The worrying state of the European contact center space

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Every now and again, I come across a piece of research that makes me want to pull my hair out.

One such piece of research was the recently released State of Contact Centres 2024: Part 1 – Trends report from Puzzel, a leading European CCaaS player, which surveyed 750 contact centre leaders from various organizations across Europe.

Here are some of the highlights from the report that stood out for me, with a little bit of commentary that, I hope, will explain the wanting to pull my hair out comment.

“Only 11% of contact centres have fully embraced cloud solutions, with 46% still relying on on-premises systems.”

When I read that, my initial reaction was …Wait! What? Wow!

However, when I queried this statistic with Frederic Laziou, Puzzel’s CEO, he shared my surprise but noted that he believed that things are progressing, with 43% of respondents also reporting that they are “somewhat in the cloud.” Moreover, he went on to say that they (Puzzel) are expecting significant change to take place over the course of this year concerning moves to the cloud despite the report also finding that 40% of respondents expect budget constraints to be a problem.

I’m not sure I share Laziou’s confidence about how much change we’ll see in 2024, particularly when we consider the above budgetary pressures and some of the other challenges that contact center leaders report they are facing.

However, I hope I am wrong.

“Many contact centres are grappling with unsatisfactory data and analytics capabilities, with 64% rating their customer journey analytics as average or below and 63% rating their customer insight tool as average or below.”

This was another finding that made me pause.

The report goes on to say that:

  • 64% rate their customer journey analytics as average or below,
  • 64% rate their conversational analytics as average or below,
  • 63% rate their speech analytics as average or below, and
  • 63% rate their customer insight tool as average or below.

Again, I queried these findings with the folks at Puzzel. Laziou told me that poor data quality, a lack of good integrations and outdated systems were driving dissatisfaction with analytical and insight tools.

The dissatisfaction, however, didn’t end there; additionally, the contact leaders surveyed reported a similar level of dissatisfaction with the integration of the applications they use. Again, this is ascribed to the quality of data being used.

This ‘get your data house in order’ issue is becoming a recurring theme and was highlighted in my recent 2024 predictions piece as one of the primary challenges that contact centers will have to address if they are to deliver on their promise of not only delivering an engaging and omnichannel experience but also if they are to leverage the possibilities that are on offer with Generative AI and advanced analytical tools.

“45% of contact centres have increased their workforce budget, demonstrating a strong dedication to employee growth and empowerment.”

When I read this finding, I thought, ‘Finally, some good news!’

However, when I asked if this finding included paying staff more, the reply came back that this increase was all about headcount and didn’t include any salary increases.

Personally, I don’t think that bodes well for customer, employee or business outcomes.

It’s all very well for brands and their contact centres to be investing in employee growth and empowerment, but agents don’t exist in a vacuum and will have been impacted, like many others, by marked increases in the cost of living in the last couple of years.

This impact is starting to show up in other pieces of research. ContactBabel, for example, recently published their UK Contact Centre Decision-Makers’ Guide 2024 (21st edition) and found that one of the top two reasons that agents left their jobs was low pay.

The other, and top, reason that they left was that they were not a good fit for the role.

So, for an industry that deals with attrition levels that are often greater than 25% per year and is also trying to recruit people into what is becoming an increasingly complex and demanding role, to not consider how they can utilise higher wages to attract and reward better talent is both short-sighted and suggests that the contact center is still largely viewed as a cost center rather than a value center.

In the face of slipping customer experience standards, these survey results don’t paint a pretty picture.

But, amid that bleak picture sits an opportunity for those brands that truly want to differentiate themselves through their customer service and experience.

Capturing that opportunity won’t be easy. It will require vision, focus, commitment and investment across the board if they are to deliver better customer, employee, and business outcomes.

However, research from Accenture in 2022 shows that brands that do make that shift, and really invest in their contact centers, experience more than triple the revenue growth of companies stuck in their old ways.

This post was originally published on Forbes.com.
Credit: Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.

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