DNC Compliance and Overseas Investment Lead Call Center Agenda

The Telecommunications Industry Association, in conjunction with Wilkofsky Gruin Associates, has released its 2004 Telecommunications Market Review and Forecast. Of particular interest to CRM practitioners and strategists are the shifting investment trends made necessary by both market and legislative forces. Report coauthor David Wilkofsky says that election-year politics are likely to result in calls for stringent enforcement of various do-not-call rules. Part of the spreading impact of do-not-call restrictions will be an uptick in predictive dialer equipment sales, as telemarketers are forced to upgrade to more sophisticated systems to comply with regulations. "That's going to produce a near-term upward bump in the marketplace of double-digit increases in 2004 to 2005," says report coauthor Arthur Gruin. "I think this legislation is requiring folks to upgrade their systems to do more things than they thought they would need to." The TIA report calls for resumed slow but steady growth in IVR systems, scheduled to reach $1.9 billion in sales in 2007, with any potential spikes dictated by how quickly speech recognition matures. "The more outsourcing there is, the more automated voice response systems there are; and the more layoffs there are, the more automated voice response systems there are," Wilkofsky says. "There's a close correlation, and nothing in the near term says that it's going to change." According to the more than 200-page report, only about 1,000 U.S. call centers can be considered IP-based. The move to IP contact centers remains an incremental one, as equipment is slowly upgraded, although the report predicts that shipments of IP-based PBX systems will outstrip conventional PBX systems by 2006. "Some of this equipment is getting long in the tooth since people haven't been buying much in the last three to four years," Gruin says. "So we are looking for an acceleration of spending on IP." Driven largely by the wireless market, the TIA report predicts rapid growth in telecommunications spending in Latin America over the coming years, with spending expected to approach $200 million in 2007, compared to less than $130 million in 2003. Wilkofsky and Gruin say that so far, they are not seeing other regions bolster their telecommunications infrastructure in an attempt to compete with India and Asia for outsourcing, and noted that a substantial portion of ongoing investment in those territories will focus on human capital improvements rather than technology in the years to come. "A lot of Asian companies are spending money to improve the English language skills of their employees because a lot of complaints have been filed with vendors," Gruin says. "That's a very big issue."
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