Banks Boost Contact Center Spending

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Banks will spend significantly more on contact center technology this year than information technology (IT), according to a new study from TowerGroup. TowerGroup is estimating that banks in the U.S. will spend $1.9 billion on contact center technology in this year, while spending on contact center personnel will be approximately $5.2 billion in 2004, almost three times the level of IT spending.

"Banks have realized that while they can invest any amount of capital in improving call center agent applications to serve up timely information laced with rich customer knowledge, this knowledge must be used appropriately for it to be effective," said George Tubin, senior analyst in the Delivery Channels practice at TowerGroup and author of the research.

Tubin noted that some contact center agents consistently outperform others on a variety of metrics, even using mediocre technologies providing only limited customer information. "Given this, a technology that's designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of contact center staff should be taken into serious consideration. After all, a 10% reduction in personnel expenses provides the equivalent savings of a 30% reduction in IT expenses," he said. Among other highlights of the research:

* Many service providers, including banks, are embracing the total quality management (TQM) philosophy that has provided major productivity and quality gains to the manufacturing sector. TQM focuses on the continuous improvement of products, services and processes. In order to improve through TQM, employees must be actively involved in problem solving and process improvement activities. Timely, actionable information is required so employees can identify process improvement opportunities, make appropriate changes and then measure the results of the changes.

* In the service sector, providing data and tools to analyze the data has been a roadblock to effectively utilizing TQM approaches. But now, the contact center has a new class of software applications-called performance optimization-that promises to provide the timely, actionable information required to empower agents to improve their own performance, and the performance of the contact center as a whole.

* Performance optimization applications strive to drive agent behavior toward specific goals aimed at improving agent, and hence contact center, performance. These goals include effectiveness (doing the right things at the right time) and efficiency (doing them in a cost effective manner).

* While performance optimization applications are still in their infancy, TowerGroup expects this market to mature rapidly as financial institutions seek ways to reduce operational costs, leverage technology investments and improve sales / service quality. Going forward, performance optimization will logically extend beyond the contact center to the entire enterprise.

"Given that its staff remains its most costly but also most valuable resource, no contact center should ignore the call to improve efficiency while simultaneously improving customer service," said Tubin.

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