What is a Contact Center?

Now there is a broad question, but I assure you it's not designed to be click-bait; over the last few months, I have recorded the recurrence of this basic question several dozen times in face-to-face meetings at technology events, within peer discussion groups, and virtually every area outside the purview of actual contact center industry experts.

Below is a short but comprehensive introduction to the broad context and industries within which contact centers operate - proof positive that when we say "we provide solutions for virtually every industry" we are not just spinning a story. Almost every industry sector is serviced by a variation on a contact center department.

Contact Center Industry Definition

Call centers are offices set up by companies for inbound or outbound telephone calls. Inbound call centers generally deal with customer service and facilitating such things as customer inquiries or complaints. Activity in outbound call centers usually includes such occupations as telemarketing, market research and the seeking of charitable donations. Offices handling other forms of customer contact, such as email, social media and letters, as well as telephone calls are often called contact centers.

Types of Contact Centers

• Inbound (when it is the customer who initiates contact)
• Outbound (when it is the contact center that initiates contact)
• Blended (both inbound and outbound contacts are handled)

In a modern inbound contact center a considerable portion of the load is shifted towards automated response or speech-enabled systems usually referred to as self-service systems.

Inbound contact center activity
 - General queries (available products and services)
 - Account management (updates, password change, etc.)
 - Sales orders
 - Support issues
 - Cancellations and returns

Outbound contact center activity
 - Sales calls to new customers
 - Proactive customer service (e.g. informing of delays, delivery arrangements, etc. )
 - Cross-selling or up-selling sales calls to existing customers
 - Debt collection
 - Renewals (sales calls to existing customers)
 - Customer satisfaction surveys

Contact Center Industry Statistics

A survey of global contact center industry leaders carried out in June 2015 found that just over 60 percent of their organizations were located in the U.S. The primary industry of the contact center leaders’ organizations was health care providers, closely followed by financial services.

Source: Deloitte Global Research 2016

Source: Deloitte Global Research 2016

In 2015, the state with the highest employment in call center industry was Texas with close to 250 thousand employees. Florida ranked second with over 226 thousand workers in the call center industry. 

India-based Tata Consultancy Services is one of the leading call center service providers in the world. During their fiscal year ending March 31, 2015, the company generated approximately 16.6 billion U.S. dollars in revenue.

Another major player in the industry is the U.S. company Convergys Corporation. In early 2014, the company announced its acquisition of Stream Global Services, in this year the revenue of the Convergys Corporation increased by around 800 million U.S. dollars over the annual revenues of the previous three fiscal years. In 2015, the company revenue increased even more reaching around 2.95 billion U.S. dollars. 

Who is responsible for the Customer Journey?

The structure and role definitions in today's contact center are becoming increasingly complex, especially as communication channels multiply and technologies converge. In the same Deloitte study as above, 400 contact centers worldwide were surveyed to determine who was actually responsible for the entire customer journey, or customer experience, from start to end.

Source: Deloitte Global Research 2016

Source: Deloitte Global Research 2016

The results may surprise some; so while seeing the CxO near the top is to be expected, most agreed that middle management runs the show. While that is empowering, it also indicates that much progress still needs to be made to get the contact center firmly positioned at the executive level.



More to come on this fascinating and ever-evolving industry...


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