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Vanguard Communications - Come On New Zealand!

New Zealand has shown it has the capability to build innovative, customer-focused call centres, and it is surprising that the media has given such robust coverage this week to criticism of call centres, says Stephen Marshall, Vanguard Communications' Asia- Pacific Director.

Vanguard is an independent US-based consulting company specialising in call centre technology, process and operational expertise to help clients improve customer satisfaction and call centre performance.

"New Zealand organisations, as well as customers, are adapting very well to the same trends that we see occurring overseas. That is, an increasing reliance and preference on the use of the telephone for conducting business. Call centres are playing a critical role in this by providing consistent, responsive service to callers - a far cry from the ringing telephone at an empty desk that was all too prevalent not too long ago," says Mr Marshall.

Many New Zealand call centres are picking up on the latest trends in customer contact management, such as the use of CTI (computer telephony integration) to ensure that callers are answered by the best possible resource available at the time, as well as a mix of both live representatives and automation such as IVR (Interactive Voice Response) to balance the needs of callers and the organisation alike.

"What we're seeing is organisations ranging from government to private companies designing call centre services to meet the customers' needs rather than just those of the organisation. These services provide a balance between those customers who expect and demand access to self-help facilities (few users would criticise telephone banking - a boon for all busy people) and those who require more personal assistance.

"Any well-designed call centre will have people at its core. Talking to a 'real' customer representative is vital to meet customer service levels and expectations. But at the same time we can't ignore the fact that there is a growing body of people who prefer self-service, especially for routine inquiries or transactions where there is little need to speak to a person. The key is to ensure that these services are tightly integrated with the call centre so that when people do need help, they don't have to start over again and repeat all their information."

Mr Marshall says many New Zealand call centres realise the potential of integrating rapidly improving technology into their systems, a trend Vanguard has identified in a recent research project across 112 call centres internationally.

The top priorities for call centres in the next one to three years are the addition of web and multimedia capabilities, CTI and advanced call routing tools to enable multimedia routing based on agent skills.

"Technological solutions to improve customer service are a reality to be heralded and celebrated. If New Zealand is to take advantage of this powerful opportunity - stop knocking and start spreading the word!"

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