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Calling Contact Centres is the second most stressful activity for UK consumers

BRACKNELL, UK – 12 December 2006 – A consumer survey today reveals further bad news for the contact centre industry. According to a recent survey by Empirix, which helps organisations adopt complex communications solutions with confidence, and leading industry magazine CCF, UK consumers rate moving house as the only thing more stressful than having to call a contact centre. Getting married or going to the dentist are a breeze in comparison, according to the survey of over 1600 UK consumers.

Over half of those surveyed call a contact centre at least once a month, not always by choice. Over 40 per cent of those thought the level of service had gone down in the last 12 months.

Other highlights of the survey conducted reveal that:

- The most common reason for UK consumers to call a contact centre is to complain or resolve a problem.

- 65 per cent of 25-34 year-olds call a contact centre at least once a month.

- The North South divide remains - people in the North East dislike contact centres more (55 per cent) than Southerners (36 per cent).

- The two biggest complaints about contact centres are being made to wait before your call is answered by someone, and the agent not being from the UK.

- Consumers rated the banking sector as providing the best customer service through its contact centres.

- A common complaint remains - being transferred from agent to agent.

- 66 per cent of consumers say that on average they have to wait over five minutes before getting through to a live agent.

- 10 per cent of consumers say they have had to wait over one hour before talking to a live agent.

- Nearly 20 per cent of those interviewed found automated systems frustrating.

The survey also canvassed over 100 leading contact centre managers in the UK to get their insight into the industry’s performance. 42 per cent feel that the reputation of the industry has declined in the last 12 months; only 19 per cent think that the industry’s reputation has improved.

Most respondents blame the industry’s own performance for the bad consumer image it has - over 69 per cent agreed that poor customer service was the major reason, and 22 per cent admitted that consumers struggling to understand agent’s accents was also a serious problem, as was long waiting times. However, there was a general feeling among the contact centre managers interviewed that the media is partly to blame in its style of reporting about issues such as off-shoring trends.

The good news for consumers is that more than 48 per cent of the contact centre managers surveyed said that in the last 12 months they have employed more agents to help combat these problems, and 43 per cent have introduced customer relations training for agents.

Off-shoring remains an issue however as a massive 80 per cent of the UK consumers interviewed said that they much prefer speaking with an agent they know is in the same country. Interestingly, women feel much stronger about this than men; over 82 per cent of women prefer talking to UK based agents. The worrying news is that only seven per cent of contact centre managers interviewed felt that consumers are concerned about this issue.

Mark Aldridge, EMEA director of Empirix, comments, “We conducted the research to get an insight into both sides of the story. The results show that businesses still underestimate the feeling of discontent about contact centres. In today’s business world there are many new technologies that companies can implement. It is widely acknowledged that businesses need to use automated systems as well as live agents. However, the key is getting the right balance.” Aldridge adds, “Businesses need to focus just as much attention on their automated systems as on their live agents, a significant number of the problems that consumers are facing could be resolved using effective automated systems. Implementing a planned and effective testing and monitoring strategy for its automated systems, using the correct resources, such as Empirix’s OneSight, can generate actual calls that emulate real-world conditions, and can improve customer service levels, the customer experience and a business’s bottom line”.

Claudia Hathway, editor of CCF, comments, "It's extremely worrying to see that the public perception of call centres has plummeted by a further 42 per cent this year. However, it does present the industry with one advantage. Customers calling into a call centre are expecting to have a bad experience, which makes it easier to impress them with a good call — and that's a positive impression of the company that they will take away with them. It's really vital that call centres start getting the basics right. Customers want to have their issue resolved quickly and effectively —which means the agent they are talking to must be easy to understand and have all the information they need about that customer's relationship with the business at their fingertips. It's easy to blame the media for bad publicity, but the only way call centres can counter negative coverage is to start providing a standard of customer service to be proud of."

About Empirix

Empirix helps organisations adopt complex communications solutions with confidence. We combine the industry’s deepest knowledge of telecommunications and self-service applications with award-winning testing and monitoring solutions to ensure our customers realise the promise of their technology investments. Empirix is the only company with expertise that spans the evolution of these advanced technologies across multiple markets – from testing in R&D labs through monitoring the end-user experience. For over a decade, thousands of quality-conscious network equipment manufacturers, service providers and enterprises worldwide have trusted Empirix to reduce the time and cost of integrating new technologies into existing environments. Visit www.empirix.co.uk

To obtain the research findings, contact:

James Morley
Email: james.morley@sixdegreespr.com
Tel: 01628 480280

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Empirix and Hammer are trademarks or registered trademarks of Empirix Inc. in the United States and other countries. All other trademarks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.

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