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Research@KMWorld: KM survey examines today's contact center challenges

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Typical contact center agents spend far too much time on calls and on email or social media engagements. In addition, while wait times are often minimal, too often, these company representatives need to escalate customer requests to the next level which takes additional time and resources, according to a new survey from KMS Lighthouse.

The findings are detailed in a new research report authored by analyst Joe McKendrick and titled "Informed Engagements: 2019-20 Contact Center Information Flow Survey."

The survey was fielded among more than 250 KMWorld readers and produced by Unisphere Research, a division of Information Today, Inc.

According to the research, it is commonly estimated that employees spend between 30 minutes and 2 hours hunting for information they need to do their jobs, which is unacceptable for customer-facing representatives.

The challenge is to make information available at employees’ fingertips so they can address customer requests as they come in.

The survey found that, at this point, very few executives and managers—barely one in 10—are satisfied with the availability of pertinent information to their customer contact employees.

While many interactions can be automated through interactive voice response systems and chatbots, the problem is that the more difficult conversations are handled by human representatives. The average length of time that an agent or representative spends on a single call averages 9.7 minutes, the survey found.

Among other key findings:

  • Investments in contact center staff are substantial. Staff sizes keep expanding, regardless of any moves toward automation. Preparing agents or representatives for the elevated customer engagements often requires more than 1 month of onboarding.
  • Being able to access critical information is ranked as the greatest challenge to today’s contact centers.
  • While a majority of respondents are satisfied with their knowledge management systems, this satisfaction is lukewarm.
  • AI adoption is still nascent, with adoption limited to the largest shops.

For online engagements (text, social media, email chat), the average handling time an agent or representative spends with a customer or prospect is slightly longer, averaging 11.6 minutes. For a contact center receiving 1,000 calls a day, this means 10,000 minutes of time are required. The average person may spend 450 minutes on customer contacts (in a 7.5-hour day), so a staff of at least 22 individuals is required to manage these engagements. 

Changes in contact staff size over past 12 months

  • Increased significantly 11%
  • Increased moderately 39%
  • No increase 38%
  • Decreased 11%

Does not equal 100% due to rounding

Along with the average of 10 minutes a representive will spend with a customer, the customer will likely have spent some time between the time they dialed and when the call is answered. While wait times are another unfortunate aspect of customer experience, most organizations have pared this down to within a minute. 

After the initial call, there’s a likelihood that agents or representatives will need to escalate the request to more specialized groups within their enterprises. More than one-third of calls, 35%, often require escalation or additional support to complete a customer requires. 

While wait times are minimal, there are still interactions that must be escalated to more specialized groups within the organization or receive additional support.

How often calls require escalation or additional support

    • Very often 7%
    • Occasionally 41%
    • Somewhat often 28%
    • Rarely 24%

The results of the survey underscore a rising need for improved processes technology, particularly as contact center represenatives are increasingly dealing with more thorny customer issues or requests. Dealing with these more complicated issues requires enhanced people skills as well as a sharper understanding of business priorities. This is where a centralized knowledge management becomes crucial to provide employees with the same central location available both during training and during real-time, on-the-job customer interactions. 

Top 10 contact center information challenges

  1. Improving customer satisfaction
  2. Overcoming information silos across the organization
  3. Providing agents/reps with faster access to accurate information
  4. Improving online responsiveness (text, social media, email)
  5. Reducing routine operational expenses
  6. Decreasing average call handling times
  7. Reducing the training curve for new agents
  8. Reducing the training curve for new reps
  9. Empowering agents/reps with greater decision making
  10. Alleviating agent/rep stress/burnout

The 17-page survey report highlighting the results of the survey with 17 charts detailing respondents' answers, plus conclusions and recommendations, is available at no charge from the KMWorld website.

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