Monday, February 18, 2013

What Is Next In The Call Center BPO Market?



The Philippines was considered the new frontier of high quality off shore contact center support operations, and for the most part it was.  It did not have the extreme accent India brought to the table, and found a culture that LOVED the U.S. and all our craziness.  But, with that love of our culture has also sped up the pace of the formation of a middle class in the Philippines, specifically Manila.
It may sound odd, but the middle class formation and growth is the kiss of death for call centers in countries like the Philippines.  The reason is that people begin to want more, and when a center is willing to pay $.10 - $.15 more they jump ship, many times still during training.  In the last six months I have heard from countless consultants and client's beginning to complain seriously about the attrition levels in training and post training they are beginning to experience in their Manila sites.
These drastic increases in attrition has opened up some huge opportunities for other parts of the world, specifically in Latin America, the Caribbean, South Africa and yes even the U.S.A.  Many organizations like Discover Card, have decided to stop playing with the offshore model and bring it all home to the U.S.  This has allowed them to produce a HUGE marketing blitz technique, that looking at their stock prices seems to be working.  But, for some companies U.S. labor rates are just not possible to work inside of.  For these organizations I have been seeing an extremely growing interest into Latin America and the Caribbean, where labor markets are extremely plentiful and cost is very low relative to the U.S.
So what does this mean for the call center market as we look forward into 2013 and 2014?  In my opinion we are going to see one major shift, and one subtle, but impactful shift.
Major Shift:
Organizations are beginning to separate out different lines of communications between multiple carriers.  Many times this is being done strategically so they can place non-verbal support (Email, Web-Cat, SMS, etc...) in countries with great English grammar and technical abilities, but accent issues for the U.S. market (a.k.a. - India).  I see this trend growing, and you will begin to see countries like India get a resurgence of BPO once again, but not with voice support but non-verbal support.  As for the verbal support I see this beginning to move back to the country of origin, or to a near-shore support model, depending on budget availability for verbal support.
This shift will be a great opportunity for companies that have support centers in multiple countries, and the management abilities to control a program worldwide.  This way their client can take advantage of the specialization of the country and the labor costs, but not have to deal with managing multiple vendors.  But, as we know the list of companies who can support this environment is limited, and many organizations steer clear of them.  This then leads me to subtle, but impactful shift.
Subtle, But Impactful Shift:
One of my favorite sayings used to be, "No one ever got fired for hiring/buying IBM."  In the call center market you could replace IBM with Convergys, West, Aegis, Stream, or a few other global juggernauts of the call center market.  But, looking forward I can see this saying, like in the IT world beginning to break down.  These companies do offer a great international support solution to their customers, but what they miss is the ability to be "boutique."
In an era of customer service departments beginning to take on a look of marketing, IT, customer service and help desk; the old models are beginning to become extinct.  Today companies want a contact center that cannot just support their client's but become their company and culture.  As any BPO executive knows this is MUCH harder than it may sound.  To take on a culture, you must have a culture in your organization that allows for sub-cultures to be introduced and allowed to grow.  This is something many of the big BPO companies have not been able to master, and honestly may never be able to.
So the subtle switch I see coming quickly is the introduction of the new IBM approach.  LOL!  I even chuckled when I had to write it, but it is true.  IBM a few years back finally realized that they really are not the experts at everything, and that there are people and companies who do things better than they do.  So their approach has become to focus on what they are best at, and to bring in other organizations that are even better at other aspects of the project to help.  What this means to the BPO market is the introduction of contact center management companies who can piece together and manage multiple centers for client's to build the ultimate solution.
Just imagine the ability to run your DRTV program with a DRTV specialty center near shore, your web chat and email with a center in India or the Philippines, technical support through a boutique specialty center in the U.S. with escalation in India and finally customer service in a center in the U.S. and near shore to keep costs down, but provided that next level support.  Now imagine all this being managed by one company for you, so rather than making 5 - 6 calls to vendors you just make one.  This is the future in my opinion, and something we are already starting to see take place.
To Your Success & Prosperity!
Originally Published on Creative Business Mind Blog
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