Complaints About US Contact Centers Increase by 40%

Gina Scanlon

Contact Babel recently conducted a case study in the UK about the rise in complaints in call centers, and which areas in particular this rise was coming from. The study revealed, among other shocking statistics, that over 770 million complaints about contact centers are made by customers in the US each year.

Included in the report are the following statistics:

In the Telecoms market, 18% of all calls are complaints. Within that, 23% of them are about the contact center, and 77% about the wider business. In the outsourcing industry, 21% of complaints are about the contact center and in Finance, 28% are call center related. But a whopping 51% of calls directed to the public sector are call center related. Still 80% of the calls made are complaints about the wider business, and not the contact center

Steve Morrell, Principal Analyst at Contact Babel, says, "While these figures look worrying, we should note that on average 4 out of 5 complaints received by a contact center are not about how the staff handles calls, but rather about a failure of processes elsewhere in the organization. However, it's the contact center that has to deal with the dirty work, and further failures within the complaints and resolutions procedure (or lack of it) can see customers calling into the contact center again and again, becoming more irate each time, despite the real problem lying elsewhere." Steve took some time out to answer a few of my questions about his survey data:

How does Contact Babel formulate its data? What kind of resources do you use?

SM: Taking a random sample of the industry, a detailed structured email questionnaire was given to 209 contact center managers and directors in June and July 2010.

What about the results surprised you the most?

SM: The level of increase in all complaints – it’s usually pretty steady but you can see people’s frustration and the results of minimal investment by companies.

How did you come about the fact that 4 out of 5 calls were made about the business as a whole and not the call center staff in your research?

SM: We asked respondents to split the reason for the complaints out – either about the contact center, or about the wider business

Do you think people are far more prone to complain because they can do it through this invisible wall otherwise known as a computer?

SM: I’m not sure that people are complaining using a computer (i.e. email) as they are not sure they will get a response. Phone calls or letters are still being widely used.

Steve also commented on his report saying, "This widespread and short-sighted failure of businesses to see the contact center as part of a larger organic whole is the main reason that many people dislike using contact centers: too often, agents are simply not given the tools they need to solve the customer's problem."

The "US Contact Center Decision-Makers' Guide (4thedition - 2011)"is the major annual report studying the performance, operations, technology and HR aspects of over 200 US contact center operations across all sectors ad size bands. The result is the 4thedition of the largest and most comprehensive study of all aspects of the US contact center industry.

The full report, containing over 260 pages and 140 graphs and tables is available free of charge from the ContactBabel website.