Most contact centres base operational performance on quantities and statistics. Yet, this masks the real issue. For when it comes to measurement and assessing

the costs of poor performance, most centres have no means of quantifying the associated indirect costs, such as the investment of management time in covering for under-performance, the inability to cross-and up-sell, and the real possibility that poor performance could turn customers away.

For example, for an organisation with an 800-seat call centre and a 13% annual churn rate, it is reasonable to consider direct costs, including account salary, ongoing training and benefits, to be between £400K to £450K.

However, the indirect costs are likely to be between £1.2m and £1.4m.

In order to address these issues, an ongoing cycle of quality improvement needs to be established. A thorough analysis will help centres to understand their customers' and employees' performance, and point to how improvements can be reached, whether through improved processes, better or different technologies, or a combination of both.

If improvements are going to be made on a continuous basis, mechanisms also need to be in place that first capture a vast range of disparate data from different systems, and then integrate them effectively and consistently into the quality improvement cycle, which in turn has buy-in from the very highest levels of management.

What's more, independent advice at the early stages will widen the scope for ongoing savings and improved performance since any new technology required will be without the implicit lock-ins and significant costs favoured by product vendors presenting themselves as technology-diagnostic consultants.

The benefits of a continual quality improvement process will quickly uncover the costs associated with maintaining inefficient processes and ways of addressing these.

There is no fundamental reason why, by this time next week, after an independent analysis, a plan could not be in place to put contact centres closer to the goal of truly improving operational performance.

Dan Christmas
Head of professional services

Send letters to: Insurance Times, 30 Cannon Street, London, EC4M 6YJ or email or fax 020 7618 3499