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Do Government Contact Centers Stack Up? Survey Findings Announced

10-11-2004
  • Avaya and Witness Systems release research findings at a seriesof government briefings around Australia

Avaya Inc. (NYSE:AV), a leading global provider of businesscommunications software, systems and services, and Witness Systems,the IP recording company and global provider of performanceoptimisation software and services, have released the results of anindependent survey of consumer attitudes to government contactcenters across Australia.

Avaya Inc. (NYSE:AV), a leading global provider of businesscommunications software, systems and services, and Witness Systems,the IP recording company and global provider of performanceoptimisation software and services, have released the results of anindependent survey of consumer attitudes to government contactcenters across Australia.

The survey, titled "Government Contact Channels and Today'sConsumer", revealed that only 54% of issues presented to Governmentcall centers are resolved in the first contact, compared to the 78%first-call resolution rate average for all Australian contactcenters. The survey results also revealed that 84% of consumersclassified the type of contact made with the government as'simple', but 86% of those regarded the contact as highlyimportant. Overall this perceived importance puts pressure ongovernment channels to deliver efficient service to the Australianpublic.

The report provides insights into many other facets ofgovernment/consumer interactions including usage of electroniccommunication channels, consumer satisfaction with these alternatemedia and how these trends will change and impact government overthe next five years. The survey was conducted by researchspecialists callcentres.net.

Survey results show that technologies such as the Internet,e-mail and web chat are by far the least popular methods of contactwith government. Surprisingly, while 64% of all homes are alreadyinternet-connected (and this is expected to rise to 75% within oneyear), only 5% of respondents use the web and only 1% use e-mailwhen first contacting a government department, compared to use oflandline phones (62%) and face-to-face visits (23%). The key driverbehind this preference was "time efficiency" as, while mostrespondents identified themselves as time poor, they would preferto make face-to-face visits or communicate by phone as theybelieved this would provide more immediate responses.

Reluctance to use web-based communication does not seem to begreatly influenced by the complexity of the enquiry either, with72% of respondents still opting for a phone call to simply "gatherinformation", rather than use the web (7%).

Use of new technology-based channels of communication ispredicted to rise in future though, with 63% of respondents whocurrently have access to e-mail and who did not use e-mail in theirlast contact with the government indicating that they wouldconsider using this method in future.

The survey also showed that there is interest in web chat as apossible future communications channel with almost half ofrespondents indicating that they would consider this method infuture. This channel was particularly popular with the 18-29 yearold bracket (55%) as well as households with children (51%).Broadband access in the home is also predicted to rise with almost50% stating they will have access after 12 months.

Carlton Taya, managing director, Avaya South Pacific said therise in internet home access and broadband adoption indicates theneed for government contact centers to 'virtually' extend theirhours of operation.

"Consumers are increasingly contacting the government from homeand out of office hours. With the uptake of IP contact centers,government departments can give the appearance of extended hours ofoperation without incurring the cost of additional contact centerhours of operation. Options include agents working from home in theevening or geographically dispersing calls across branches, withcontact centers in Perth picking up Eastern seaboard calls after5pm.

"At peak times, remote branch employees can also become'virtual' contact center agents to help deal with increased contactvolumes. In addition, all applications that are available in thecontact center can be seamlessly pushed out to the virtual agentsfrom the head office location courtesy of IP Telephony," hesaid.

Mr Taya also highlighted self service as an important tool atthe disposal of contact centers in order to deliver more flexibleand timely service to customers.

"With over 80% of contact being of a 'simple' nature, governmentdepartments should also review the self-service applications thatare in place within contact centers," he said. "The introduction ofspeech self service has been proven to increase transactioncompletion rates as well as decrease "zero out" rates when comparedto traditional IVRs, resulting in a better service experience forthe consumer and cost reduction for the government."

The survey also identified strong opinions from respondents onthe areas that require improvement, or where improvements wouldincrease the level of customer satisfaction.

Initiatives such as providing a reference number, the name ofthe agent that the customer is dealing with and the option to speakwith that same agent again for future communication on the sameissue, were highlighted as ways to increase consumer satisfactionwith services. Establishing a process whereby e-mail or webenquiries received an immediate auto-acknowledgement of receipt aswell as a follow-up reference code would also increase confidencein using electronic methods of contact rather thanface-to-face.

Dermot McCutcheon, managing director, Witness Systems said ifgovernment organisations were interested in making greater use oflower cost channels in future, then they must ensure a consistentservice experience is provided to consumers regardless of thecommunication channel chosen.

"It seems that one of the key things holding people back fromusing e-mail or the web is an expectation that they won't receivethe same level of service as they would from a face-to-face orphone interaction. A bad experience will drive people right back tothe more direct methods they're used to, but obviously at a highercost to government."

Mr McCutcheon said that regardless of the rate at which thepublic moves to these alternate communication media, governmentneeds to ensure they have a quality program in place now to startmonitoring and addressing staff skill gaps and requirements formulti-skilling, identify process breakdowns, and assess how theirtechnology infrastructure needs to evolve.

"Growth in multi-channel communication with government will onlyserve to make issues around first call resolution and consumersatisfaction all the more complex. Planning for that now means thatgovernment will be able to meet consumer expectations and satisfytheir service requirements as the shift occurs," he added.

Martin Conboy, chief executive officer, Callcentres.net said theresearch identified some of the significant changes in society thattechnology has brought about.

"There can be no doubt that the way that we as a society think,act and work has changed irrevocably because of the internet," hesaid. "The challenge for government on all levels is dealing withthe conundrum of downward pressure on costs whilst trying to keepup with the pace of change required to match consumer expectations.This research provides a roadmap for the future pace and directionof citizen to government interactions."

About Avaya
Avaya Inc. designs, builds and manages communications networks formore than one million businesses worldwide, including over 90percent of the FORTUNE 500®. Focused on businesses largeto small, Avaya is a world leader in secure and reliable InternetProtocol (IP) telephony systems and communications softwareapplications and services.

Driving the convergence of voice and data communications withbusiness applications — and distinguished by comprehensiveworldwide services — Avaya helps customers leverageexisting and new networks to achieve superior business results. Formore information visit the Avaya Web site: http://www.avaya.com or www.avaya-apac.com

About Witness Systems
Witness Systems (NASDAQ: WITS) provides the contact centerindustry's first integrated performance optimisation software suiteto help organisations achieve the highest levels of agenteffectiveness and productivity and maximise the overall performanceof their contact centers. The browser-based eQuality®software is comprised of compliance, high-volume andbusiness-driven recording and Quality Monitoring solutions forcustomer contact centers and IP telephony, as well as performanceanalysis and e-learning applications. With eQuality, you can recordinteractions across all media — telephone, e-mail and Web— playback selected recordings to evaluate and analyseagent performance, and then use those evaluations to prioritise anddeliver targeted training to staff. The intelligence captured inthe contact center enables you to assess operational effectiveness,spot trends and implement tactics to improve your people, processesand supporting technologies. By using eQuality to capture andevaluate, learn and train, and report and analyse frontlinecustomer interactions as well as back office transactions,organisations can better develop staff, reduce costs, and achievehigher quality service with increased productivity and customersatisfaction. For additional information about Witness Systems andits eQuality software suite, visit www.witness.com.

Callcentres.net
callcentres.net has been delivering market research solutions tothe contact center industry since 1996. We have become renowned asthe premier research consultancy in the Contact Center space andhave produced over 70 publicly available and countless bespokeresearch reports in 13 Asia Pacific countries. For moreinformation, please contact: Martin Conboy, Ph: 02 9927 3305, Mob:0414 995516, mconboy@callcentres.netor visit www.callcentres.net.

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