre technologies. That’s according to a recent survey commissioned by Wicom Communications, a leading European provider of all-IP contact centre solutions and VoIP enterprise telephony software.

The survey was conducted among 100 UK decision makers by Omniboss in August 2005. These recent findings suggest that over 45% of British business consider their contact centre to be a cost centre and drain on resources. Whereas only a small majority (18%) felt their call centre was a profit centre and actually played a vital role in the overall corporate strategy.

Call centres are a necessity as an essential part of business and the customer’s first interface to any organisation. However, in the UK there seems to be a reluctance to invest and embrace new generation call centre technologies in order to improve customer service.

Wicom found over half of UK businesses buck the IP trend with a physical based centre. Most (60%) see the advantages of migrating to an IP based model, but the shift hasn’t happened, suggesting decision makers don’t fully understand the long term benefits of an IP-based call centre model. Ali Shirnia, VP of Global Sales and Marketing, Wicom explains, “UK’s reluctance to invest in the IP model is largely due to limited budgets tied with heavy investment in hardware and proprietary systems. However what they may not understand is that if they adopt an IP model, the phased migration to the new technology will allow businesses to utilise their existing ICT investments and entire business infrastructure more efficiently.”

Cost savings and ease of deployment form a compelling argument. However the multiple benefits of IP include easier multimedia routing and queuing, remote agent deployment, multi-channel integration, and multi-site virtualisation. For instance, during periods of peak demand, overflow can be routed to home-based workers in real time, irrespective of country location or time zones, with some calls even being routed to a company’s offices during off-peak periods significantly improving worker utilisation and productivity.

IP based telephony is one of the fastest growing technologies in Europe, bringing revitalisation to call centre markets in regions like the Nordics and Eastern Europe. In fact, a radically new customer service model has emerged, where IP based technology is changing the way businesses are aligning their call centre within their corporate strategy. And with this, the evolution of a new call centre model coined as ‘Straight Through Communications’.

This new model allows customer calls to be prioritised and routed straight through to the experts. This eliminates the need for unnecessary call forwards at the first line of agents and optimises the match of customer needs and expert skills. For instance, employees can provide “traffic light” notices via their mobile devices which notify call centre routing logic, switchboard operators and colleagues about their current availability for service queues. Similarly, when travelling, users can route service calls and personal contacts to their mobile phone or to a selected team of specialists to ensure that customer requests are resolved in the most immediate manner. All information is accessible by switchboard, contact centre operators and company employees, improving availability and call resolution by as much as 20%.

Wicom was early to recognize the potential in IP-based call centre applications. It maintains its strength in the Nordic market but is beginning to achieve greater visibility with service providers such as BT Infonet, T-Systems and BT Global Services in Germany and is working with key organisations such as Fujitsu Services, the Finland Post Group and Premiere.

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