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Brits don't trust contact centres - see them more as fraud centres

The report, a joint publication of Avaya, the business collaboration and communications services company, and Sabio, a contact centre technology specialist, is based on the results of a survey the two companies commissioned the independent research consultancy Davies Hickman Partners, to undertake. The primary research, conducted in January this year, consisted of a statistically significant, nationally representative survey of 2,035 online consumers across Great Britain.

It shows that British consumers regard contact centres as their main locus of dissatisfaction and distrust when dealing with services providers in general ,and banks, mobile telcos and online shops in particular. Indeed, so distrustful are they that, annually, some six million of them (that's 10 per cent of the population of Great Britain) vote with their feet and end their relationships with organisations as a direct result of perceived or actual security issues and failings.

As might well be expected and as is surely no more than being bang-to-rights, banks and financial institutions are the organisations British consumers detest the most and trust the least. Mobile operators and retailers are the next in line on the list of the least trusted.

Extrapolating the research results, a massive 46 per cent of British consumers harbour deep-seated suspicions about high-level security breaches at at banks and other financial institutions, they way the these bodies deal with such problems and perhaps, (or perhaps not) resolve them. Their ability and efficiency in handling such difficulties and the frankness and transparency of communications with customers and consumers caught up in service outages and cyber attacks is also cause of grave concern.

In second place on the Roll of Dishonour are mobile network operators and at third are retailers.

It is surely significant and the cause of a major headache for these, and other organisations, that 45 per cent of consumers regard the contact centre as being the starting point and epicentre of fraud.

That said, British consumers, whilst understanding and acknowledging the need for robust security regimes, regard many of the checks they are subject to currently, either online or over the phone, as being cumbersome, outdated, of poor quality and slow to negotiate.

One of the most irritating and aggravating issues to consumers is the paucity of fully-integrated contact centres Fifty-five per cent of consumers say that they are angered and frustrated by having to repeat the same security information to different call centre agents in the course of a single call.

Even more tellingly, and much to the concern of banks, mobile telcos, retailers etc, last year, consumer fear of call centre fraud prevented 18 million Brits from making purchases or paying bills over the phone to a call centre.

While all call centres are distrusted consumers find those that have been "outsourced" overseas to be particularly suspect, especially in light of a recent undercover operation by the Sunday Times newspaper indicating that organised gangs of call centre staff in India (including those representing British banks) are selling credit card, medical and driving licence information for just two pence a time. Some 330,000 people are employed in India's call centres and the sector is worth around £3.2 billion a year. Frauds are also generated in other offshore centres in various parts of the world. It should be remmbered that the banks and their ilk outsource call centre functions to developing nations because wages and operating costs are cheap in those places. That is the only reason. Outsourcing overseas saves such organisations money and the it's the devil take the hindmost as far as the customer is concerned - as they find out when something goes wrong.

On the plus side, the new report indicates that British consumers are more than willing to embrace new technology to help beat security fraud. Indeed, the majorityof people are actually reassured by the automation and stringent security and guaranteed anonymity that the best technology can provide and regard human beings and nature as the self-evident weakest link in the security chain.

A mere five per cent think that sharing card details with a human agent is inherently secure while, by way of contrast 81 per cent say they would feel more comfortable and secure entering a password on a keypad to confirm their identity when calling a contact centre. Meanwhile, 51 per cent of the British population claim that they would be happy to use voice biometrics and other advanced identification technologies for online and phone banking.

Overall, the research findings present UK businesses with a wake-up call and an opportunity to strengthen their relationships with consumers and build "customer lifetime value". The report says that by improving the quality and convenience of the customer experience and security measures they can simultaneously improve brand experience, sales and loyalty. The way forward is "to improve the convenience and quality of the customer service experience in contact centres and by using technology to reduce the potential for fraud".

Yes, well that much is evident, not to say downright obvious. But actions speak louder than words and until something is done, quickly and properly, 10 per cent of the British population will continue to churn away from online and phone outlets that rely on call centres. One can scarce blame them.

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