Thursday, September 04, 2008

I'm back.... and there's lots to post on but so little time!

I'm back & posting and apologies for the gap.

I did feel that if I was going to have a vacation it should be a proper one by European standards. I know my US colleagues get by on only a few days per year, but I do think a proper break is at least two weeks and that more is usually necessary to fully recharge batteries.

There is of a considerable irony here. I'm talking about extensive holidays, but most contact centres have to work at least shifts and many work 24x7 for nearly 52 weeks a year. For agents on predominately low wages, even in Europe, holidays are not particularly generous. I've touched on this a little before (in posts like "Is cost a contact centre issue or a symptom?"), but I do think there's a lot more to be said about service quality and the value placed on agents.

It's certainly a topic of CEO relevance (I had a brief post on "CEOs of BT, the Royal Mail and Corel discuss telephone customer service" back in June) and as business conditions get tougher I expect to see more focus on customer service as a differentiator. Hopefully we won't see pure cost cutting at the expense of the contact centre and future business, but I suspect it will depend on how competitive markets are.

I was also interested in a couple of stories from Australia. While obviously not a core focus of a European blog, the Australian market is useful as an indicator of some trends that might affect Europe. Call had a good story on "Staff stability lures centres into suburbs" describing how contact centres were moving out of the CBD in order to reduce rent and (more importantly) increase workforce stability. It's interesting that in Europe this is a trend I would not expect to see. Here I think we will either have the remote location (for very low cost) or the city centre location (for large pools of labour with public transport links). I discussed some of this in the post "City Centre Call Centers - A European quirk?" but I think it may be worth a revisit as I didn't really consider suburbs vs. city centre as an issue.

There's lots more to talk about, like the first customer shipment of Cisco's new Contact Centre Enterprise release 7.5, which has some interesting new capabilities for distributing call centre functionality around the enterprise. Calabrio also announced compliance with Avaya contact centre, again an interesting move. I will try to cover all these over the coming weeks.

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