Contact Center Outsourcing: EMEA Bound

Countries in Central and Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East and Africa — the EMEA market, in other words — are poised to become the next hot spots of contact center outsourcing activities, according to projections recently published by Frost & Sullivan.

The market earned revenues of US$11.2 billion in 2006, according to the consulting firm. By 2012, it said, that number is estimated to reach $16 billion.

The growth of the Tunisia and South Africa markets may seem odd to the casual observer, but then so did Ireland in the early 1980s. Contact center outsourcing operations tend to seek the lowest-cost locales that can offer sufficient infrastructure and the necessary workforce skills.

By the end of the 1980s, Ireland had priced itself out of the market, and contact center operations spread to other countries, including India.

To be sure, there are still pockets of growth to be tapped in the “older” markets. “While the UK outsourcing market is very mature and has almost reached saturation, there are significant opportunities in other European nations,” Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Michael DeSalles told CRM Buyer.

“The Netherlands, along with Central and Eastern Europe, hold tremendous promise for new outsourcing contracts, especially in financial services, communications and information technology,” he noted.

Beyond Europe

However, the real growth is expected to occur in new outsourcing destinations. Frost & Sullivan points to Northern Africa — in particular, Egypt and Tunisia — as emerging areas for French-speaking customer care services. South Africa is becoming a favored destination for UK clients.

Companies establish call centers in markets based on cultural or language ties with their customers — for example, Eastern Europe is valued as a contact center destination particularly because so much of the population is fluent in several European languages.

Latin America is attracting investment by contact center outsourcers that are eager to harness the Spanish language skills so essential in many customer care operations.

Acquiring the Proper Skills

“Not unlike the trend in North America, enterprises serving customers in EMEA look to enhance customer experience through high-quality contact center interactions,” DeSalles said. “Customer retention activity is becoming more important, with growth in outbound calling to expand company value and branding with existing customers — and acquire new ones.”

This trend is also driving acquisitions in the industry, DeSalles told CRM Buyer in an earlier interview. It is getting harder to find, train and retain key contact center agents, he said, so some outsourcers resort to buying the necessary talent.

“We have seen this especially among contact centers that need Spanish-language skills to target the U.S. Hispanic market, he added.

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