Australia: Leading the Asia-Pac Pack
The contact center market is on the upswing down under. Australia has more than 4,400 contact centers that mostly serve its own 20 million-plus population, giving the country the highest ratio of contact centers per capita in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a report by Frost & Sullivan. The firm also estimates that the overall Asia-Pacific contact center market will roughly double in size by 2012, growing to encompass nearly 3.5 million agents by that point, up from about 1.8 million agents in 2006.
The report, "Australia Leading the Way: Understanding the major trends in the Australian contact centre industry," highlights four key trends that are shaping Australia's contact center landscape:
- contact center consolidation
- voice portals
- hosted contact centers
- unified communications
Australia's consolidation wave points to heightened interest in centralizing multiple brick-and-mortar sites to create a more virtual environment. "In the past, there were issues in having a large contact centre, issues with database access, training, physical limitations, etc.," writes Shivanu Shukla, an industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan, in an article based on the report. But innovations such as IP-based offerings are helping to eliminate these constrictions. "With new technologies and better network infrastructure, enterprises are looking into consolidating contact centres into one virtual contact centre," Shukla writes.
In addition, the emergence of voice portals--another market driver--is bringing attention to interactive voice response (IVR) offerings, particularly as the need for technology upgrades becomes more evident and open standards continue to gain traction with the Australian market. In fact, Frost & Sullivan forecasts that the market for self-service applications will flourish to more than US$26.4 million in six years, reflecting a compound annual growth rate of 9.1 percent from 2006 to 2013. "As existing IVR deployments reach end-of-life, contact centres in Australia are showing strong interest in using VXML-based voice portals that are capable of using speech applications, and can be easily used as part of the overall SOA [services-oriented architecture] strategy that CIOs in Australia are evaluating," Shukla writes.
Meanwhile, hosted contact center applications are also expected to help spur the market's growth--Frost & Sullivan predicts Australia will have more than 40,000 hosted contact center seats by 2009. "Hosted contact centres offer an operating expense model rather than a heavy capital expenditure that enterprises need to make in order to setup and run a contact centre," Shukla writes. "With the hosted model, contact centres can focus on running the operations, agent coaching, quality monitoring, etc., and not worry about the technical aspects of the operations."
Lastly, the concept of unified communications (UC)--although still in its infancy in Australia--is drawing interest from the market, thanks in large part to its focus on presence and collaboration to bolster productivity. For example, contact center reps can use presence to help locate experts within the support environment or beyond the contact center to help solve customer queries. "Australian contact centres are showing interest in SIP [session initiation protocol]-based contact centre solutions, and the idea of using presence information to integrate with the rest of the enterprise," Shukla writes. "Deployments with presence are yet to be seen, but it is anticipated that banks or technology companies would be the first users of such applications."
Unsurprisingly, similar market dynamics are shaping contact centers in other parts of the world, including the U.S.'s comparatively more mature market. Overall, though, Shukla anticipates Asia-Pacific's contact center market will experience steady growth in the next five to seven years. "Australia, despite being fairly saturated, holds strong promise as the industry in Australia is looking at new ways of improving customer satisfaction levels, optimise contact centrer operations and increase agent and contact centre productivity," she writes. "As contact centres transition from being isolated entities, to an integral and strategic part of the organisation, technology has a key role to play in this phase."
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