Sharang Sharma, Author at Everest Group

What’s Driving All the Consolidation in the Contact Center Outsourcing Market? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

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Growth in the contact center outsourcing (CCO) market has slowed to ~4 percent – as compared to 5-6 percent a few years ago – primarily due to service providers’ focus away from the traditional cost-driven business model toward value-added services, omnichannel solutions, and high-value work that will shape the contact center market of the future. As it’s expected to take a few years for the new age solutions to reach maturity, providers across the board will have ample time to rejig their broader strategies with market realities, and come out on top of their game when the growth rate shifts again into higher gear.

The size of contract renewals has outgrown that of new contracts by almost three times over the past few years, implying that larger buyers are shifting their vendor management strategy, moving away from smaller contracts with multiple providers to a smaller group of providers handling larger parts of their operations. There has also been an increase in multi-geography contracts in the last several years, which indicates buyers are consolidating their global engagements across multiple countries to simplify their operations and offer a consistent customer experience.

Service providers are responding to this challenge by making sure they have adequate resources to meet the new buyer requirements. Many are doing so via acquisitions for scale and to fill capability gaps they may have, e.g., those related to value-added services, multi-channel capabilities, emerging geographies such as those in Asia Pacific and the Middle East, and rapidly growing verticals including travel & hospitality and healthcare.

Service provider acquisitions 2012 to 2016

Large service providers are also actively focusing on the United States as a buyer geography. In the last few years, we have seen multiple acquisitions primarily focused around the U.S. market. These include Alorica-EGS, Alorica-West Corporation, Convergys-Stream, and Teleperformance-Aegis. While at first glance the U.S. appears to be among the slowest growing geographies, one needs to remember that it accounts for almost half of the CCO market. As such, despite its low growth rate compared to other geographies, in absolute dollar terms the U.S. added more than US$1 billion in new business in 2015, one of the largest spending gains globally, and more than half the size of the entire Middle East CCO market.

Acquisitions aren’t just specific to the large service providers. Even the small and mid-sized players in the market are ramping up their capabilities and scale by absorbing smaller firms. For example, Capita and Webhelp have acquired several smaller firms within Europe, and Knoah Solutions, a comparatively smaller CCO player in the United States, acquired LL Contact Center in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to expand its nearshore capabilities.

With the move to a more digital contact center experience, the market dynamics have changed significantly in recent years. As customers move away from traditional offerings, service providers can no longer rely on their key strengths within a set of domains, and need to make sure they have capabilities across the board.

While the focus will remain on organic growth, acquiring it through inorganic means seems inevitable. We expect to see more consolidation in the market in the coming years, not only to reduce competition but also to improve margins and stabilize prices that are already under pressure due to the increasing role of automation and RPA. As such, we can expect several more M&As in the coming years, as service providers try to secure their place in the new world order of the digital customer experience and the changing CCO value proposition.

For an in-depth review of the CCO service provider landscape, please see our newly released 2016 CCO PEAK Matrix.

 

Adapting to Evolving Client Needs – the New Mantra of Growth for Smaller Contact Center Service Providers | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

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As a USD$70-75 billion market that has been growing steadily at 5-7 percent over the last few years, contact center outsourcing (CCO) has captured the interest of multiple non-CCO specialist service providers in the recent years. In fact, the more generalized ITO and BPO providers that have started CCO operations in the last decade have realized appreciable growth and success in recent years, some of them outdoing the market growth and growing in excess of 8 percent CAGR.

However, it’s not been an easy journey for these relatively new entrants, given their relative small scale and scope of operations compared to the incumbent players, some of which make billions in revenue through contact center services alone and have operations across all major geographies. To differentiate themselves, these new players have tried to stand out from crowd through innovation, and by tapping areas within the CCO space that have showed the maximum growth in the last few years and have emerged as value propositions for CCO clients.

Most of these high-growth players are, in fact, relatively smaller players, such as Genpact, HCL, HGS, TCS, and WNS. While many have had long-standing contact center capabilities, it has only been more recently that these firms have taken a more strategic go-to-market approach to pursuing the stand-alone CCO market. Their revenues from CCO operations are in the USD$100-450 million range, which is miniscule in size when compared to some of the bigger players such as Convergys and Teleperformance. To sustain their above market growth, these providers have adopted multiple steps to emerge as serious contenders. Instead of merely tapping the traditional CCO markets such as North America and Europe, these players have aggressively expanded their footprint in emerging buyer geographies such as Asia Pacific, Eastern Europe, and Middle East & Africa. By building their capabilities in languages specific to these areas, they have been able to cater to client demands better. They have also been making their presence felt in some of the fastest growing verticals in the CCO market, such as retail, healthcare, and travel & hospitality. Many of them have effectively leveraged their organization’s overall investments in vertical industry expertise to further enhance CCO capabilities and offerings. A key differentiator for many of these players is their ability to link the consumer interaction in the contact center with downstream industry-specific processes by delivering front-back office integrated solutions. These investments seem to have paid off well, as the revenues from these verticals have shown sharp growth for these service providers.

Our research shows that buyers are looking more towards building deeper working relationships with fewer CCO service providers. This means that buyers no longer expect service providers to just deliver on SLAs, but are looking for value beyond labor arbitrage. More contracts being signed now involve value-added processes, and include non-voice channels such as email, chat, and social media. To address these new value propositions, these high-growth players have invested in multiple technologies to build their capabilities in these domains. Most of them have leveraged their vast IT and BPO expertise to deliver solutions specific to contact center needs.

They have also made it a priority to focus on building strong relationships with their clients. They have performed quite strongly on Everest Group’s buyer satisfaction survey, and have frequently been cited for their flexibility, responsiveness, consistency, and execution. With buyers looking to consolidate their portfolio of work with fewer strategic partners, it becomes more essential to have a stronger client-service provider relationship, which the service providers can only achieve by walking that extra mile to keep clients happy with their services.

With the changing scenario in the CCO market, where the focus has shifted from improving the bottom line to adding more value to the operations and thus improving the top line for clients, scale can no longer be considered the primary metric for assessing a service provider. The focus has shifted to cost savings through process improvement and business outcomes, and this provides these relatively new generation high-growth players enough opportunity to prove their mettle in the market where they have been aligning their capabilities with changing client needs. Everest Group’s findings show that clients are taking notice and giving these providers a chance to prove themselves.


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