Report: Staffing and training initiatives increase in spite of self-service technology advances

Atlanta, GA, April 8, 2008 — Despite the push for customers to use self-service avenues, The Chartwell Customer Care Center Report 2008 shows full-time equivalent staffing in utility contact centers grew about 15 percent between 2003 and 2007 to offset the rise in call volumes.

Since 61 percent of utilities reported an increase in calls, the additional staffing helped utilities achieve the best ratio between customer service representatives and phone contacts of the past three Chartwell surveys.

Self-service technology, which the study also found continues to make inroads at utility companies, typically handles simple customer inquires, but some companies say handle times have risen and problem resolution decreased because more difficult calls are coming into the center. As a result, CSRs undergo 22 percent more in initial training and receive an additional 11 percent of ongoing training from three years ago, Chartwell reports.

Electronic communication also is making headway, according to The Chartwell Customer Care Center Report 2008. A higher percent of CSRs now handle customer emails, and some utilities are looking to implement online chats between agents and consumers.

The Chartwell Customer Care Center Report 2008 is based on surveys from more than 100 North American utilities. The report includes the survey responses from all of the participating utilities detailing contact center issues such as:

* Top customer care center challenges;
* IVR impact on customer satisfaction;
* Stage of deployment on speech recognition;
* Agent-occupancy rating;
* Outbound-calling campaigns;
* Salary information for CSRs; and more.

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