The Asia-Pacific continued to be a high-growth region for the contact center industry even during the global economic slowdown. New analysis from Frost & Sullivan showed that the region boasts 2.2 million agent seats in 2010 and estimates this to reach 4.2 million in 2017.
As the effects of the slowdown started receding in 2010, spending on customer service resumed among enterprises. In 2010, to meet rising customer demand, the region recorded a 8.5 percent growth in contact center agent seats, and by 2017, it is expected to have grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.5 percent, according to Frost & Sullivan.
Moreover, the economic downturn has placed greater emphasis on cost efficiency, making low-cost regions such as the Asia-Pacific the offshoring destination of choice among service providers. The key markets within the region include India, the Philippines, Malaysia and China. However, the level of competition is intensifying, with various Asian countries aiming for a competitive edge.
Along with the number of seats, agent numbers have increased, even though the high degree of attrition continues to pose a major challenge in the industry.
"To stand out from the competition, established participants are focusing more on knowledge-intensive business processes that require significant domain expertise, rather than simply relying on their success in the voice segment," says Frost & Sullivan Industry Manager Krishna Baidya.
The availability of a labor pool with substantial English and regional language skills, at lower costs, boosts offshore demand from the United States, the United Kingdom and within the Asia Pacific. Moreover, with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as large enterprises increasingly focusing on customer service as a key differentiator, the market is poised for considerable growth.
The investment per seat is higher in markets such as Australia, Singapore, South Korea and Japan, where costs and level of application sophistication are higher than those in China, India and other markets of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"There continues to be significant growth in domestic demand in developing markets and this is likely to remain a strong growth driver for the region, as these markets are evolving and focusing on high-quality customer service," adds Baidya.
Markets across the Asia-Pacific region also witnessed higher adoption of the Internet protocol (IP) technology due to their enterprises' desire to virtualize multi-site contact centers. Alternative models such as the hosted contact center service also experienced higher uptake with the pay-per-use model emerging an attractive cost-cutting measure. Such models offer enterprises the flexibility and scalability they desire without a huge up-front investment. The SMB segments are most likely to drive adoption of such new business models.
"There has been increased activity in self-service applications and there is a strong push towards using integrated voice response (IVR) as a tool for call resolution instead of call routing," notes Baidya. "The move towards self-service is not limited to just IVRs, but encompasses web self-service and mobile self-service to cater to customer preferences."
From a solutions perspective, call centre operators have started to explore integrated suites of quality monitoring, workforce management and analytics. Concurrently, more solution vendors are taking an integrated approach with their unified communications suites.
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