The EU’s stated intention to force deregulation in the coming years is focusing the strategies of many suppliers on the mechanics of defending market share. A report from Datamonitor indicates that spend on customer facing technologies in the EU will top $100 million by 2002.

A range of technologies allowing companies to interact more effectively with their customers have gained in popularity over the last few years. These include ACD (Automatic Call Distribution), IVR (Interactive Voice Recognition), CTI (Computer Telephony Integration), predictive dialling and the Internet.

To survive long-term, utilities are looking to differentiate service levels through more efficient call centre management and outbound ‘customer satisfaction’ calling. Suppliers will also seek to enhance a primarily commodity product through affinity deals with strongly branded retailers such as supermarkets.

Analyst Michael Evason said: “The cost of reacquiring lost or new customers will be several times that of retaining existing customers. This realisation will justify investments into customer-facing technologies.”

In addition, the report indicates that in 1998, the UK accounted for over 40 per cent of investment in Europe in call centre technology.

Call centre technology spend by European utilities, 1998