A snapshot of the contact center industry as we enter 2006 brings into focus some interesting points. Here, in brief, are a few in particular that I've observed.
What It Was Like
The contact center industry continued to grow. However, the rate of that growth slowed appreciably and, in 2005, failed to match what we've seen in previous years. This decrease in the rate of growth, of course, is to be expected. It is a challenge for any industry to continue to record high levels of growth year after year. With an estimated 5,000,000 call center agents in the U.S. this is an industry with a very large base, and the greater the base the harder it is to maintain the high growth percentages we've seen in the past.
Internationalization of 3rd party business continued to seek out low cost regions, such as Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and has continued its expansion into India and the Philippines. Indications are that this trend will continue into the coming year.
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The greatest challenge faced by the contact center industry in 2005 was dealing with the lack of management talent, in particular at lower management levels. In general, team leaders, supervisors, and such receive very little training. This has contributed to an environment that breeds attrition that impacts on costs and on the service experience.
The big loser this year? End user satisfaction. This critical piece of contact center operational performance has been no better than in the past. Failure to do better is largely the result of few organizations willing to invest in what it takes to realize improvements in this area. There are exceptions, of course, but in general this is true of most companies. Appropriate compensation levels, training and development, and tool stability beyond the bare minimum are still not priorities. Until they are, customer satisfaction levels will fail to show improvement.
One of the things that will have the greatest impact on the industry over the next 12 months is working from home, which once considered experimental, will go mainstream. Not only because technology continues to provide the means, but owing to the fact that it works well in many environments. This, together with the cost efficiencies realized, makes it increasingly attractive. Along the same lines, chat and email continue to grow in the mix of business communication options.
Outsourcing and off-shoring will continue to be politically charged issues. While they continue to grow, they will remain the target of an abundance of negative press.
As someone involved in contact center operations and off-shore consulting for a good number of years, I offer this. Although outsourcing will continue to grow, some major companies are going to bring back "in house" significant percentages of outsourced business. Major companies that have outsourced big call/email volumes have already done so, others will follow suit. More firms will join those that have begun terminating contracts at their expiry because benefits have not proved to be as great as promised.
Customer Operations Performance Center Inc. (COPC) was founded in 1995 to focus on improving call center operations, monitoring practices in call centers, and training contact centers and vendors for certification. Today, COPC is a provider in CX operations providing consulting and performance improvement services globally.
Published: Monday, January 16, 2006