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There is now a lot of customer dissatisfaction about wait times to the contact centre and with companies blaming this on Covid. In This Report last week from Moneypenny published in the FMJ, 85% of consumers were unimpressed with companies blaming long wait times on Covid, and their patience is wearing thin.

18 per cent said they have to wait 1-5 minutes and 23 per cent have to wait 5-10 minutes, while 6 per cent have to wait 45-60 minutes and 19 per cent typically give up waiting altogether. Utility companies were most frequently mentioned as being the worst at answering calls (33 per cent), followed by doctors (27 per cent), banks (25 per cent) and phone companies (21 per cent). Those mentioned least were legal firms (6 per cent) and estate and letting agents (5 per cent).

This is clearly not an isolated piece of work. Jason Dickson posted This BBC article last week about the couple who were on hold to HSBC for 20 hours! This may not have been so bad, but it was a fraud issue with £8,500 taken out of their account which they were trying to report. HSBC, like many, are pinning this on higher than expected call volumes

Neil Johns post also lamented about his issues when calling DVLA, who after very long queue times, and an extremely convoluted series of conversations regarding fraudulent activity, told him to go to the post office and post it back to them!

It chimes with my own experience of DVLA when my girlfriend bought her new car a few weeks ago, when the garage needed to call them to arrange the initial tax to get her on the road. 55 mins they were on hold, on a Wednesday afternoon, hardly peak time.

Its clearly not just these companies mentioned, its happening across the industry, in many sectors. So what’s going on?

Clearly many companies got caught on the hop with demand levels a year ago. We all know and understand that, but we have had a year to work through that. Some companies cut back too much and haven’t yet rectified this, and clearly, for some companies, whilst they may have high contact demand, they don’t have the revenue and sales volume to support the headcount. Undoubtedly also, peaks and spikes will have altered making planning difficult, and I would be very interested to know what is going on up and down the country with productivity and utilisation. I suspect it’s a varied picture.

But whatever the reasons, what is clear is that as far as customers are concerned, they believe companies have had long enough to sort this out, and it’s difficult to argue with this. Covid is no longer an excuse. And what is also true, is that for many organisations, their service levels were also very poor prior to this and its magnified their issues.

Maybe also we’re just not as good at highlighting the companies getting it right and doing it well as we used to be? Maybe we just expect it these days. And maybe so we should. After all, as managers and leaders, we preach so much these days that its not about measuring our people on average handle time anymore and trying to educate our directors and peers that it’s not about service levels these days, so we can’t have it both ways and complain when customers cry foul that we can’t get the basics of answer times right.

Its just a given that if you have a call centre, answer the phone. Its 2021, the 00s have rung and asked for their KPI failures back

Your thoughts as ever, greatly appreciated


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