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In crisis, cost-cutting not a priority of Asian call centres

John Mark V. Tuazon | Nov. 26, 2009
Keeping customers satisfied, and not cutting costs, is the top priority of Asian contact centres despite the economic uncertainty

MANILA, 25 NOVEMBER 2009 - Keeping customers satisfied, and not cutting costs, is the top priority of Asian contact centres despite the economic uncertainty that swept the globe last year, data from a benchmarking report by IT services provider Datacraft showed Thursday.

At least 22.5 per cent of companies surveyed by the firm prioritize growing value with existing customers as their most important commercial driver, with cost cutting only ranking fourth, with only 12.5 per cent of respondents saying it is their top priority.

The Datacraft Benchmarking Survey 2009, now on its 12th year, is a an end-user-focused resource for industry decision makers, which covers the full breadth and depth of managing a contact centre. For this year, 554 respondents from over 36 countries were surveyed about the working conditions and operational procedures in their respective contact centres.

"Asian contact centres are not much focused on cost savings, but on strategic decisions aimed at keeping customers," said Nagi Kasinadhuni, general manager, converged communications and customer interactive solutions, Datacraft.

With companies struggling to stifle the impact of the recent crisis, Kasinadhuni said most firms are on their toes to keep their current base of customers. "Companies can't afford to lose customers, and call centres are realizing the need to focus on keeping the customers satisfied," he explained.

Because of this, data revealed that most companies are putting a premium on improving the quality of their service (38.4 per cent) and optimizing their processes (11.7 per cent) to ensure the call process is shorter. Rationalizing platforms (25 per cent) and unifying customers' view towards a single, accessible channel (38.7 per cent) also came out as an emerging trend in keeping customers satisfied.

But customers are hardly the only set of people that contact centre managers need to carefully handle in order to ensure quality of operations. Agents who interact with customers, according to Kasinadhuni, are also key ingredients towards success in the industry.

Right now, there exists in the Asian region an attrition paradox, where annual agent attrition rate persists at a high 23.3 per cent--higher than the overall 21.1 per cent--despite contact centre firms' continuing efforts to keep their agents motivated through free shifts, flexible working hours and opportunities for training.

"Call centre operators need to look into increasing their staff's salaries, which remains at the lowest margin, comprising only 54.4 per cent of operational budget, compared to the UK's 69 per cent," Kasinadhuni suggested. Similarly, staff retention sits surprisingly at the bottom of contact centre priority issues, with only 3.6 per cent of the respondents ranking it as a top issue.


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