Executive Interview : Probir Geoffrey Dutt, International Director - Convergys on 2013/2014
We caught up with Probir for our annual 1to1 update - a look back at the industry in 2013 and looking ahead to 2014
In your opinion, what has been the greatest challenge the contact center industry has faced in the last 12 months?
The greatest challenge to the contact centre industry in the last 12 months in Australia domestically has been the ever increasing cost of operating locally. We’ve had the strong dollar, exceptionally high labour costs, real estate costs growing at record rates and enterprise bargaining agreements that add even further to an already uncompetitive commercial landscape. Of course this does not only affect the contact industry but local manufacturing and services generally. The artificial labour market costs in Australia are simply not sustainable. We need to either address the fundamental economic pillars affecting operating expenditure and realign the cost base to gain some semblance of global competitiveness (almost certainly not going to happen) or accept that offshoring is a fait de compete.
Why do you believe has this been a challenge?
This has become a challenge over the last few years. When I moved to Australia from the UK back in 2005 the cost base here was much more competitive than the UK and at least equal to that of the US where I’d lived before. A few years after that costs began to rise and they haven’t stopped. We need to decide whether or not we want a local industry. If we do then the current legal regime will have to change.
In 2013, what do you think will be the top priorities in the contact center industry for each of the following :
2013 will no doubt bring opportunity and reward. (a) For Australian Contact Centre Directors the top priorities should all be about Net Promotor Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT). We need to ensure that our operators realise that every customer contact interaction needs to be an evangelical moment regardless of whether it’s a sales or service call. We also need to focus more on First Call Resolution (FCR), I’m still amazed that some call centres here don’t measure this, it is a key to operational efficiency and specifically contact mitigation. Lastly from an operational stand point is recruiting the right people right throughout the organisation. We often try and squeeze recruitment costs down but this can often lead to the wrong hire and is clearly a false economy. It’s just one of those many cases where the cheapest option will end up costing you more.
(b) For Company Executives in the Australian board room the biggest priority is about how to manage the business cost effectively when labour rates and real estate costs are against you. The big decision here is how much of the operations stay onshore and how much go offshore. Going offshore is not just about saving on the hourly rate, it’s more about enabling resources to deliver more effectively what you can’t do onshore. Executives that decide to go offshore simply for the cost will often fail, executives that go offshore to enable greater resource levels will succeed.
(c) IT Directors will have the same fundamental priorities year on year, that is to provide the most appropriate technology infrastructure at the time of need in order to provide the required service. Easier said than done! With the technology landscape changing faster pretty much every quarter, ROI models need to show promise within months not years. The biggest issue in IT is managing change, the problem we have more so in 2014 than any other year is we know that some of our solutions are fast becoming obsolete yet we don’t know what the new solutions look like yet. Some might argue that social media is a point in hand with everyone espousing about the imminent death of Facebook whilst using it as a service channel. We know we may well need a new channel and support that channel yet we don’t know what that channel is yet.
(d) Priorities for HR Directors will no doubt circle around the shift from on to offshoring for the Australian market place. HR within he contact centre industry I believe is our single biggest point of failure. Most HR professionals in the industry have not worked at the coal face and do not understand the nuances of the day to day operations. They have a great landscape view but often lack in depth. I would like to see more ex-operational contact centre people in HR as a priority.
What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the industry over the next 12 months?
What technology will have the greatest impact for 2014? I wouldn’t at all be surprised if it one that we haven’t yet heard of! Clearly Cloud is becomming more and more pervasive, IP telephony is getting better and better. I believe the most important technology for 2014 is Personalisation. This is one of the most exciting technologies I’ve come across for years and will really change the way we manage customer contact interactions. It enables an almost predictive level of service, how cool would it be if we knew what the calls problem was before they even made the call?
What impact have "external events" even had on your company, and how have you adapted your business?
The impact of external events are always a difficult one. We had some pretty horrible weather this year in the Philippines that affected many providers there, Fortunately the Convergys footprint and operating model meant that we had no down time at all operationally. The global economy should be seem by outsourcers as an opportunity either way. When times are good clients are looking to expand and look for partners to assist them. When times are bad clients are looking to do more with less and outsourcing often achieves just that.
What contact center technology or other innovation excites you the most as an Executive in the contact center industry?
Personalisation without a doubt is the most exciting innovation for 2014. Never before have we had the ability to combine big data access with customer contact interfacing to provide a level of service that will blow FCR through the roof, reduce AHT, take CSAT to the highest level and explode NPS to a height previously throughout unattainable. This is the future!
What has been the most important contact center related conversation topic in 2013 (last year) and what are your views on this?
The most important conversation topic of 2013 in Australia was whether to offshore or not. I believe the level of service tier 1 providers offer combined with the artificially high local costs make tat an easy question to answer.
What do you think will be the buzz word / focus for the contact center industry this year?
The buzz word for 2014 will be Personalisation. We will start using this concept as a service in itself, I think I’ve just invented a new phrase "Personalisation as a Service’!
Lastly, what do you think 2014 holds for the industry?
Every year we in the Customer Service industry need to reinvent ourselves and 2014 will be no different. It will be more challenging than 2013, we will need to have harder conversations, the landscape view might change even more but overall it’s going to be a great year.
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About Probir Geoffrey Dutt:
Probir Geoffrey Dutt is the International Sales Director for Global Contact Centre Management
Headquartered in Atlanta, Convergent is a business process outsourcing, revenue cycle and receivables management companies, with fourteen North American operating centers across all four time zones. The company has more than sixty years of history serving a diverse industry customer base, including contact center solutions, receivables management outsourcing, commercial receivables management and healthcare revenue cycle management. Convergent empowers its clients with an innovative combination of an adaptable workflow engine, technology-enabled operations, next-generation analytics and professional services to deliver superior financial performance and high levels of client and consumer satisfaction.
Published: Monday, January 27, 2014