The myth and reality of ROI in Call Centre Investment.


By Niels Kjellerup, Editor and Publisher of The Call Centre Manager Forum June 2nd 2002.


The Myth.

Every day I get Emails from mainly Europe & the US asking me to validate information in an ROI document.

ROI stands for Return on Investment, and when the IT department is tasked with buying new software or hardware for the Call Centre the vendor prepares a document, which shows how the new equipment will cut cost and make the investment worthwhile. The time it takes to recoup the investment is essential to get the ROI.

In general an ROI from a vendor rarely reflects what happens in real life. In fact it’s very rare that anyone ever actually audits the ROI and ensures that the promised savings were actually realised.

The Reality.

Preparing and presenting IT with an ROI document for a Call Centre investment has become an empty ritual completely removed from the actual situation of deploying and implementing new technology effectively in the Centre. Everyone involved in the ritual understands that an ROI document is needed, but seems to have forgotten why.

Since most ROI documents are based on a best-case scenario, no one expects the ROI to have any relevance, as long as it’s there for reasons long forgotten.

A Case study

A European mid-size bank contacted me for help in sorting out the investment priorities in their +200 seat Call Centre.

The Call Centre Management team had written a priority list of the most important Call Centre investments for next 6 months.

The list had 3 items –

1)      A voice recording system to implement a quality monitoring & evaluation program.

2)      A work-force management system to better organise staff scheduling and handle call flows.

3)      A CRM-type software to improve Management reporting


Each vendor had submitted an ROI, which showed expected savings of around Ecu 1 million.

My first question was ‘What is the purpose of the Call Centre?’ & ‘How do you know if you’re contributing to that purpose’?

At first I was inundated with ACD statistics – no. of calls, length of calls, wrap up time, average wait times, queuing statistics. After much soul searching we came up with a Call Centre purpose, which basically helped refocus on the Customer, the OUTCOME of the call and how the Call Centre experience affected the customer.

My question was ‘what are the key factors determining how the customer feel about your bank?’

The answers helped us set the priorities for achieving the Call Centres purpose 1) the call, 2) how the Service Rep handled the customer & 3) did the call outcome exceed customer expectations?

Now it was easy to set the priorities for the proposed IT investments –

1)      Quality – to ensure the Call Centre produces what it is supposed to produce, i.e. well trained staff producing desired call outcomes resulting in happy customers with increased use of the banks services.

2)     Scheduling – now that the staff is creating desirable customer outcomes, it makes sense to optimise the scheduling & forecast.

3)     CRM software for improved management reporting. Now that the Call Centre has valuable results to report it makes sense.


In conclusion

By defining the purpose of the Call Centre and then look at how to achieve such outcomes, it became quiet clear that Quality of the call and well-trained CSR’s was the basic building block to achieving the overall purpose of the Centre. Had we elected to go with workforce management software, we would have achieved better schedules and better utilisation of the CSR’s, but the ROI would never materialise unless the CSR’s were producing good or excellent call outcomes. So it was ‘the cart before the horse’ scenario. As my old teacher in IT often pointed out “If you automate a flawed process, all you get is a lot of flawed process”.

Having better reporting systems is no good, unless you’re producing something worth reporting, so the same logic applies to CRM software investment.

The sequence of improvement alone determines if an ROI is achievable.


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