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Study Finds Fuel Prices Impact Contact Centers

October 15, 2008

By Susan J. Campbell,
TMCnet Contributing Editor

The rise in fuel costs has been on the mind of the consumer longer than the resounding troubles within the economy. We have all felt the rise in transportation costs, which have filtered into other essentials that have their prices increased just to break even.

The effects of these fuel prices have filtered into the contact center industry. It has been credited for the rise in home-based agents, reduction in available positions, and increased investment in systems to support higher volume for collections and credit companies. It has also helped to contribute to the rise in contact center interactions between companies and rural residents. 

Interestingly, these rural residents feeling the crunch are not just in the U.S. A New Zealand broadband provider, Farmside, reported a 97 percent increase in inquiries through its contact centers in April. The provider contributes this increase to the rising trend of rural residents using the Internet for more routine tasks instead of driving to a destination.

In a company statement, Farmside sales and marketing director Nick Carter shared: "They realize they can save money by using the Internet for errands that have traditionally required a personal trip, like banking, shopping, vehicle registration, study or even doing tax returns.”

Those companies that are operating online and offering e-commerce options are finding an increase in their appeal among the consumer base. Where consumers may have once been leery about making purchases or conducting other business online, further investigation into the possibilities has increased in an effort to save money. Rural residents have become more aware of the cost savings associated with using the Internet.

While this increase is great for those companies operating online, the downside is that some may not be adequately prepared. Contact centers are findings themselves overloaded with increased contacts and workforce management solutions are taxed with a variety of unknown variables, causing forecasts to be inaccurate.

Those experienced in contact centers and the related industries should be well aware of the potential impact the economy can have on the volumes of the contact center. Sure, there are variables that are never known, but acceptable margins of error will account for these unknowns.

Understanding what affects consumer spending and their methods of interaction is imperative to the successful operation of the contact center. Without this information, the center cannot effectively develop forecasts or budgets to ensure optimal performance. Once this below-par performance is measured, change will be required and that is not always for the better.
 

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by
Stefania Viscusi