UK contact centres ‘close to breaking point’

UK contact centres are struggling with rising contact volumes, losing staff and customer churn, according to research.

The findings come from a Censuswide survey of 1,000 contact centre leaders in the UK, US and Australia.

The research was commissioned by contact centre testing specialist Hammer which said the findings reveal “an alarmingly consistent picture of contact centres close to breaking point”.

It said chat volumes are on the rise for 64% of UK contact centres and call volumes on the rise for 60%. Almost as many (59%) agreed that contact volumes are growing beyond their capacity to handle them.

Tw-thirds are seeing more staff leave, while 68% reported escalating customer churn.

Call wait times and abandoned calls are also on the increase, leading to rising levels of customer frustration, which in turn is affecting employee welfare.

Two thirds (67%) of UK contact centre leaders reported that dealing with frustrated customers has affected the mental health of frontline customer service employees in the last 12 months.

The survey suggests the industry is turning to technology in an attempt to avert a “complete breakdown” in customer service, with 99% of UK contact centre leaders planning to upgrade technology in the next 12-24 months.

 The top five areas identified for upgrades are outbound telephony systems (13%), chatbots (12%), email (12%), conversational AI (12%) and web chat (11%).

John D’Anna, chief executive of Hammer, said: “We’ve been seeing increasing customer dissatisfaction right across the industry during recent years. And, with hybrid working becoming the norm, delivering positive customer experiences could be all the more be challenging, causing yet more tension between contact centres and the businesses they serve.

“If we don’t get new technology right, there is a very real risk that customer frustration will continue to spiral with alarming consequences for agents’ mental health.”

The research was conducted during May in sectors such as travel and hospitality, financial services, healthcare, health insurance, utilities and technology.

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