24 Dec 2023

Longer wait times? Call centre industry urged to prioritise customer care over speed

12:16 pm on 24 December 2023
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Elias Kanaris says the contact centre industry focused on fast service, though this could be at the expense of the customer experience (file image). Photo: 123rf.com

A call centre industry advice service is urging operators to focus more on customer care than speed of service, which can do more harm than good.

Customer Contact Network New Zealand (CCNNZ) said customers were more likely to put-up with long wait times if their calls were answered and resolved.

CCNNZ chief executive Elias Kanaris said the contact centre industry focused on fast service, though this could be at the expense of the customer experience.

"I think you will find that most New Zealanders are prepared to be on hold for longer, so long as their problem is resolved and the contact centre operator listens, understands, and ultimately produces a solution," he said.

"Unfortunately, the quality of the customer service experience is likely to be poor if the operator is unhelpful, impatient and short, all of which can happen when operators are measured by their average handling time-the faster, the better." 

Kanaris said contact centre operators evaluated on speed of response and processing can feel harassed, stressed, and anxious, which harmed the customer experience.

"We know that the most significant reason customers will stop buying from a business is how they are treated," he said.

"That is why we are encouraging the New Zealand contact centre industry to shift from prioritising speed to customer experience instead."

He said a shift in focus would more likely improve customer retention as well as contact centre staff, with between 60,000 and 80,000 employed in New Zealand.

"The most common metric with contact centres in the industry is to answer 80 percent of calls within 20 seconds as the base standard, but we believe people will wait longer if the experience is good."

Kanaris said AI could assist contact centres to find a "happy medium" between speed, experience and resolving the customer's problem.

"At the moment, we believe customer contact centres are a bit too process-driven, which is to facilitate closing the call as fast as possible.

"AI's ability to retrieve information will help us reach a happy medium between speed and experience, resulting in a satisfied customer and a happy contact centre operator."