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Complex problems need a reassuring voice


The prolific growth of smart-phones and self-service websites has done little to diminish our desire to speak to a real person in a call centre, according to a new survey conducted by BT and Avaya. But as consumer queries become more complicated, many organisations are struggling to keep up with the new demands placed on their staff.

The research, The Autonomous Customer, shows that an overwhelming 90 per cent of smart-phone owners still expect to use call centres in the future. Meanwhile more than half (56 per cent) of those surveyed think the subjects of their calls are becoming more complicated as the vast majority (81 per cent) of them do their initial engagement with organisations online.

With the recent explosion in communication channels available for people to contact companies, almost two thirds (60 per cent) of the people surveyed admitted they constantly change the ones they use. However, given that wealth of choice, even the most connected generation of consumers see a call as the most obvious way of resolving an issue, particularly when it comes to complex queries.

When it comes to managing these queries many organisations are still falling way short of the mark. Despite a massive 86 per cent of consumers saying a good experience on the phone will make them more loyal, more than two thirds (69 per cent) said they felt that agents try to rush their calls to an early conclusion. Worse still, an astonishing 90 per cent of high-earning consumers said they were subjected to suggestions that they might be better off trying the website.

Andrew Small, global head of customer relationship management, BT Global Services, said: “For many consumers, calling the contact centre is the favoured way to resolve the most complicated queries. The vast majority of people have used the internet to do their own research first, so by the time they pick up the phone, the organisation they’re calling is either close to a sale or close to a fail.

“This survey shows how vital it is for contact centres to have a pool of highly-trained agents who are capable of solving complex issues. By connecting these agents with the latest social media and unified communications tools, contact centres can share their knowledge across multiple sites — including homeworkers — to create ‘networked experts’ who are much more able to satisfy enquires from increasingly demanding customers.”

Supporting those arguments about convenience, the survey showed that a massive 83 per cent of people tend to buy more from companies that make things easier; whilst 44 per cent said convenience was more important than price. Perhaps not surprisingly, three quarters (76 per cent) of consumers said a free-phone number would go down very well indeed.

Gary Bennett, BT account director, Avaya, says the research is in line with what Avaya customers most frequently require from a technology provider.

“Consumers expect resolution to simple tasks often without the need for two-way communication – a self-service approach,” he said. “But when there is a critical element to the contact – the ’sale or fail’ scenarios – the customer’s choice of communications channel is critical, and companies have to be ready to communicate with their customers via any channel they choose. This requires more complex communications systems, but by adopting a multi-channel communications strategy, organisations can easily tap relevant experts and bring them into complex/critical queries. The result is that customers get agents who truly see their entire picture, and can respond to them in the manner they’ve chosen. That’s true customer service.”

The survey also highlighted the importance of consistency and flexibility across different communication channels with 60 per cent of respondents liking the idea of speaking to exactly the same agent by email and telephone. Technology clearly has a key role to play, and 74 per cent were irritated at having to repeat identity details when they had already keyed them in, whereas almost half (48 per cent) liked the idea of using a speech recognition to identify them by their voice.

Notes to Editors
The survey was conducted by Davies Hickman Partners Ltd on behalf of BT and Avaya. It was undertaken between 1-15 October 2010. The total sample size was 1,000 consumers – 500 in the US and 500 in the UK — and the survey was carried out online.

About Avaya
Avaya is a global leader in enterprise communications systems. The company provides unified communications, contact centers, data solutions, and related services directly and through its channel partners to leading businesses and organizations around the world. Enterprises of all sizes depend on Avaya for state-of-the-art communications that improve efficiency, collaboration, customer service and competitiveness. For more information please visit

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