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Monday, 23 February 2009 05:15

Tough times for contact centre outsourcing, but new sectors,markets offer expansion opportunities

By Staff Writers
The current economic downturn is expected to dampen demand in the Asia Pacific contact centre outsourcing market, with less new business and tightening budgets from existing customers in 2009, but it’s by no means all gloomy according to a report by consultants, Frost & Sullivan.

Countering the expected drop in new business and tighter budgets, there’s opportunities for expansion into new sectors and new markets and, say Frost & Sullivan, cost cutting is likely to lead to organisations outsourcing more of their processes, driving growth in the contact centre outsourcing industry in the mid to long-term.

According to Frost & Sullivan, the major growth opportunities for the contact centre outsourcing market are expected to come from expansion of existing client relationships; the creation of higher value offerings such as specialised knowledge processes, business intelligence and analytics; new services for the SMB market; and via consolidations such as mergers and acquisitions between smaller players.

And, the report says that within the Asia Pacific region Australia’s skill set makes it well placed to capitalise on some of these opportunities in contact centre outsourcing.

The findings, in the latest Market Insight from Frost & Sullivan - Contact Centre Outsourcing Trends In the Asia Pacific Market, 2008-2011 – also estimate that regional market value will grow from US$13.7 billion in 2008 to US$20.3 billion in 2011, with the majority of that revenue being generated in the growth markets of India, the Philippines, Malaysia and China.
According to Frost & Sullivan industry manager, Shivanu Shukla, in the short term, the impact of the global financial turmoil – especially amongst the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sector – “will make outsourcing budget cuts inevitable. While this is likely to lead to a slowdown in growth, continued pressure on financial institutions to curb capital costs will help to ensure existing outsourcing contracts are not scaled back.”

Shukla says the study predicts a short-term decline in offshoring activity, or the practice of relocating contact centre operations to outsourcing hubs as a means to control capital expense.  “In the medium-to-long term, however, large vertical markets including BFSI, telecommunications, high technology and airlines are expected to lead the return to offshoring as a means of outsourcing processes and curbing costs.  The US is the main source of offshore contracts carried out in Asia Pacific, while a number of Australian and New Zealand enterprises have also recently adopted the practice and this will help drive some regional growth in the next three years.

"When the last economic slowdown hit in 2001, offshore outsourcing was in its infancy, so this is the first recession that the industry has had to deal with. We've no precedent to fall back on, and without precedence, it is difficult to predict how the customers, vendors and outsourcers will react to the challenges ahead. In the short term however, there's a good chance that the outsourcers will outperform most, if not all of their customers' businesses."

The report notes that an increasing number of large outsourcers are offering combined voice and data solutions for customers, providing business process outsourcing services ranging across financial, accounting and human resource functions.
Frost & Sullivan says local Australian outsourcers such as Salmat, UCMS and Stellar have been offering similar services for nearly a decade but Australia's “high labour and operational costs have resulted in limited domestic demand” and, the firm cautions that “these players are unlikely to attract strong international market demand.”

Amongst the main growth markets, India is believed to be best poised to move up the value chain through its strategy of offering more data services to foreign clientele, the report claims.

Shukla says the report predicts growth in the small-to-medium business (SMB) market. “In the face of a recession, smaller players are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with larger multinationals and are turning to contact centres and outsourcing of processes to limit expense and tighten budgets.  This trend is already evident in Australia and is expected to continue to grow throughout the region.

“During 2008 SMB demand rose for both outbound telemarketing and inbound services, and all major players including Salmat, UCMS, Stellar, EDS, Teletech, Sitel and Teleperformance are optimistic that the SMB market will remain a growing revenue stream.”

The report concludes that the key technology trends within the industry in the past twelve months include growth in the deployment of self-service applications such as interactive voice response and speech technologies, IP and unified communications technologies and analytics tools for agent performance optimisation.

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