UK Firms Urged to Integrate Call Centers with Online Efforts

UK companies would do well to learn simple, cost effective lessons in
achieving better customer relationship management by integrating call center
capabilities with their online operations, says a new report.


Few UK companies have truly built strategies that bring together the power of
call centers with that of the Web, says a new report, “Multi-Channels
Strategies: Call Centre and Web Integration,” from Fletcher Research, the UK Research Centre
of Forrester Research.


“Many online customer experiences are, quite frankly, shocking,” said Fraser
Pearce, an analyst at Fletcher Research. “Only one-fifth of the (UK) firms we
surveyed had any form of human contact available from their Web sites and
there are no examples of shared browsing to date. More worryingly, only 14
percent of call center operators have Web site access and only 11 percent are
able to provide Web site assistance.”

Through e-mail, call-back, text chat and shared browsing plus the integration
of customer databases and back-office systems, UK consumers should be offered
a far richer and consistent experience across web and call center channels,
he said.


There are some encouraging signs, however, particularly from the financial
services sector, the report says. The Woolwich, for example, has made a
significant
investment in its new Open Plan Finance system to allow greater cross-channel
coordination.


Also, The Co-operative Bank recently invested in a completely
new call center purely to support online banking customers. Overall, 60
percent of the financial service operations benchmarked in this report had
systems for handling e-mail queries from Web sites, a far better performance
than most sectors of UK industry, the report said.


Other findings from the report:

  • Costs per interaction will probably decrease. The Web has become well known
    as a low-cost, self-service channel. However, companies should be looking to
    promote more, and richer, customer interaction

  • Even relatively complex technology, systems, processes and training is not
    going to break the bank. Fletcher estimates that employing integration
    systems and technology can increase the overall operating costs of a customer
    services unit by around 10 percent a year

  • Metrics such as customer retention and contribution are the ways to justify
    this investment. Web site and call center integration is about better
    customer service and better customer service is about retaining and enriching
    customers relationships. It is well known that customer acquisition is far
    more expensive than customer retention, it is also evident that better
    customer service often leads to increased customer
    spending


Fletcher Research was acquired by Forrester Research in November 1999, and
will become Forrester’s UK Research Center at the end of the second quarter
2000.

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