U.S. Contact Center Shipments Fall for Third Straight Year

Shipments of hardware and software for premises-based contact center agent positions in the United States dropped 3.6 percent in 2007, marking the third straight annual decline, according to the T3i Group LLC's latest "InfoTrack for Converged Applications" (ICA) research report. As if the U.S.-based market wasn't already feeling the sting, the report's author says that the decline may well continue this year -- and into 2009.

Shipments to the U.S. were down 5 percent in 2005 and 1 percent in 2006. Outsourcing, self-service capabilities, and hosted contact center solutions all contributed to the decline, according to the report. Some of the newer technologies, including Internet Protocol-base telephony and unified communications, have been available in the United States for some time, and it's a well-developed market, says Susan Hobart, vice president and senior research director.

Other reasons for the drop-off in this market over the last three years, according to Hobart, are the consolidation of contact centers and the increasing efficiency that equipment has provided for agents. For example, using IP telephony and unified communications equipment, an agent can quickly find a subject matter expert and transfer the call with the push of a button -- assuming the expert isn't occupied on another call -- rather than having to spend precious time trying to find an expert, transferring (and often losing the call) with older analog technology.

Aside from efficiencies, however, the onshore market may not have much to look forward to in the short term. "In the North American market, we expect shipments to continue to decline through 2009," Hobart says, though she adds that shipments should pick up from 2009 through 2012 as business growth resumes and more businesses are ready to invest in this technology.

Meanwhile, even as North American equipment sales are declining, shipments to emerging overseas markets are accelerating their growth, Hobart says. In 2007, Caribbean-Latin America (CALA) led all regions with growth of more than 50 percent, while Europe-Middle East-Africa (EMEA) and Asia-Pacific (APAC) followed, both growing at double-digit rates.

InfoTech, the T3i Group division that conducts market research on unified communications, forecasts the U.S. market share of agents will decline steadily through 2012, while CALA and APAC will continue to grow significantly during the same time period. EMEA will maintain positive growth but its global share will decline slightly due to the emerging markets' higher growth rates.

Avaya had the largest market share among manufacturers, with global shipments of new equipment to a total of more than 1 million agent positions, including significant add-on business in all regions, and revenue of more than $1 billion. Trailing Avaya were Nortel Networks and Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories (combined in this report with shipments from parent Alcatel-Lucent).

Despite the strengths of the leading three vendors, Hobart declines to predict whether those manufacturers would continue to hold their relative positions going forward.

"It's a very dynamic market right now," she says.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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