Contact Center Market Trends

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Contact Center
Market Trends

by Faulkner Staff

Docid: 00017750

Publication Date: 2011

Report Type: MARKET


Customer experience is the prevailing theme in the contact center.
Reducing costs is, and always will be, important; however, driving
excellence throughout the entire customer lifecycle has become the chief
initiative for many organizations today. The economy has not allowed for
easy, rapid growth, so executives need to find a way to favorably
differentiate their business from the competition. Optimizing the customer
experience is the hallmark of that strategy.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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As more customers use the Internet, instant messaging, social media, and
e-mail to contact corporations about product inquiries and sales, customer
care, as well as technical support, their expectations regarding quality
and timeliness of service have increased. In addition, the opportunity for
poor service increases at the same time the public’s expectation for
quality service decreases. Companies are presented with a huge opportunity
to differentiate themselves by delivering exceptional service, which can
help them to acquire and retain customers for the long haul.

Around-the-clock availability has become the standard for contact center
operations in most industries. As a result, contact centers have had to
expand their services to include live chat, e-mail, and Web support to
augment their traditional voice services to meet changing customer

With the expanding nature of Web 2.0 technologies, including blogs,
wikis, community forums, social media posts, as well as opinion and rating
sites, it is imperative that companies deliver on their commitment to
satisfy customers. If they fail, and do so repeatedly, it will be apparent
to any savvy consumer – corporate or retail – once they begin to do some
online research. Poor reviews on Facebook walls or negative tweets
regarding product quality or service delivery can quickly erode the
branding built using millions of dollars in marketing and advertising
programs. In fact, Customer Think recently cited that 16 percent of all
contacters with concerns about the quality of the agent or the resolution
of their issue elected to voice their complaints on Twitter and other
social media sites. Conversely, social media has made it easier for those
that were pleased with the service they received to post their praises. As
a result, a tremendous opportunity exists to strengthen the company brand
and build credibility with existing and prospective customers, so the
manner in which the marketing group crafts and promotes a brand strategy
cannot be disconnected from the manner in which the contact center ensures
that they execute on it successfully.

A plethora of new technologies and operating models has helped contact
centers to meet customer deliverables and to transform the traditional
cost center into a revenue-generating enterprise. IP telephony solutions
coupled with contact center outsourcing and home-based agent programs have
enabled managers to fulfill these growing demands without adding a
significant amount of overhead to the operating structure. In addition,
IVR and Web-based self-service applications, which are becoming more
prominent in supporting customers using mobile applications, play a vital
role in adding value to each customer transaction.

Technology and service vendors have begun to specialize in key areas,
with many offering hosted or cloud products or Software as a Service
(SaaS) to help reduce the capital outlay that is difficult for many
contact center managers to secure from their executive management teams.
The cloud products and services market is the fastest growing space in the
contact center industry. In 2018, the cloud-based contact center market
was valued at approximately US $8.9 billion. This is expected to increase
to US $33.3 billion by 2024. Cloud-based contact centers can help
companies meet the demands of different channels such as social media,
mobile app chats, and videos.

Companies continue to invest in contact center technologies, particularly
those that impact or gauge the customer experience, like Voice of the
Customer programs, or those that extend functionality to emerging areas
like social media, business intelligence and analytics, and speech and
emotion analytics. Mobile applications are another important channel that
is growing at a high rate. Within three years, more than one-third of all
customer service contacts in North America are expected to be originated
from a smartphone with voice and data capabilities. This trend is driving
the development and adoption of integrated mobile applications for
customer service.

Market Dynamics

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The contact center market is being driven by demands from customers for
real-time, collaborative support services over a variety of media, as well
as by corporate requirements for improved knowledge sharing and
management. In the past, corporate executives viewed contact center
operations as a necessary evil or an expense center. Today, however, many
leaders are beginning to look to the contact center to gain a competitive
advantage in their industry segment. Several key process and technology
improvements have not only helped contact centers operate at a lower cost,
but also they have enabled an integration with other business functions to
enrich the overall customer experience and provide critical first-hand
feedback for developing and marketing new products and services.

Call centers have added the capability to interact with customers in
several ways, including traditional voice contacts, online text chats,
e-mails, and faxes delivered through the contact queue, and even
collaborative Internet sessions in which an agent can push pages to a
customer or control their web browser. Many contact centers have deployed
speech-enabled integrated voice response (IVR) solutions to offer
self-service applications and to enhance skills-based routing when a
contact does need to be delivered to a live agent. Workforce optimization
tools provide centers with comprehensive staffing and scheduling systems,
contact recording and monitoring capabilities, and e-training programs.
Call center and technology vendors have launched Software as a Service
(SaaS) and hosted solutions to provide small- and medium-sized operations
with cutting-edge tools and services without the up-front capital expense.
Customer surveys provide management with a real-time assessment of contact
center performance across various transaction mediums, such as voice,
e-mail, online applications, and Web chat. Reporting and analytics
solutions can help contact centers quickly gauge the effectiveness of
marketing programs and agent activities through detailed performance
reporting, data analytics, as well as emotion and speech analytics.

These types of technologies are no longer value-added items implemented
by Fortune 100 enterprises. Companies of all sizes across all industries
are looking for innovative ways to squeeze additional productivity out of
their contact centers. 

Call Center Services

Call centers no longer just provide standard inbound customer service and
outbound telemarketing solutions. Advances in technology allow them to
support dozens of different applications, although most of them are
usually conceptually similar and can be generally broken down into inbound
and outbound programs. 

Inbound Services. The following list provides a menu of
some typical inbound applications supported by contact centers:

  • Customer Care
  • Help Desk
  • Order Processing and Tracking
  • Inbound Sales or Reservations
  • Technical or Product Support
  • Information Services
  • Claims Processing
  • Account Activation
  • Dispatch
  • Government Programs (police, fire, 311, etc.)

Outbound Services. Call centers can
also support several outbound programs, such as: 

  • Sales
  • Lead Generation
  • Campaigning
  • Charity Drives
  • Political Contributions, Polling, and Voter Information
  • Collections
  • Market Research
  • Marketing Surveys
  • New Customer Welcoming
  • Customer Win Back
  • Customer Win Over

Blended Programs. Call center
providers can also support blended programs that combine both inbound and
outbound contacting campaigns in order to interact with customers. In
these scenarios, contact center operators can cross-train agents to work
on both the inbound and outbound components, so they can make outbound
contacts when there are no inbound contacts in the queue, thus improving
agent efficiency. Providing a single agent with the ability to both make
and receive contacts is advantageous because it lets an agent “own” a
single relationship with a contacter. Blended programs can be as simple as
having a single pool of agents who receive inbound sales contacts and make
outbound sales contacts during their downtime. They can also be more
complicated. For example, a consumer has a question about her telephone
bill. She contacts the telecom company’s contact center with a question,
but the agent cannot answer the question without researching the subject.
A billing inquiry department would do the necessary research and the same
agent would contact the consumer back with an answer.

International Locations

Call center operators are under constant pressure to find ways to cut
costs; companies that operate their own contact centers consider them to
be non-core business processes, while outsourcers are squeezed by their
competition and customers to keep expenses down. Location usually plays a
huge factor when companies are looking to open a contact center,
especially outsourcers. Companies that are looking to make their contact
centers as efficient as possible need to consider the cost of labor and
real estate. At the same time, they cannot just recklessly try to open a
contact center in the cheapest possible market. A particular market may
have cheap labor, but is the labor pool large enough to adequately staff
the contact center? Does the area have adequate telecommunications
infrastructure to support a contact center? Can the labor provide the
quality of service that is needed?

Call center locations can be broken down into the following four

Domestic. Domestic contact centers
are located within the country they are servicing. In the United States,
domestic contact centers are generally the most expensive option because
of labor and real estate costs. Taxes related to the Affordable Care Act,
known in the market as ObamaCare, have begun to increase the cost base for
firms operating in the United States, but an even greater increase in
wages in traditional outsourcing hotbeds like India and China may actually
increase demand for domestic services. However, more centers are opening
in low-cost markets, such as Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas,
that can draw educated and dedicated workers without much competition from
other employers.

Nearshore. Nearshore markets are
locations outside the domestic market but are only a short travel distance
away. Canada was the
leading nearshore location for several years, since the market offered a
large pool of English-speaking, skilled workers at a lower price than the
United States. The decreasing value of the US dollar is hurting Canada as
an outsourcing location, however, since the current exchange rate
eliminates most of the cost savings that were realized a couple of years
ago. As the exchange rate continues to harm the Canadian market, the
Caribbean is emerging as a hot nearshore market for contact center
services. The Caribbean basin is attractive because it is easy to travel
to and has a service-oriented economy. According to the Zagada Institute,
the Caribbean contact center agents
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) market more than tripled from 2005 to
2012. Mexico and parts
of Central America, particularly Panama, are starting to gain attention as
nearshore locations. Call center companies are expanding their presence in
because the country uses the US dollar as
its official currency and it has close cultural ties to the United
States. The Zagada Institute weighs multiple factors in ranking
cities and countries for their nearshore capabilities. In their 2010
ranking, Colombia earned the top three spots for low-cost market. Jamaica
and the Dominican Republic were at the top of the list for
English-speaking talent with the proper skill sets for contact center
operations. Jamaica and Panama led the way in terms of political and
cultural alignment with the U.S.

Offshore. Offshore markets offer the most significant
cost savings, but they require several hours of travel time to get to.
Several years ago, telecommunications costs were a major barrier for
offshore outsourcing, but the emergence of IP telephony in combination
with a more robust global communications infrastructure has addressed that
issue. Today, companies can place a PBX switch virtually anywhere in the
world and then send incoming contacts to agents anywhere in the world over
an IP network.

India was one of the earliest offshore
outsourcing markets, but the Indian market developed a reputation for
poor service with a significant language barrier. Call center operators
have since improved the cultural and accent neutralization training they
provide to agents, but the market has enough of a stigma that many
companies stay away from trusting their customer relationships to agents
there. As the market moved away from India,
the Philippines emerged as one of the leading offshore markets. The
Philippine government has wisely embraced contact center outsourcing
through favorable regulation, and as a result, the market grew from
$1.5 billion in 2004 to $4.5 billion in 2007, $6.1 billion in 2008,
$12 billion at the end of 2012, with a projected $25 billion by the
end of 2017. Today, the Philippines is the second most popular
offshore destination in the world.

In addition to India and the Philippines, other popular offshore markets
include Eastern Europe, South America, and other parts of Southeast Asia
such as Vietnam. The global BPO market is
estimated to reach US $220 billion by 2020.

Virtual Call Centers or At-Home Agents. Homesourcing is
the process of establishing a network of contact center agents that work
out of their own home. Companies can hire a network of agents as employees
or independent contractors to initiate a homesourcing program, or they can
hire a domestic outsourcer such as Alpine Access to do the same thing. A
survey conducted by Knowlagent reported that more than 40 percent of
contact centers already have a home agent program of some sort, with
another 40 percent seriously considering some type of work-at-home program
for their in-house agents. In sum, the home agent market is expected to
grow at a rate of about 40 percent per year for the next five years. Of
the centers with an at-home agent program in place, more than 60 percent
cite productivity gains of at least 20 percent versus their in-house

Hosted or cloud-based software solutions and improved broadband services
for households have made deploying remote agents that much easier. In
fact, with the technology available today, most contacters will have no
idea that the agent handling the interaction is sitting in his or her

IP Technologies as a Call Center Enabler.
Internet Protocol has had a bigger impact on the contact center
industry than any technology since the telephone. Call center operators
have received several types of benefits from deploying IP networks,

  • Reduced Costs. Offshore markets have always been
    attractive because of the lower labor costs, but telecommunications
    expenses were prohibitive. In the past, a company operating contact
    centers in different locations needed to rely on either a completely
    separate technology setup, which could include an ACD, an IVR,
    monitoring equipment, and so on with the carrier distributing contacts
    in the network cloud, or a host of support services from the carrier
    that deliver contacts to the main center, which would then decide where
    and to whom to route the contact, and reroute the contact back through
    the carrier to the remote location. Today, only one set of equipment and
    one-time use of the carrier’s services are required. Thanks to the
    flexibility afforded by VoIP, contact center operators can have a switch
    located in the United States where contacts are connected, and those
    contacts can then be transferred over a VoIP network to a contact center
    agent working anywhere in the world. The contact delivery and latency
    times have improved so much that it is nearly seamless to the contacter.
    In addition to equipment costs, VoIP also reduced long distance charges
    to just pennies and opened the door to a whole new generation of contact
    center services.
  • Tightened Security and Stronger Business Continuity. This
    also helps contact centers with security and business continuity plans.
    Customers may be apprehensive about outsourcing important
    customer-facing functions to contact centers located in countries that
    are vulnerable to natural disasters or that are politically unstable.
    A company that uses a hub-and-spoke network architecture, with a data
    center and switch located in the United States,
    can use the flexibility afforded by VoIP to re-route traffic to
    another contact center in the event of a disaster. Companies using
    this type of configuration can also keep all sensitive data secure in
    a domestic data center.
  • Improved Quality Assurance. Any agent anywhere can
    be monitored, recorded, evaluated, and trained just like an agent
    operating at the main location. Delta Airlines implemented VoIP in its
    contact center network and showed a nine-month return on investment of
    $12 million in capital expenses as well as an estimated $16 million in
    telecommunications and $7.2 million in productivity savings.

From Call Center to Contact Center to Integrated Social Customer
Channel Management Center.
Call centers have evolved way beyond
a group of agents making and receiving telephone contacts. As a result of
the proliferation of the Internet, customers want to be able to interact
with companies 24×7 in a variety of ways. This demand caused contact
centers to transition into contact centers capable of interacting with
customers via the telephone, Web chat, IVR, or e-mail. More recently,
consumers have demanded that service be performed through social media
channels, including Facebook, Twitter, opinion pages, and other social
forums. In most cases, the responsibility for managing those client
interactions – or the whole “customer experience” – has fallen to the
contact center team. In fact, companies are continuing to pursue
technologies that will enhance the experience a customer has through
social and mobile technologies. A 2012 BearingPoint survey found that 44
percent of companies have a plan in place to enable mobile access or
engagement between customers and agents using CRM and WFM features. Some
organizations are even extending their service interactions to include
video-based chats for a more personalized customer experience.

Web Chat and Virtual Assistants. Virtual assistant
services, otherwise known as Web-based text chat services, using Instant
Messaging (IM)-style communications, have been available for quite a few
years. However, as customer use of websites for conducting business
transactions has grown, the level of sophistication of the technology has
improved with it. It is possible today for a software solution to prompt
an online shopper for live chat assistance if they are hesitant about
finalizing a sale, seem to be searching for information, or start
back-tracking to old Web pages. The concept is that, in a sales
environment, customers want some time to window shop before being accosted
by a salesperson. As such, strategically initiated live chat sessions can
improve customer acquisition rates, increase transaction values, and
prevent customer attrition by offering product information or sales
assistance at critical junctures in the buying process. Because of the
style and pace of communication, and due to the ability for agents to
multitask in this area, live chat is estimated to cost one-third the
amount of a traditional inbound voice contact. In addition, it is very
simple to record and document all text chat sessions in a format that is
easily searchable for pivotal market data and product feedback by the
marketing and engineering groups. Any decent Web Chat solution will enable
the center to craft prepared responses to common questions or topics.
These canned chat responses help companies deliver consistent messaging
with less typing errors and reduced time requirements.

IVR. Self-service applications have been around for
some time in the contact center environment. One long-time example is with
financial institutions providing automated retrieval of account balances
and recent transactions to customers via telephone. With the advent of
quality speech-enabled solutions, organizations have broadened the
services offered using a self-help menu. Popular processes today using
speech recognition platforms include reservations, customer service,
account management, employee benefits management, and order confirmation.
However, to make these applications successful, meaning that they deliver
a comparable or improved level of service to customers at a reduced cost,
they must be deployed in conjunction with an IVR system with at least some
measure of computer-telephony integration (CTI). For example, many
customers become easily frustrated when they contact for some type of
service, say with the phone company, and they are asked to enter (or
speak) their account number into the IVR, only to have the agent ask for
the same information when they eventually answer the contact. Centers that
use simple CTI applications to deliver a screen pop to the agent that
receives the contact with the information the customer provided to the IVR
gain a huge advantage in customer satisfaction and loyalty, which in
today’s competitive market can mean the difference between profitability
and bankruptcy.

Automated Messaging. Call centers are under constant
pressure to automate business processes in order to keep costs down, and
they are turning to automated messaging technologies as a way to interact
with customers. Interactive voice messaging (IVM) systems can deliver a
variety of short messages to large numbers of people, and the messages can
be used as a standalone contact campaign or as part of a contacting
program. For example, companies may use an IVM to notify customers about
new products or services. In a more complex environment, a computer
manufacturer may send an automated message to a let a customer know that
the laptop she sent in for repair is fixed and has been shipped. Companies
can also use automated messaging to reach out to potential customers and
ask end users who are interested in speaking with a live agent to “press
1.” This sort of deployment can significantly reduce the amount of time
agents spend talking to people who are not interested in speaking with
them, thus boosting performance metrics like sales per hour.

Automated messaging is not just limited to the telephone either. Some
contact center companies are starting to use automated text messaging to
interact with customers. Companies can send messages about special offers
or an appliance repair company can notify a customer that a service
technician has been dispatched to fix his washing machine.

Virtual Queuing. Regardless of how a customer decides
to interact with a contact center, they expect prompt service. Current
technology enables customers who are experiencing wait or hold times to
hold their contact priority – their place in line. Once an agent becomes
available, they will be automatically contacted through the desired
communication channel – phone, email, text, Web chat. This solution helps
to reduce the frustration customers feel when finally interacting with an
agent, which makes it much easier for the agent to effectively handle the

Knowledge Management. Despite the mode of
communication, customers expect agents to provide them with accurate
information on a timely basis. This is where a robust Knowledge Management
(KM) solution is key. A good KM base helps to reduce customer contacts
requiring human interaction through improved searchability of content on
websites and IVR platforms, increasing the number of customer questions
that can be resolved through self-service applications. But centers will
always have customers that prefer to contact, e-mail, chat, or text to get
assistance. Again, a solid KM solution will enable agents to quickly
reference the topic and provide the customer with a full and accurate
response. An ICMI survey of 500 companies had KM solutions as the number
one priority over the next five years, with 31 percent of respondents
contacting it their most important technological investment. KM was
followed closely by customer self-service (30 percent), quality monitoring
(27 percent), and WFM and home agents (24 percent each).

Market Leaders

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There is no one list of “market leaders” for the contact center industry,
since it is made up of so many different types of organizations. The
following section lists some of the leading equipment manufacturers,
software providers, and outsourcers.

Outsourcing Providers

Teleperformance. Teleperformance is one
of the world’s largest contact center outsourcing companies, with 260-plus
contact centers in 49 countries around the globe and more than 137,000
resources serving in permanent or contract roles. It has facilities in
domestic, nearshore, and offshore markets, but while many of the other
outsourcers on this list mainly provide service to US clients, some of
Teleperformance’s sites focus on local markets. For example, the company
has a 1000-seat contact center in Beijing, China, that supports Chinese
customers. Domestically, it has 11,300 contact center seats spread across
39 U.S. facilities,
while its nearshore capacity includes sites in
Canada, Jamaica, and Mexico. It also has
international sites in South America, Africa, the Asia/Pacific,
Europe, and the Middle East. Teleperformance
finished 2016 with 4.05 billion USD in revenue.

SITEL. The modern-day version of SITEL was formed in
2006, when SITEL merged with ClientLogic, another contact center
outsourcing company. Today, SITEL operates more than 120 contact centers
in 24 countries, including 32 North American facilities; nearshore
capacity in Canada, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama; and offshore
sites in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Denmark,
France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, the Netherlands, New
Zealand, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Serbia, Spain, and
the United Kingdom. SITEL uses these sites to provide both inbound and
outbound contacting campaigns, including telesales, customer care,
collections, and back-office services supported by its 58,000 employees.

Sykes Enterprises. Sykes is an international contact
center business process outsourcer with more than 46,000 employees across
more than 75 global contact center locations in 23 countries. In 2010,
Sykes acquired ICT Group’s assets and worldwide operations. In August
2012, Sykes acquired Alpine Access.

Working Solutions. Working Solutions deserves mention
on a list of leading outsourcers because it is one of the largest
companies offering at-home agents, an emerging trend in the contact center
industry. The company has a network of 76,000 agents supporting contacting
programs for the healthcare, logistics, pharmaceutical, retail,
telecommunications, travel, and utility industries. Working Solutions has
recently launched the WS Advantage program guaranteeing an ROI increase of
at least 8 percent, or they will make up the difference.

Sutherland Global Services. Sutherland was founded in
1986 and has grown to more than 30,000 employees operating across 40+
centers in the US and the UK, Canada, South America, Central America, the
Caribbean, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the Asia Pacific.

Call Center
Software Vendors

Call centers use a variety of software packages, including CRM
applications, workforce management tools, and IVR solutions. The following
sections list some of the leading players in the contact center software

Aspect Software. Aspect Software offers a wide range of
products designed for both traditional contact centers and next-generation
facilities that use IP communications to offer multi-channel support.

  • Turnkey Solution—Aspect Unified IP is the company’s
    flagship, turnkey solution. Designed for multimedia contact centers, it
    is designed for use in VoIP environments and can support telephone
    contacts, email, and Web chat sessions. It has separate modules for
    routing, reporting, and campaign administration, and it has integrated
    ACD, predictive dialer, and IVR capabilities for inbound and outbound
    campaigns. Unified IP also offers a suite of quality assurance tools,
    including tools for contact recording, blind monitoring, screen
    captures, and agent scoring metrics.
  • ACD—Aspect offers two standalone ACD products: the
    Aspect CallCenter ACD and the Aspect Spectrum ACD. The Aspect Unified IP
    suite also has integrated ACD capabilities.
  • CTI—Aspect’s CTI solution is the Aspect Enterprise
    Contact Server.
  • IVR—Customers looking for an automated self-service,
    IVR solution can purchase the Unified IP suite or Aspect Customer Self
    Service, a standalone product.
  • Multi-Channel Support—Multi-channel support
    capabilities are available in Aspect Unified IP as well as both of the
    company’s ACD products.
  • Predictive Dialers—The Aspect Conversations
    Predictive Dialer and Aspect Unison Predictive Dialer are both
    standalone dialing platforms for use in traditional contact centers. The
    Unified IP package also has integrated predictive dialing capabilities.
  • Workforce Optimization and Agent Performance Management—Aspect
    performance management tools into a workforce optimization platform.
    There are separate modules available for contact recording, agent
    monitoring, agent coaching, applicant screening, and workforce
    management. These products are also available separately.
  • Interactive Mobile Solutions and Social Customer Care—As
    contact center suite, they offer integrated capabilities to manage
    mobile and social interactions.
  • Unified Reporting—Aspect provides strategic insight
    to data-driven analytics to help measure process performance and improve
    strategic decision making.

Avaya Communications. Avaya Communications is one of the
world’s largest providers of telecommunications equipment, and the contact
center market is one of its main focus areas. In late 2009, Avaya
completed its acquisition of Nortel Networks Enterprise Division.
Acquisitions of Konftel, Sipera Systems, Aurix, and Radvision over the
last two years have helped Avaya expanding its suite of session border
controller and unified communications solutions.

  • Turnkey Solution—Avaya offers a couple different
    turnkey products. Avaya Call
    Center is designed for use in contact centers that only use the
    telephone to interact with customers, while Avaya Interaction Center
    is designed for centers that provide multi-channel support through the
    telephone, Web chat, and email. Avaya also offers scaled down versions
    of Interaction Center
    contacted Contact Center Express and Customer Interaction Express.
  • ACD—Avaya’s Call Center Software has integrated ACD
  • Call Management Systems—The Avaya Call Management
    System allows businesses to gather and view a variety of contact center
    performance data at macro and agent levels.
  • CTI—Avaya offers a CTI solution contacted Avaya
    Computer Telephony Integration.
  • IVR Platform—The company sells an IVR platform
    contacted Avaya Interactive Response.
  • Predictive Dialer—Avaya’s Predictive Dialing System
    allows contact center managers to view outbound data at the agent or
    campaign level, and it can be integrated with an ACD for blended
    programs that combine inbound and outbound contacting.
  • Quality and Workforce Optimization Tools—Avaya offers
    workforce optimization tools through its Aura product.
  • Analyst Insight—Avaya offers a data reporting and
    analytics engine to help evaluate performance and manage operations.

Genesys. Genesys, a subsidiary of
telecom equipment giant Alcatel-Lucent, offers the following contact
center products:

  • Turnkey Solution—Genesys offers a suite of contact
    center products and solutions for inbound and outbound voice, Web chat,
    e-mail, social media, and self-service channels, and it includes tools
    for supervisors and managers, such as workforce management applications.
    Genesys also offers a scaled down version for small and mid-sized
    businesses contacted the Express Suite.
  • Agent Desktop—Genesys Agent Desktop provides a GUI
    through which agents can access CRM programs from Microsoft, Oracle, and
    SAP. The company also offers a supervisor version.
  • Multi-Channel Support Platforms—Genesys offers Web
    chat and email management platforms for contact centers looking to
    branch out into multi-channel support.
  • Remote Agent Tools—The company recognizes the trend
    toward at-home agents and offers a product contacted IP Remote Agent
    that allows agents connect into the contact center systems from anywhere
    in the world.
  • Self-Service Tools—Genesys offers a self-service
    voice platform for contact center environments. It allows contacters
    with simple requests to get the information they need from an automated,
    self-help service, while those with more complicated requests are routed
    to live agents.
  • Workforce Management—Genesys Workforce Management
    includes modules for forecasting, scheduling, and performance tracking.
  • Social, Mobile and Cloud Services—Genesys has
    extended their offerings to provide support especially for mobile and
    social media customers.

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Call centers will play an increasingly critical role for businesses in
practically every industry in the coming years. It is far less expensive
to grow additional revenue out of existing customers than it is to acquire
new ones, so companies will need to work aggressively to retain their
customers, keep them happy, and maximize the amount of money they are
spending – all of which are functions that a contact center can perform.

At the same time, contact center operators will continue to aggressively
seek ways to cut costs and make their operations more efficient, and the
three primary ways they can do this is by discovering new, low-cost labor
markets, improving internal processes, and investing in new technologies.

Pursuit of Cheaper Labor

Outsourcers and companies who operate their own contact centers are
constantly looking for the next potential hot labor market. Despite the
stigma against it, India is still the
number one location for offshore contact center outsourcing, but the
number of contact center seats in the Philippines is growing at an
explosive rate. As the Philippine market becomes more populated, contact
center operators will have to fight harder to recruit and retain agents,
and since high attrition rates can lead to poor customer service and
larger expenses, some companies may start to look elsewhere.

There are already a handful of emerging markets for contact center
locations. Some of the nations in Central and South America are becoming
popular because they offer lower-cost labor but are easier to travel to
than places like the Philippines. Other contact center companies are
looking to replicate the success they have found in the Philippines
by going to other markets in the region, such as Vietnam,
South Africa, and parts of Eastern Europe
are also developing

According to data gathered by the Everest Research Institute, the market
for offshore contact center services has been growing at a CAGR of about
10 percent. That figure, however, is conservatively estimated to reach 25
percent in areas like the Philippines and Eastern Europe as these markets
become more attractive options.

For those contact centers in the United States, increasing costs have led
many to relocate away from major metropolitan areas. Places like Idaho,
Eastern Washington, and rural areas of the Midwest are appealing for their
ability to position the center as a major employer that has access to
well-educated, low-cost labor.

Emerging Technologies

Call center companies will continue to embrace technology as a way to
improve the way businesses interact with their customers and as a way to
reduce costs while making their operations more efficient. At the front
end of a contact center business, technologies like automated voice
messaging allow companies to literally send millions of automated messages
every day, significantly increasing their contact capabilities while
reducing the need for live bodies making phone contacts. On the back end,
software companies continue to improve upon workforce management and
quality assurance tools, helping contact centers staff their operations
more efficiently, reduce turnover, and improve agent productivity. Call
recording and quality monitoring grew at a rate of nearly 10 percent,
mostly due to companies expanding their systems for full contact logging
to meet regulatory requirements. Speech and emotion analytics solutions
are projected to grow at a rate of about 30 percent over the next year.

Mobile devices, such as those using the Apple iOS and the Android
operating systems, have led to an increase in the willingness of customers
to use self-service tools. Of course, their continued willingness and
ability to do so is directly dependent on the availability and
functionality of the mobile sales and support application developed by an
organization. Additionally, artificial intelligence technology is likely
to be added to call center strategies in the coming years. Customers are
looking to be part of a comprehensive, proactive relationship with product
and service providers that provide innovative and easy-to-use customer
contact technologies, which often include cloud configurations.

Quality is Everything

Quality assurance tools are emerging as a critical part of the contact
center. Call recording and blind monitoring are essential tools for
managers and supervisors to be able to gauge agent performance and address
potential issues before they turn into problems or customer complaints.
All of the contact center quality initiatives roll up into performance
metrics, and the various tools that aggregate and provide reports on key
performance indicators are becoming more complex. Today, contact center
managers have the ability to drill down into contact data to look at
average handle time, average wait time, fist-contact resolution and other
areas at a macro, contact-center level or at a micro level that provides
data at the agent level on a monthly, weekly, daily, per-shift, hourly
basis. This data can even be broken down to increments as small as every
15 minutes

Call center operators are also placing increasing emphasis on adequate
staffing and scheduling as a way to maximize efficiency. Most of the
workforce management packages available today include modules to manage
multiple contact center facilities, create intricate contact distribution
and allocation schemes, and manage agent sick, holiday, and training
times. Some of these application suites can be integrated with other
contact center metrics to provide a true 360-degree performance

Expanding Communication Channels

The continual investment in technology will also allow companies to
develop new ways to interact with their customers. Call centers are still
feeling pressure to migrate from traditional contact centers, in which
their primary connection with the customer was via phone, to IP-based
contact centers that offer a full 360-degree range of options for the
customer. Initially, this shift has meant that the customer can now reach
the company via Instant Messaging, e-mail, phone, or fax. The push is on,
however, to now include voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) and wireless
support capabilities. However, most customer contact with a company is
still via phone, although companies continue to encourage the other forms
of customer contact as they tend to be more cost effective and place a
smaller time burden on the agents handling the transaction.

Also, as more companies focus on business processes and integrated
customer service, they will continue to invest in technologies that expand
the reach of the contact center to support IP telephony, Internet chat and
virtual assistant applications, e-mail integration, and automated response

Of course, the proliferation of social media sites like Twitter and
Facebook have changed how organizations can communicate with clients and
prospects. No consensus exists on how the contact center will use these
forums to improve interaction with their customers, but every major
technology vendor is considering their options for how to integrate these
capabilities into the next version of their solution. In fact, the social
CRM market has expanded since its inception in 2010 to enable interaction
and communication with clients through social media channels.

But it’s not enough to simply have all of these channels available. The
key is in their integration. If a customer is on the website and gets
stuck, they want to contact in to a contact center representative or have
a live chat with a virtual assistant who knows where they were searching
and what issue they may be having without having to explain the whole
story. In short, a full 360-degree approach to client communications is
imperative, but it must be viewed holistically, not with each form of
communication as mutually exclusive.

Tiered Support Services

As a result of the huge surge in contact center offshoring over the past
decade, many business-to-business customers are demanding a level of
service higher than consumers. For example, they want commitments that
their contacts will be answered by an agent whose native language is
English or one who is domiciled in the United States. This demand has
prompted companies to create a tiered services structure, with low-level
contacts going to an offshore outsourcer and high-priority contacts going
to in-house representatives. In many cases, the demand is strong enough
that the contact center can charge a premium to these business clients.

Emergence of the Cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) Model

Small contact centers or corporate departments that have small contact
center groups may not be able to budget for top-of-the-line contact center
technology solutions. Many providers have developed these systems and
offer them in a hosted format. Quite simply, the contact center would
access a solution that resides on the hosting company’s server and only
pay on a monthly or per-usage basis. Organizations that do not have deep
pockets or access to significant amounts of cheap capital, which a lot of
these solutions require, can obtain the functionality without buying it.
Furthermore, companies looking to test different solutions can do so for a
period of time using a hosted model, helping them avoid major pitfalls
when they actually decide to purchase the system outright.

Integrating Call Center Data with the Rest of the Enterprise

Business Intelligence. As contact centers deploy new
technologies to manage customer relationships and sales programs, they
have recognized an opportunity to expand their business intelligence
capabilities. For example, by linking the marketing and product
development business units with the contact center, organizations can
establish a direct link with the consumer, gaining vital knowledge of
product benefits and defects, customer concerns, and even recommendations
for new features or product enhancements. Tools such as speech analytics
in combination with a full-time recording solution allow these other
business units to search thousands of hours of customer interaction to
find this mission-critical information that may otherwise take months or
years and millions of dollars to glean from surveys and focus groups.

Customer Survey Data. Organizations have also begun to
recognize that contact center customer feedback, both scripted and
unscripted, is critical to making organizational changes and service
enhancements to ensure excellence in service delivery and customer
satisfaction. Formal surveys are becoming the trend to identify agent
performance and client satisfaction after telephone contacts, Web
transactions, and in-store purchases by offering customers incentives to
complete the surveys. As mentioned, speech analytics solutions and
text-based searches of live chat transactions can provide the organization
with important and timely customer information regarding new product
launches, service issues, and customer demands without the expense and
aggravation of initiating a formal market survey.

Collaborative Business Model. As the concept of
virtualization grows with the advent of cloud services, companies are
looking for ways to leverage the talent and deep knowledge base they
already have in place across the organization. These new technologies
enable the business to unleash the potential of the workforce by smashing
traditional silo-based departmental barriers. Cross-functional resources
that do not report in to the contact center can be accessed in real-time
to take action, resolve issues, and help close sales that, in the past,
would require multiple conversations or transactions. This paradigm shift
can have a huge impact on the customer experience.

Mid-Market Growth

The major players in the industry have focused almost solely on
enterprise accounts when selling technology and services. Now, however,
they are developing trimmed down version of their solutions to position
them for the mid-size company. As an example, Avaya has acquired Agile
Software and now has multiple contact center offerings for the mid-market
account. They aren’t the only ones either. Cisco, Aspect, and Alcatel all
have solutions for this space.

Agent Recruiting

One of the biggest challenges faced by any contact center director is in
hiring and retaining quality talent. With a decades-high unemployment rate
and the number of older workers electing to go into semi-retirement
because of massive losses in the equity markets, the pool of quality
candidates is increasing sharply. With a targeted recruitment strategy, a
contact center can bring in top-notch candidates that have a wealth of
business experience for a fraction of the cost simply because they offer
benefits, flexible scheduling, and other amenities that are appealing to
older and semi-retired workers. Another key element in attracting quality
talent is the expansion of the virtual agent or at-home agent model. The
virtual agent model has exploded in recent years, with some reports
estimating a two-fold growth in the past three years alone.

Regulatory and Tax Legislation

Offshore outsourcing, particularly for companies domiciled in the United
States or the European Union, is driven predominately by tax rates and
regulatory restrictions. Consider that the U.S. corporate tax rate in 2014
was the third highest in the world, at 39.1 percent, with France, Belgium,
Germany, Spain, and Canada not far behind with corporate tax rates at
approximately 30 percent or more. Countries that obtain a significant
amount of business from the United States and Western Europe include India
(20 percent tax for contact center and technology services), China (25
percent tax), Poland (19 percent tax), and Ireland (12.5 percent tax).
This difference in tax rates gives other countries a marked advantage in
their ability to deliver contact center and support services at a lower
cost while earning a profit.

To adjust to changing legislation, smaller call centers may elect to
reduce the number of hours scheduled for each call center employee,
enabling them to change the classification to part-time. Part-time workers
below 30 hours per week can be left off the healthcare plan, and with
rapidly rising healthcare costs – a combination of the ongoing annual
double-digit cost increase coupled with the additional taxes and costs
inherent in the legislation – this is a simple and fast way to reduce
overheads. Call center executives need to keep abreast of regulatory and
legislative proposals that could have a dramatic impact – for better or
for worse – on their current contact center and customer service
operations model.

Strategic Planning Implications

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Market trends in recent years have provided significant flexibility and
adaptability to contact center managers to operate their businesses more
effectively and to understand customer needs more thoroughly. The rapid
market growth that seemed to come so easily throughout the 1990’s and into
the 2000’s is no more. Companies cannot simply just show up to win in
today’s challenging economic climate. They must compete, and a critical
element today is the entire customer experience. Much of the technological
innovation today is centered on providing an optimized and seamless
customer experience across all channels. But even with the technology, the
real question is whether your company is ready to meet the challenge in a
few key areas:

  • Organizational structure to position the right people at the right
    place and time.
  • Executive leadership and top-down strategies.
  • Change acceleration with adoption and full buy-in from stakeholders
    across the organization.
  • Process optimization to ensure that the practices in place are aligned
    with the stated goals and objectives.
  • Innovation to continually seek new and better ways to drive excellence
    across the customer experience management function.
  • Empowerment for each team member, starting from entry-level service
    representatives all the way up to the leadership team, to make business
  • Belief in the company and product or service brand that can transform
    service issues into opportunities.

Technologies can play a huge part in this process, and they can be
deployed quite easily and cheaply today. However, planning and execution
are still very important. The decision to implement new technology or to
outsource to an offshore vendor is not made in a vacuum, and they are not
good decisions just because they are currently popular. It is a process
that should be deliberate, considering long-term business strategies as
well as short-term tactical goals. For example, during the initial surge
in offshoring, many companies became so excited by the prospect of
reducing their customer care costs by 40 percent or more that they quickly
jumped on the opportunity. However, after a period of time, they began to
realize that they had just relinquished control of a core business
function that was their only link to the customer and, as a result,
completely lost touch with what their customers were looking for. Also,
many contact centers implement technology because it is flashy, but they
fail to incorporate robust business processes that ensure the return on
investment that was originally touted.

So, if a small center is looking to expand quickly but lacks the capital
and manpower to do so, offshoring and homesourcing are viable options.
However, consideration must be made for future growth. Will 100 percent of
contact center activity be handled by the outsourcer, and will the company
outsource to one market or will they have a truly global presence? Will
the contact center methodically increase its in-house staff and use the
outsourcer simply as a stop-gap measure to meet today’s demand and
possibly allow them to help with supplemental work in the future? If
manpower is not a concern, is a hosted solution appropriate? Or is the
organization committed to purchasing the technology and to investing
considerably more to ensure proper implementation, integration, and
ongoing training?

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