Self-service saves UK contact centres £1.6bn per year

“The UK Contact Centre Operational Review (6th edition - 2008)”, a recent major study of over 200 contact centres carried out by ContactBabel, has found that although only 6.5% of inbound calls are dealt with entirely through self-service, rather than a live contact centre agent, the savings to the UK contact centre industry amount to over £1.6bn per year.

Findings within the “Self-Service” chapter of the report, sponsored by Vicorp, show that of the 10.3bn calls per year that UK contact centres receive, 670m of them are dealt with entirely through automated processes. Respondents to the survey stated that on average, each call dealt with by a contact centre agent costs £2.88, whereas one dealt with by self-service costs only 43p.

“This demonstrates how organisations can benefit from self-service,” says Brendan Treacy, CEO at Vicorp.  “The business case for appropriate automation of simple and repetitive tasks is impressive and now that such services are more widely accepted by callers the savings impact is growing.”

The report’s author, Steve Morrell, comments:

“A cost avoidance of £1.6bn per year seems an impressive figure, but we believe that this is only the beginning of what telephone self-service can deliver. Of course, not all calls are suitable for self-service - respondents estimate that an average of only 31% of inbound calls would suit self-service - and over-use of this channel can frustrate customers and severely damage a brand. This is especially the case if the business does not offer a way out of ‘IVR hell’ - where customers have to keep pushing buttons on their telephones in the hope of talking to someone.  

“However, for simple and repetitive tasks, such as account balances, meter readings and ticket bookings, self-service works for both customer and business, as there’s never a queue to wait in. This should also mean that if a customer needs to speak to a real person, then it’s more likely that there’ll be someone available to help them.

“The next step, and one that many leading businesses are looking at, is to ask customers to say what they want instead of pressing buttons on a phone, as speech recognition is a far more powerful and flexible application than touchtone IVR.”

About “The UK Contact Centre Operational Review (6th edition - 2008)”

The independent, 340-page PDF report looks in depth at salaries, attrition, training, multimedia, IP, self-service, strategies, outsourcing, planning and many other elements that are key to understanding how contact centres can best be run.

Displayed in over 200 data tables, the results have been segmented by industry sector and contact centre size, so that readers can compare their own operations with those that are most similar.

The free Executive Summary and more details of the full report can be downloaded from


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