Almost 70 per cent of contact centres’ outbound calling costs will be the result of calls to mobiles by mid-2008, according to research announced today by communications integrator, Affiniti. The research, conducted by ContactBabel and Affiniti, investigated the current state of play for outbound customer contact, with a particular focus on the increasing significance of mobile voice and SMS communication.
The results show a sharp increase in mobile call volumes – which can cost eight times that of landline calls – leading to a predicted climb in outbound telephony costs of over one-fifth year-on-year. In response to these predicted increases, forward-looking organisations should be assessing alternative channels which add value and loyalty for customers. SMS is one such route. It reduces many of the costs associated with mobile communication including agent time and transmission fees.
Currently only 30 per cent of SMS contact focuses on proactive customer service – the majority of messages are promotional or sales-related. However, many contact centres are now recognising SMS as a valuable tool, not only to sell but also to help create and maintain customer loyalty.
One of the 16 leading UK companies with contact centres surveyed was AXA Insurance. Gary Jackson, Customer Service Director, Personal Lines at AXA Insurance commented: “The proportion of calls being made to mobile phones has increased rapidly, and we expect this trend to continue. We believe that SMS messages will encourage more proactive customer service which will boost loyalty as well as reducing levels of incoming calls for agents.”
The results found that support for mobile communication amongst customers is strong; almost one in five now require it as the sole point of contact. Half the contact centres questioned which had started using SMS services as a sales tool felt that it had so far proved successful. In addition, feedback from customers has been overwhelmingly positive.
Traditionally, SMS has been associated with the ‘digital native’ youth audience but, over recent years it has become increasingly age-independent. 63 per cent of respondents stated that business SMS is an effective means of communication completely irrelevant of age. It will be employed to best effect in situations where customers need regular reminders or notifications. For instance, a text reminder of a doctor’s appointment or the balance of a utility or phone bill.
There are, of course, limitations to the scope of SMS. Inevitably, complex problems or queries will require personal contact between a customer and an agent. SMS should not be used in isolation but as an effective addition to a proactive, wider communications strategy.
“One of the most interesting opportunities for SMS is the ability to allow contact centres to proactively reach out to customers and add value. This will help reduce unnecessary calls into the contact centres to make sure agent time is used as effectively as possible. Our study shows that SMS currently accounts for only three per cent of all outbound contact and it is not being exploited enough,” commented Suzette Bouzane Meadows, Head of Contact Centres for Affiniti.