New research published by ContactBabel, the contact center industry analysts, reveals that there has been a significant drop in employment within the US contact center industry, which employs around 3.6% of the nation's working population. In 2009, headcount declined by 3.9%, equating to a net loss of just over 200,000 jobs.
"The US Contact Center Decision-Makers' Guide" is a major study of over 200 US contact center operations, sponsored by Cosmocom, inContact and Syntellect. Research for the report has found that after years of steady increase in headcount and investment, the economic downturn has stopped a great deal of the investment required by contact centers from actually being made, leading to a further negative effect on jobs.
This year, both Opex and Capex budgets have been cut, with 43% of respondents decreasing their Opex and 39% their Capex. Few have been able to increase their budgets by anything more than a small amount, and the tightening of Opex has meant that there has been a significant decrease in headcount as well.
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The next 12 months is expected to see a large rebound in agent figures, with respondents to the survey stating an average expected headcount growth rate of 5.7%, equating to a net gain of 290,000 jobs US-wide. Public Sector and Insurance respondents are least bullish, but the Services, TMT and Outsourcing sectors all expect significant increases in headcount.
The report's author, Steve Morrell, commented:
"The US contact center industry has run into a brick wall in the past 12 months, with investment plans being revisited and in many cases, mothballed until the economic climate has picked up. Even investments which had already been given a green light have often had to prove their worth again, with their potential for immediate cost-cutting being key to being given the go-ahead.
"However, in some ways, the contact center industry as a whole has been spared the worst of what has gone on in many businesses. Wholesale redundancies in customer service would have an immediate and negative effect on customer satisfaction and loyalty, with revenues decreasing accordingly. Although there has been a decline in headcount, many businesses have generally focused their cost-cutting on areas which are not immediately noticeable, such as training or the replacement of IT systems, although this approach stores up problems for the future.
"The general feeling, even in the contact centers that have decreased headcount, is that 2010 is expected to see a return to growth, certainly in headcount and, more tentatively, in IT investment as well."
About Steve Morrell:
Steve has written over 200 reports on the future of technology, people and business processes surrounding the contact centre industry, and is widely-quoted in industry journals and the international media as the author of key studies of the UK, US, Irish, South African and Indian contact centre markets.
About Contact Babel:
ContactBabel, a contact center and CRM analyst firm, was set up in 2000 by Steve Morrell, a leading expert on the contact center industry.
Published: Monday, December 14, 2009
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