New research shows UK contact centres struggle with burden of getting data out of mainframes.

The findings emerged from a new report show that, despite complex mainframe systems causing poor customer service, IT managers are reluctant to lose them for their mission critical reliability.

The continued use of mainframe applications in contact centres is lengthening call times and leading to poorer customer service in many contact centres, according to a new report.

The report, jointly commissioned by integration software vendors Corizon and Attachmate, found that more than a quarter of companies using mainframes in their contact centres say that exposing information from mainframes to agents in the form of green screens leads to poorer customer service and 34% say it leads to inefficient calling.

The research also highlighted a disconnect between the IT and operational arms of contact centres: IT people are reluctant to lose what they see as critical and reliable systems but are far less aware of the negative impact that contact centre managers see mainframes having on the effectiveness of front line agents.

‘Managing the Mainframe: Assessing the impact of mainframes on UK contact centre effectiveness’, produced by research house Dynamic Markets, has been based on 100 respondents from contact centres using mainframes.

Over half (56%) of all the call centres used mainframes in their customer service operations, of which nearly all (93%) said they are mission critical to the running of their contact centre.

The average age of a mainframe system was 21 years old. Yet they were not designed with today’s call centre business in mind. Indeed, these mainframe systems were often older than the agents using them.

This clearly posed problems for agents, who interact with the mainframes via ‘green screen’ applications. 52% of call centres managers said it took longer to train agents to use mainframe green screens than it did other applications, versus just 36% of IT respondents.

Despite the problems they generate, the research suggests that mainframe technology is not going away anytime soon: 50% of IT manager respondents regard migrating to a new system as too risky. And 72% of respondents have not tried to migrate away at all. Of the remainder who have tried, 29% admit to zero success.

Eric Guilloteau, Corizon chief executive said: “What is needed is a new way to access and re-use the valuable information in mainframe systems which shields the agents from their inherent complexity. Organisations can take a service oriented approach to their contact centre infrastructure, providing mainframe functionality as visual components that could be orchestrated into an intuitive, modern, web-based composite user interface. This would allow IT to avoid the issues of complex mainframe migration whilst addressing the difficulties agents experience at the front line – thus giving retailers the best of both worlds.”