Tag: contact center outsourcing

Call Centers in the Cloud: Offering Savings and New Operating Models | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

Migration to a cloud-based contact center model offers the potential to drive hard total cost of ownership (TCO) reduction and the flexibility to rework existing business models. And both cost savings and business agility are very timely for the contact center space, as more businesses continue to shift from a protectionist, recession-minded framework to actively looking to invest in customer relationships and growth strategies.

Recent Everest Group client work has demonstrated that TCO savings enabled by migration to next generation contact centers can be in the 20-30 percent range for some organizations. These cost savings are realized through several structures. Approaching a contact center as software-as-a-service (SaaS) provides optimal call center capacity in a pay-as-you-drink model wherein there is a dynamic and continuous balance of capacity and utilization. Converting the physical capacity of call centers and server space to a paid service in the cloud allows enterprises to shift expense from capital to operational. The digital nature of cloud contact centers can also reduce telecommunications costs, transforming expensive long-distance routing into the more cost effective Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution. Additionally, cloud contact centers shift the weight of software maintenance and feature development to the vendor.

Call centers have long taken the spotlight for their cost savings potential. The last decade has seen the popularization of outsourcing call centers to lower-cost geographies that offer savings in wages and capital expenditures. More recently, the technology landscape has sufficiently evolved for the next iteration of call centers – the contact center – to emerge. The contact center is driven by next generation technology that, through data enablement, allows for the retention and improvement of traditional voice service while embracing popular emerging communications such as email, chat, and text. While companies such as Liveops, Echopass, and inContact are on the forefront of the technology change, a wide range of legacy players such as Genesys, AT&T, and Avaya are also offering mixed solutions that embrace the move to cloud.

Data enablement provides a platform for several of the key features that define next generation contact centers. The data-enabled platform offers managers new levels of transparency of their contact centers, from high-level aggregations down to real-time, item-by-item granularity. The enabling tools include recording, quality monitoring, workforce management, talent management, surveys, and analytics. For example, a recent Everest Group provider client used cloud-based tools to more accurately forecast call volume and better manage utilization rates for its customers, and consequently improved its SLAs.

The benefits to the contact center workforce are no less substantial: increased automation, workflow scripting, security, and compliance management all contribute to a reduction in errors, reduction in cost, and, ultimately, an increase in customer satisfaction. No small part of next generation contact centers is the enhanced integration of today’s multi-channel communication environment. The fragmentation of communication through voice, text, chat, emails, etc., are all captured by cloud-based contact centers and refocused into simple, manageable, and transparent modes of communication for the workforce. For example, a buy-side Everest Group client was highly incentivized to move to a next generation IT platform for its call centers because the new technology in a digital environment allowed for future development of several services previously unattainable.

Many of the cost savings associated with next generation contact centers are rooted in virtualization and the ascension to the cloud. Converting physical call centers into virtual enterprises allows for decentralization of the workforce, which in turn provides access to pools of employees previously unavailable. The same phenomenon even allows for workforce sourcing to swing back domestically while maintaining cost savings. A key benefit of the cloud model is scalability; erratic call volumes, seasonal spikes, and disaster recovery can all be handled dynamically without down-time or volume-ceilings, and the pay-per-use element allows costs to reflect actual usage.

There are, however, several caveats that should be taken into account before certain cost savings can be realized. The cost of data-enabling a workforce must be balanced against the cost savings of closing physical locations, as well as against the increased revenue realized only through data enablement. For example, Everest Group recently conducted research for an enterprise in which the cost of maintaining call centers in other countries was less expensive than data-enabling the entire workforce. As a result, the firm recommend a phased approach wherein select call center workers were data-enabled, allowing them full use of the company’s new cloud platform to capture a new revenue source.

So, how can you tell which enterprises should shift to a cloud contact center model? Those that meet the following general criteria may be able to reap substantial savings:

  • Possess numerous or expensive physical call centers
  • Seek potential revenue from digital-based services
  • Have a highly centralized workforce
  • Desire to convert capital expenses to operational expenses

How Cloud is Transforming the Call Center | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

While the cloud is increasingly causing disruption and driving transformation in nearly all corners of today’s organizations, the call center is one of the most interesting and impactful to date.

Call center environments are comprised of a variety of systems including interactive voice response (IVRs), automatic call distributors (ACDs), and outbound dialers, conventionally provided by large technology vendors such as Avaya, Cisco, and Genesys. Traditional call center infrastructure tends to possess all the classic financial characteristics of legacy enterprise IT, e.g., significant upfront commitments, expensive customization and support, inflexibility, etc. Backend software and databases also carry the generally high price tags and requisite customization associated with standard enterprise IT platforms.

As with nearly every enterprise IT category, a new set of vendors that deliver core contact center functionality via software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery models has emerged. These include newer market entrants such as LiveOps, EchoPass, and Five9, and legacy players, such as InContact and Siemens. Reseller agreements have also been established, e.g., Siemens resells InContact’s cloud platform.

The cost value proposition for cloud contact centers typically constitutes a no-brainer for both small and large enterprises alike. For example, usage-based pricing, movement from brick-and-mortar to work-at-home or micro call centers, altered training and retention models, and decreased capex, maintenance, and support costs all are major contributors to total cost of ownership (TCO) reduction. Moreover, in some cases cloud service providers can offer enterprises more attractive telco rates than they can obtain on their own. In addition, enterprises comfortable with voice-over-IP (VOIP) performance and reliability can unlock yet another level of value by migrating from pure voice. Taken together, cloud contact centers can reduce TCO for many enterprise call center environments by 30-50 percent.

While the cost value proposition is compelling, the most interesting part of the story is the transformative operational flexibility that cloud contact centers provide. Think agent desktop functionality provided via a browser, ease of moving agents to alternative working environments, and the relative simplicity of modifying and configuring business rules and skill profiles.

Enterprises have historically had two options: operate the call centers themselves, or outsource call center operations to a third party service provider. The cloud offers an interesting third option in which an outsourced recruitment and management model, combined with a new, cloud-based model, creates a unique combination of flexibility, control, and comparatively low non-fixed costs.

So if the cloud-based call center story is so great, why aren’t more enterprises doing it? Three big reasons:

  • Product cycles for call center hardware can be 10 years or longer. Thus, many enterprises are choosing to defer migration until they face an on-premise, full asset depreciation decision point. This same dynamic has slowed migration to infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) models in some enterprises.
  • No major cloud contact center provider yet provides a truly end-to-end contact center management solution. While the cloud vendors mentioned above all provide core IVR, ACD and call handling capabilities, third-party cloud provider partners must still support areas such as workforce management and scheduling. Integrating multiple cloud services may not deter early adopters, but many enterprises will prefer a more turnkey solution.
  • Cloud-based contact centers face the same data security and compliance questions as do other cloud services. That agents are operating in work-at-home environments where managers have less control heightens these concerns in some enterprises. While in most cases cloud vendors can address security and compliance issues, the uncertainty perceptions still exist within many buyer organizations.

Too often, the topic of cloud and enterprise transformation gets stuck in the realm of the esoteric and theoretical. Despite the above adoption inhibitors, cloud call center platforms are refreshing because they provide a clear, tangible path to real transformation.

The Changing Delivery Location Landscape of the UK Contact Center Market | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

To participants in and watchers of the UK contact center market, it’s obvious there are many changes afoot. These include the third-party service provider landscape, the nature of outsourcing deals, and the maturity of buyers.

One of the key changes Everest Group is seeing is in the locations UK buyers are leveraging for their contact center activities. Let’s examine the contributing elements.

Offshoring

UK companies only offshore 10-15 percent of their contact center work, which in actual job numbers equates to 70,000 to 90,000. Consider this quantity in contrast to the U.S., which offshores greater than 25 percent/400,000 to 500,000 contact center jobs – a comparison we make given English as the common delivery language – and the fact that offshore locations offer 70-80 percent cost arbitrage advantage over locations in the UK There are two clear reasons for the limited share of contact center offshoring from the UK:

  • Increasing buyer maturity often leads to increasing openness to move from outsourcing to offshoring. But as adoption of outsourcing in the UK has been relatively narrow due to comparatively lower buyer maturity levels, offshoring uptake has also been limited.
  • UK buyers place heavy emphasis on cultural and accent similarity, and native English language speakers. Although the U.S. has comfort level with the Philippines as a key go-to destination for contact center delivery, the UK has not yet found its “Philippines.” Indeed, while India still has the majority of offshored UK contact center jobs, pure voice delivery has decreased over the years, with buyers increasingly leveraging the country’s capabilities for non-voice contact center services such as website, e-mail, and chat support.

UK contact centers

However, the forward-looking view on offshore locations for the UK contact center market is much more promising. There is increasing acceptance of South Africa as a delivery location for voice-based and domain specific delivery (e.g., insurance), due to accent similarity and strong cultural affinity. Recent market activity, such as the Serco-Shop Direct deal, WNS’ acquisition of Fusion, and Capita’s purchase of Full Circle are indicators of this affinity. We expect India to continue its uptake of non-voice contact center services from the UK.

Onshoring/Nearshoring

Contact center work within the UK is moving to low-cost locations in Northern England and to other areas such as Scotland and Northern Ireland. While there is still a higher concentration of contact centers in Southern England (the Greater Thames region), this is more of a legacy effect rather than the result of new or recent activity. The new/greenfield activity is largely moving contact center work up north to Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, and Newcastle-Gateshead in England, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Kilmarnock in Scotland, and Belfast and Londonderry in Northern Ireland, driven by:

  • Lower operating cost
    • Salary: Locations in Northern England (e.g., Liverpool) offer 5-10 percent savings over established locations in Southern England (e.g., Twickenham), and locations in Scotland and Northern Ireland (e.g., Glasgow and Belfast) offer 10-15 percent savings
    • Real estate cost: Real estate rentals in the northeast (e.g., Newcastle) and northwest (e.g., Liverpool) are 10 percent lower than in the south of England (e.g., Twickenham); and rentals in Northern Ireland are 30-50 percent lower than locations in England
  • Sizeable agent pool: Birmingham and Leeds, for example, have considerable talent pools (40,000-70,000 experienced contact center agents)
  • Lower attrition and unemployment: Established locations (e.g., south of England) have higher contact center attrition and unemployment rates relative to other regions in the UK, thus influencing movement to areas north of England
  • Government incentives: Most less-established locations in the UK offer multiple incentives programs, such as employment and training grants, for contact centers. This makes their value proposition competitive, especially for greenfield operations. For example, Northern Ireland provides a one-time incentive of GBP 3,000-7,000 per job created in this sector

UK Locations leveraged by leading service providers

UK contact center locations

Everest Group believes that while onshore/nearshore delivery of UK contact center services will continue to remain the predominant model over the next three to five years, offshoring will grow faster. Buyers’ comfort with the offshore model, particularly with alternatives to India, such as South Africa, for voice-based services is likely to increase. Cost pressures are liable to propel buyers to adopt offshoring and other low-cost delivery alternatives, such as less expensive locations within the UK Finally, the market movement toward multi-channel contact center delivery capabilities, resulting in higher usage of web, chat, and e-mail customer support, will further support the growth of offshore delivery.

Request a briefing with our experts to discuss the 2022 key issues presented in our 12 days of insights.

Request a briefing with our experts to discuss our 2022 key issues

How can we engage?

Please let us know how we can help you on your journey.

Contact Us

  • Please review our Privacy Notice and check the box below to consent to the use of Personal Data that you provide.