Highlights From Global Study of Call Centers


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The June 15 issue of BusinessWeek summarized a few interesting findings from a global call center study, covering 2,500 call centers in 17 countries.

The research was led by Cornell University, but according to the study’s web site: “The Global Call Center Project is a collaborative network of over 40 academic researchers in 20 countries. The focus of the project is to assess the development of the emerging call center sector in each country and to compare the management strategies and employment systems and outcomes of these enterprises within and across countries.”

With all the media attention to outsourcing, it might surprise you to learn that two-thirds of call centers are run in-house, and that 86% of call centers serve their own domestic market—except India where 73% serve foreign markets.

Other fun facts:

  • 49% of call centers provide service, 21% conduct sales, and 30% do both. No word on how many are considered profit centers.
  • Annual turnover is 28% in the US, vs. 39% in India.
  • The annual cost of a call center agent is $2,667, versus $29,000 for an in-house agent in the US. No wonder that call center jobs are going to India.
  • Calls are responded to in 20 seconds or less by 85% of in-house call centers (90% of subcontractor call centers) and last an average of 3 minutes and 10 seconds

Strikes me, though, that’s there is no mention about customer satisfaction in the stats. All these stats are interesting, but it would be nice to know if the call centers were actually achieving their intended business objectives.

Further details on this study, including an executive summary and the full report, can be found at http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/globalcallcenter/.


  1. I’d like to know how the organizations that use call centers measure customer satisfaction too. Although “you can’t improve what you can’t measure,” determining if customers hang up happy with the outcomes of their calls takes much more effort to measure than reviewing the statistics — average speed of answer, average talk time — the call monitoring systems provide. So I wonder if many do it.

    Noting if the same customer calls back within a given period provides one surrogate metric. But as a marketing guy, I think accurate measurement should include follow-up calls to a random sample of callers. You risk irritating them, but you may learn something. And you might even earn their loyalty if you’re honestly improving your processes and not just going through the motions.

    One of my friends instituted an “answer once” policy long ago in his own company’s call center. Agents stay on the phone until they resolve the customer’s problem, regardless of talk time. He says they’ve stuck with it and never looked back. I wonder what other companies do to measure and increase customer satisfaction.



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