Cost reduction is a key objective sought by many organisations when looking at their contact centre operations. However Detica, the specialist IT consultancy, warns that a pure contact centre cost-cutting agenda will ultimately lead to higher costs and poorer performance across customer operations. The vendor–independent consultancy says that improving the experience of both customers and employees is key to reducing cost and improving service levels.

Over reliance on technology-led or outsourcing strategies will not deliver optimal financial performance says Detica. It believes tactical cost-cutting measures such as incentivising agents to minimise call times rather than focusing on enquiry resolution or over-reliance on automated call handling can alienate customers. Disproportionate focus on aspects of agent performance, such as calls per hour, together with a lack of empowerment to improve the service they provide impacts negatively on employees motivation and morale, resulting in poor customer service and higher employee churn – both of which cost money.

Peter Holland, Senior Manager at Detica, stresses that improvements should not alienate key stakeholder groups, he explained: “Improving performance must encompass customers’ and employees’ needs as well as the bottom line. If these factors are ignored, the initiative will ultimately fail.”

A focus on cutting contact centre costs also ignores another key issue, Holland continues: “Contact centres have become the ears and voice of the brand. All too often contact centres take the brunt of poor service delivery from other parts of the organisation, as customers resort to the contact centre to resolve their issues. Service improvement is about listening to the type and nature of customer calls and targeting the root causes of customers’ enquiries. Resolving the root causes of problems reduces call volumes and means that, rather than permanent ‘fire fighting’, staff can use their time more profitably.”

Detica has developed a systematic approach to tackling these problems. It considers a number of areas including staff training, working conditions and customer service level targets and aims to make the best use of technology already within the organisation in order to save on new investment.

The six stages concentrate on aligning business activities and consist of:

1. Identifying your customers and their needs
2. Defining those activities that directly deliver value to the customer and those that do not
3. Establishing measures for these key activities and identifying improvements
4. Identifying problem areas
5. Piloting improvements to quantify their worth
6. Rolling out of improvements which demonstrate payback into the operation

Performance improvement initiatives that have used this approach have already been successfully adopted by leading companies, including the National Express Group. It has shown that measurable improvements can be delivered in a matter of weeks with substantial improvements in customer service at greatly reduced costs.