Data Overload, Inefficiencies Plague Customer Call Centers

6 minute read
Marisa Peacock avatar

Customers are often left feeling unsatisfied after calling customer service to resolve an issue. Many wonder why the call agent seemed to know so little about their purchase history or prior complaints. What are the problems? According to a new report, it could be data overload. Many call centers are paralyzed by too much data, rendering them unable to meet customer needs successfully.

Too Much Data?

It's no secret big data can help companies deliver better customer experiences. But it's also true too much data can paralyze even the most proactive company.

new report commissioned by WhitePages and conducted by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) found a significant percentage of contact center executives think too much data is being collected from a variety of sources within corporate call centers. 

And it's not just that there's just too much data. It's not being used efficiently or effectively either. The report, "A Wow Customer Journey: Actionable Data in Today’s Multichannel Contact Center," cites serious inefficiencies in data collection. More than 60 percent of contact centers indicate they are unable to deliver customer service information to agents and more than a third of agents leave customer satisfaction data off the table altogether. 

Despite the fact a majority of call centers leverage data to maximize customer experiences and improve internal processes, the study shows the data is primarily used for managing overall agent performance (67 percent) and for identifying customer satisfaction survey improvement (48 percent), which are not exactly customer-facing initiatives.

Additionally, while call center agents are given access to data, most are not using it successfully. When given information about the average satisfaction of a contact, 15 percent of call center agents don't actually use or implement it. Furthermore, more than a third of agents don’t collect data around the satisfaction of a customer at all. And that's not all — a little more than half of call centers do not ask for customers’ channel preference.

Systemwide Break Down

Why is there such disparity between the collection of data and its implementation? According to the study, it comes down to information management issues. Consider this — more than 60 percent of contact centers cannot provide customer information proactively to an agent, while more than 40 percent of customer contact information is still manually inputted by an agent rather than being fed through an automated API or web-based system. 


What can be done to improve the way call centers work? Most call centers indicate they predominantly (65.6 percent) focused on inbound communications, while 29 percent are a hybrid of both inbound and outbound communications. To me, this suggests that while the goal of contact centers is to listen and respond to the needs of the customer, not enough are focused on delivering relevant information to meet or exceed the expectations of the customer. 

When it comes to the type of behaviors they are measuring, the five most collected metrics are

  • average handle time (AHT) — 78.8 percent
  • abandonment rate (ABA) — 75.4 percent
  • average speed of answer (ASA) — 71.6 percent
  • after call work (ACW) — 63.0 percent
  • quality —  61.3 percent

Interesting, customer satisfaction (CSAT) is collected by less than half of respondents. 

Now, it is all starting to make sense, right? No wonder call center agents don't have the data they need to wow customers.

First, their overall goals don't align with the nature of customer experience — that is, providing relevant information. But even if they wanted to provide relevant information, they couldn't because they're not collecting information about the customers themselves or the issues they're experiencing. 

Learning Opportunities

These problems might be easier to solve if call center executives didn't see the need for data at all. But that's not the case. In fact, they seem to understand much more than that. According to the report, most, if not all, understand that a happy customer agent makes customers happy. 

Additionally, 79.6 percent noted that their contact center has identified linkages between employee engagement/satisfaction and a better customer experience. What is standing in the way of getting call center agents to use the data collected to engage better with customers? The report examined that agent productivity/efficiency challenges that currently exist in today's contact center. The issues that stood out were: 

  • Agents have to navigate multiple screens and interfaces — 69 percent
  • Agents have to ask each caller basic information — 49 percent
  • Agents have to key in customer information — 41 percent
  • CRM data is often inaccurate —14 percent
  • Agents have to constantly learn new technology or new processes to handle contacts — 25 percent

Again, all the puzzle pieces are falling into place. Call center agents are on the front line of customer service, so why does management make it so difficult for them to engage with customers? They are not technologists, nor should they be. They are the faces and voices of the company. They don't have time to search across a variety of screens to find the information they need, nor should they be expected to sacrifice customer experience at the expense of inaccurate CRMs. 


Focus on Better Data and Agent Performance

What can you do to improve how your call center collects and uses data to enhance the customer experience? There are many things, from communicating goals and objectives effectively to investing in the right technology to manage all the data. In the report, various experts offer up advice to improve communication and agent productivity. Here are some best practices that resonated: 

Determine your objectives
What are the objectives for the reports? In other words, what should other managers know about the contact center or the information it has acquired, and why? To find the answers, assemble a team for a working discussion. A cross-section of managers from across the organization, contact center managers, supervisors and agents should be involved.

Put information is a user-friendly format
Compile reports into a simple, understandable format. Reports that rely on graphs may take more pages, but a 10-page report consisting primarily of graphs is often quicker to read and easier to comprehend than two pages of detailed numbers in rows and columns. Look for data that can be combined or contrasted to provide a more complete story.

Supplement reports with practical experiences 
Teach key contact center dynamics to managers outside the center to create a clear understanding of how cross-functional decisions and actions link with the center’s overall effectiveness. And contact center executives need a solid understanding of the concerns, challenges and objectives in other areas of the organization. This mutual understanding forms a strong and essential foundation for effective reporting and communication.

Big data alone can't make your call center better. However, effectively communicating goals, training staff and reporting more clearly about outcomes can help call center agents to better leverage data so they can address the needs of their customers and deliver a more engaging customer experience. 

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