Contact Centre Bizarre Requests

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Siemens Enterprise Communications is calling for contact centre managers to adopt a fresh approach to call handling in 2011 after a busy and often bizarre end to the year. With the bad weather affecting travel, homes and businesses, a number of contact centres struggled to handle the much higher than average call figures, and Siemens Enterprise Communications’ research also reveals some of the most unusual calls received earlier in 2010.

The AA reported 2,500 calls every hour on 20th December – the busiest day for breakdowns in their 105 year history, and one county council call centre reported receiving 26,000 calls between 29th November and 4th December, up from an average of 9,000 a week.

Coping with fluctuating call numbers and call routing is a common problem for call centre managers – intensified by issues such as bad weather and the Christmas rush. Light relief can be found, however, in some of the unusual and sometimes completely ridiculous contact centre calls received in 2010.

A recent survey by Siemens Enterprise Communications has found that UK contact centres experienced an influx of bizarre enquiries in 2010 that boggled the minds of contact centre agents and managers. Siemens Enterprise Communications is calling for the right skills training and support to be in place as we start the New Year, to help contact centre agents deal with the calls accordingly. From quizzing retail food outlets on whether they supply to the arms trade, to querying the number of sheets there should be on a toilet roll to make sure they hadn’t been short changed, customers last year left call centre advisors struggling to keep a straight face.

Amongst other amusing reports, one UK power supplier was asked – in light of a takeover by a Spanish organisation – whether customers would now have to pay their bills in Euros. The survey also reported comments such as a car rental organisation being asked to suggest alternative methods of transport in Grimsby, whilst an online gambling organisation had been asked to quote for odds of the international space station crashing into earth in the next 6 weeks.

Local authorities have been quizzed about belly dancing classes, whilst Tesco’s contact centre was asked to supply Sainsbury’s store opening times. One contact centre received a call from a very irate passer-by, wanting the organisation to pay for their dry cleaning after a bird flew from the roof of one of their stores and defecated on their clothes – the customer insisted the organisation should have installed spikes across the entire roof.

Kathryn Penn, portfolio manager, contact centres, Siemens Enterprise Communications, commented that: “Whilst the research highlights several amusing requests, when such bizarre calls come in both time and resources can be wasted. However, sufficient filters and information can be available ahead of these conversations to save time and effort. Such calls require not only patience, but the skills to adequately respond to them, so as we begin the new year it is important to adopt fresh thinking to make sure call centre agents have all of the required information at hand and the right training and support to ensure they can handle the calls accordingly – even the more bizarre queries!”

Siemens Enterprise Communications offers the following tips to ease the pressure on call centre and customer service teams and improve call handling in 2011:

Implementing a home working strategy is a great way to secure additional well qualified, mature staff who are willing to work the off and overtime hours that office staff don’t like covering

Streamline your internal processes. Cut out anything that does not add to the customer experience and satisfaction

Don’t get too hung up on hard targets such as ‘time to answer’ and ‘total time’. Customers will wait a little longer if they know they will get good, friendly, efficient service when they do reach an agent. Unhurried, contacts generate better customer service and higher value

The survey, which questioned 100 UK contact centre managers across both the private and public sectors, was conducted by Siemens Enterprise Communications in September 2010.