The 2016 State of the Speech Technology Industry: Contact Center Outsourcing

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The global outsourced customer care services market is forecast to exceed $84.5 billion by 2020, growing at a rate of 5 percent per year, according to Hexa Research. While this represents a conservative projection compared to the 7 percent growth that saw the market swell to $75 billion in 2013, growth is steady overall. Pricing models are changing, however, and large businesses that employ multiple vendors for customer support outsourcing may be looking to consolidate those efforts into just a few providers offering multiple solutions.


"Omnichannel service is related in a lot of ways to a lot of the outsource efforts to build up a product house and not just have a butts-in-seats model," says Ian Jacobs, senior analysts at Forrester Research. "You've seen Convergys go down that route several times," with Convergys currently offering omnichannel support including email, chat, interactive voice response, personalized selling, and social monitoring.

Citing promising numbers in client adoption, Jacobs continues: "Among people who have not gone the omnichannel route with outsourcers, 20 percent of their seats were outsourced. For those who had implemented an omnichannel [environment], 32 percent of the seats were outsourced. So there's a big jump in how much they're outsourcing. Twelve months after Forrester did the initial assessment, those numbers increased to 24 percent and 38 percent, respectively. Either way you can see that it's outsource more, not outsource less."

"A lot of companies are taking a close look at core versus context and re-evaluating what customer service activities they have traditionally performed in-house that they think an outsourcer might do better," says John Ragsdale, vice president of technology and social research for the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA). In response, many outsourcers are offering a suite of services to their clients to supplement the value of traditional outsourcing models.

"The idea is that outsourcers themselves will provide this added value of a context repository," Jacobs adds, "providing a more holistic view of the customer, which has multiple benefits. One, it benefits the brand because you're actually getting holistic intelligence about customers. It's also beneficial to the outsourcers because it increases their persuasiveness in [telling brands to] move beyond just phone-based support with them and start adding chat support and social support, because the more channels those outsourcers support, the more context they can put into these repositories."

Opportunities in Social

Among the least leveraged channels are communities and social networks, but that seems poised to change in 2016.

"Online communities are handling about 20 percent of total support volume for companies that have mature communities," Ragsdale says, "and providers like Convergys and Sykes Enterprises are doing a lot of social media monitoring, although I don't think community is a lever a lot of businesses have fully pulled yet.

"Cisco and Avaya have started doing a lot of text analysis of social media conversations and online community conversations and call them their 'early warning system' because these companies found that a customer will mention an interruption of service two weeks before they call and report it officially," he continues. "So these two companies are finding out about problems and addressing them before anyone reports it because they're hearing buzz on the social channels. Capturing and analyzing those social streams is something I've been recommending to companies."

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