Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Are call centres so bad they hinder business?

I was struck today by an advertisement for that I saw from the train. I know customers often don't like call centres (especially offshore ones), but this advertisement seemed to be targeted at those allergic to the whole idea of talking.

Now is part of Axa, so this is not an organization without call centre expertise. Nor is it strictly a web only player, as they have been very innovative about developing a mobile phone channel for insurance sales. Clearly there is a demographic out there who hate the idea of call centres so much that they'd rather use the web.
To a certain extent poor experiences from call centres are to blame, but that may not be the whole story. One big change in the retail insurance market is the rise of web aggregators, such as These players don't have contact centres either, but they do pull together large chunks of the insurance market in their comparison tables, and make it very hard for insurers to differentiate themselves by brand. I would suspect that although may be targeting a demographic less than keen on call centres, they are also trying to drive traffic direct to their website and not have a comparison site in the way.
Of course contact centres still have a major role to play, doing what they are good at. Web sites are ideal for simple or generic quotes. Complex matters, exceptions and assessments of options are still done better as a discussion with a person. For that the contact centre is ideal as it allows an insurance agent to cover business without geographic restriction. Using a human contact centre agent as a data entry mechanism into the quotes system (as some insurance contact centres have done) has never been a good use of resources. Skilled advice at the end of the telephone is extremely valuable and it is there that contact centres can help companies differentiate themselves and their brand in an increasingly competitive market.

No comments: