Contact Centre 


March 2023 Edition


Inflation, inflation, inflation

The impact of inflation on contact centres

By David Taylor, Partner Success Manager


Whilst we have seen a slight reduction in inflation recently in the UK (and globally), the impact felt has been minimal in truth. Inflation in the UK is still over 10% as of 7th March, with other European countries such as Italy (10%), Germany (8.7%) and France (6%) also being impacted.

The impact of inflation has been no different for the outsourcing industry, affecting centres and staff alike in many different ways. In this article, I wanted to explore just a few of those impacts and some potential solutions to leverage those pinch points.

Areas affected


  • Cost of labour – as inflation rises, so do the wages and benefits that companies need to offer to attract and retain employees. This can impact contact centres that rely on a large workforce of customer service representatives. Higher labour costs can lead to increased overhead, which can ultimately result in higher prices for customers.
  • Cost of technology - inflation can also impact the cost of technology and infrastructure. Contact centres require technology and equipment such as telephones, computers and software to support their operations. As the cost of these items rise due to inflation, contact centres may have to invest more money to maintain or upgrade their systems. This can result in higher expenses and potentially reduced profits.
  • Cost of training & development - another way inflation can impact contact centres is through the cost of training and development. As the cost of living rises, so does the cost of training and development programs for customer service representatives. Companies may have to spend more money to provide training programmes that are effective in improving the quality of service provided by their employees.


So, what can be done to reduce the burden of inflation in the industry?


Well, whilst a lot rests on national and global financial markets, there are a few things your centre can do to minimise these impacts.

Potential solutions


  • Operational efficiency – businesses can almost certainly take stock of how they are performing operationally, cutting any excess ‘fat’ from their operations. However, if not done properly, this could have a detrimental impact to service standards – which may impact sales or third party contracts in the long term.
  • Streamlining processes – businesses should review operational processes to ensure they are maximising time and costs per process undertaken. Look at your contact flows and see if there is room for improvement. Can you reduce handling time here, or increase the rate of first contact resolution?
  • Implement technology – whilst you may not want to radically move your operations from being people centric to tech first, there are many ways that implementing the right technology can help to reduce operational costs over time. Take multi-lingual customer service for example. Can you look at bringing in translation technology for low volume voice locations, switching to a digital only service for these countries and locations?
  • Home and hybrid working - the introduction of new post-pandemic working models has meant that many businesses have been able to reduce office space and associated costs. If your business has kept or returned to the traditional office based model then it may be worth considering.


The good news is that inflation globally is due to come down over the next 12 months. Here in the UK, the Bank of England forecasts inflation to reduce to 4% by the end of 2023 – falling to it’s 2% target shortly after that.


Looking for support to help reduce costs but maintain the highest level of service? Do get in touch, we are here to help.


ChatGPT and contact centres  

The potential implications

By John Greenwood, Head of Technology and Payments


If you haven’t heard of ChatGPT, I suggest you read Dave’s article from January’s newsletter or do a quick google search – you won’t be able to miss it. The AI-powered language model is predicted to, and already is, revolutionising industries across the board. But what are its potential implications for the contact centre industry? 

With its natural language processing capabilities, ChatGPT can understand and respond to customer queries in a way that closely mimics human interactions. This can lead to faster, more accurate and more efficient support for customers, while also helping businesses save costs by reducing the need for human customer service representatives.

According to a report by Grand View Research, the global contact centre market size was valued at USD 350.4 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.4% from 2021 to 2028. With such a large market size, there is significant potential for ChatGPT to have a major impact on the industry.

One of the biggest advantages of ChatGPT is its ability to handle large volumes of customer queries simultaneously. Traditional contact centres often struggle to keep up with high volumes of requests, leading to long wait times and frustrated customers. With ChatGPT, however, customers can receive immediate support without having to wait in line for a human representative. This can lead to faster resolution times, higher customer satisfaction rates and increased loyalty to the brand.

ChatGPT can also provide 24/7 support to customers, which is especially important in today's globalised economy where businesses operate across different time zones. This means that customers can receive assistance at any time of the day or night, regardless of their location. This can lead to improved customer experiences, as customers are able to get the support they need when they need it.

In addition to providing faster and more efficient customer support, ChatGPT can also help businesses save costs. According to a study by Accenture, the average cost of a customer service call is between £5 and £7. With ChatGPT, businesses can handle routine queries at a fraction of this cost, as the technology can handle multiple queries simultaneously without the need for human intervention. This can lead to significant cost savings for businesses, as they are able to handle a larger volume of queries with fewer resources.

Furthermore, ChatGPT can provide personalised support to customers by analysing their previous interactions with the business, their purchase history and their preferences. This level of personalisation can help businesses build stronger relationships with their customers, leading to increased customer loyalty and repeat business. A study by Gartner found that by 2025, 80% of customer service interactions will be handled by AI-powered technologies like ChatGPT, which highlights the growing importance of this technology in the industry.

While ChatGPT can handle routine queries, it's important to note that it's not a replacement for human customer service representatives. There will still be situations where a human representative is needed to provide more in-depth support or to handle sensitive issues. However, by using ChatGPT to handle routine queries, businesses can free up their human representatives to focus on more complex queries, leading to higher-quality customer support overall.

In conclusion, ChatGPT is a powerful tool that has the potential to transform the contact centre industry. With its ability to handle large volumes of customer queries simultaneously, provide 24/7 support, offer personalised support and save costs, businesses can significantly improve their customer support infrastructure. As ChatGPT continues to evolve and improve, it's likely that we'll see more businesses adopting this technology to enhance their customer support operations and improve their bottom line.


The future of homeworking

Can we make it work? 

By Neville Doughty, Partnership Director 


An recent article in The Times suggested that working from home is no longer popular with employers and that patience for reduced productivity is running out. 


Recently I was on a 17:15 flight from Leeds on a Monday evening and as I looked down at the city and the lights below, the queuing traffic suggested that we are returning to the office in ever increasing numbers. 


Changes to legislation in Q4 of 2022 made it feel like employers were obliged to consider any request for remote working as a priority and one that could not be declined. However, against a backdrop of increased pressure to reduce costs, has the tide now turned?  


Has the mindset of the working population changed such that there isn’t the appetite to spend a whole working week in the office?  I saw a post around the increasing numbers of over 55s who have become “economically inactive” and how the government are looking to incentivise them to return to the workplace. What an opportunity these people present to contact centre employers. However, even with a incentive I don’t think that is going to be an easy option. Put simply, peoples’ priorities have changed. 


In a recent conversation with a salesperson, he made what was a critical assessment of the nation post-Covid. It probably wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but he was perhaps accurate in his assessment. Post-pandemic, many people have become less generous with their time, they are less courteous, as if not letting someone out at a junction or trying to cut a queue will somehow recompense them for the time “lost” due to the pandemic.


Perhaps this can be applied to the appetite that some people now have for work? For employers with increased costs and potentially falling revenues, if we enter a recession then productivity will be critical.


I didn’t want to hear it as I always prefer to see the best in humanity.  


That being said, have we all truly implemented the best processes and support required to make homeworking sustainable for the long term? Are the best practices to support people, seen at the start of the lockdowns, still being actively pursued? Have you gone back and checked in on your technology? Are you confident that everything possible has been done to make working from home viable and if necessary have you ensured that the right conversations about productivity and performance have been had?


Only then should we be considering such a decision to bring everyone back into the office full time.


Perhaps contact centre outsourcing with all our technology, management information, people, processes and approach are better set to make homeworking deliver. Maybe this is our time to shine and that working for a contact centre will gain more kudos as it becomes a way to maintain that critical work-life balance that so many people are searching for. If this is the case, then we may have an opportunity to attract and retain the best people to deliver great customer experiences.

"Workers with full schedule flexibility report 29% higher productivity and 53% greater ability to focus than workers with no ability to shift their schedule"

Future Forum 


Cancelling services

Is time running out for the (hard to) Cancel Culture?

By Steve Sullivan, Head of Regulatory Compliance


How easy is it to sign up or subscribe to your company’s products or services? Pretty easy I should think (or hope). 

Now more than ever, organisations understand that in our hyper-competitive world, a friction-free way to make consumers aware of what you offer and to make it as easy as possible to become your customers, is vital. However, deliberately creating friction and barriers for customers looking to leave is almost as common. We all know that it takes a lot of effort and expense to acquire customers, so surely making it a bit of an up-hill slog for customers to leave is just common sense?

Maybe, but possibly that’s all about to change. Be warned!
In the US, Ericsson-owned Vonage has been fined $100m by the US Federal Trade Commission for using a raft of measures which meant that domestic and small business customers found it almost impossible to cancel Vonage’s VoIP services.

Vonage’s services were easy to start using, with many customers offered ’free trial’ opportunities allied to less-than-transparent switches to default sign-up and auto-billing. But when it came to trying to cancel their membership, things were difficult and ‘friction’ was everywhere. The tactics Vonage used ranged across: the sophisticated use of 'dark patterns' on the web; making customers speak to ‘retention team’ advisors in order to cancel; hiding the ‘retention’ phone numbers; routing cancellation calls to barely-staffed phone lines with inconvenient opening times.

“Do as I say, not as I do”

The FTC gleefully highlighted Vonage's own advice to its business customers which it totally failed to take itself - a classic case of "do as I say, not as I do”. 


Vonage's advice included:


  • “not offering other channels practically guarantees a poor customer experience”  
  • “offering only voice in your contact center won’t cut it in the new normal.”  
  • “[Don't] frustrate customers by requiring them to contact you for support that should be available on a self-service basis” and  
  • “it should be just as easy to return your product as it is to buy it.” 


They don’t mean us though, do they?

However, most of us aren’t in the US and not under the jurisdiction of the FTC, so does this really matter?

Well, first of all, a lot of us work directly or indirectly supporting US clients and their customer experience delivery, so it’s always helpful to know if you’re potentially part of delivering illegal customer journeys! 

But equally, government regulation tends to – slowly – follow international trends. So, Vonage’s recent experience might be a $100m sign of things to come in other markets and jurisdictions. In the UK we know that government is still determined to tackle the consumer 'loyalty penalty' (the fact that many products and services are cheaper for new customers than for loyal, long-established users), which is closely related to a customer’s ability to exit expensive deals and relationships – and similar concerns are voiced in the EU and expressed through its Digital Services Act.

So, if part of your customer retention strategy is the creation of challenging journeys for people looking to cancel, then it may be time to do some redesign!

Guest column

Numbers, numbers, numbers...

Putting a face behind the figures 


Pamela Nast, Director, Clear Choice Consulting 


Working at any company involves a lot of numbers. Sales, profit, staff, complaints, customers, budgets, leavers, joiners, costs, income – the list goes on and on.


However, what we sometimes lose sight of, is that some of these numbers are people. Real people with hopes, fears and challenges that we can help with. 

Let’s meet Carol. She is a 38-year-old married mum of two who lives in the Midlands and has worked for a number of years as a supervisor at a local office. She’s been there some time and is well paid for her work. She has two kids in school and her husband works at the local food factory. Carol and her family have lived in their house for a little over 10 years and everyone is settled and happy. 

Doing the weekly shop, Carol notices that the price has started to go up. Her gas and electric monthly payments have increased by 50% a month and her petrol bills have also increased. They continue to make ends meet, even with the prices rising until one day disaster happens.


Carol’s husband, Mike, is made redundant from his job. As he’s been there 4 years, he receives a pay-out, but it won’t last too long. Unfortunately, Carol earns too much to be eligible for any additional support from the Government.

Carol is now in a place she’s never been in. Worried about paying the bills, Mike’s looking for work and the kids are wanting to go on holiday.


Whilst this is an example, it’s all too frequently happening to our consumers, customers and neighbours. As leaders, policy setters and influential people, we need to be asking ourselves, are we doing enough for the Carols and Mikes?


If Mike or Carol reach out, do we have the right training and support for our customer service people to ask the right questions and provide the right advice and assistance? Do we, or should we, have dedicated teams who are trained to handle those more detailed conversations when they are needed?

Does our website or app provide clear direction and signposting for the customers’ options? Are we making it as easy as possible for Carol or Mike to engage with us, in what is, in their eyes, a scary and embarrassing conversation?

If Mike or Carol aren’t engaging with us, are we going above and beyond to promote engagement and support, or are we blindly following the same old process?

We all have business pressures on costs, budgets and forecasts. By assessing and reviewing what you have, re-purposing existing spends and revising how and what you do, you can be surprised at how much you can support Carol, sometimes at no or very little cost. 

Ultimately, what we would all like is for Carol and Mike to have support and an agreed upon plan, at a future date, when Mike is back in work and things are moving in the right direction.