IDC: Call centers in Asia to evolve

Call centers today are no longer just about answering telephone calls, thanks to various new technologies and innovations, said an IDC report released recently.
Written by Thomas Chen, Contributor
SINGAPORE--Call centers today are no longer just about answering telephone calls, said an IDC report released recently. A number of technologies and innovations are outfitting these centers with capabilities to handle various modes of communication, including fax, email and the Internet.

Its role is changing, too. According to the market research firm, organizations are now deploying call center solutions as strategic initiatives to achieve cost elimination, proactive customer management and better operational efficiencies.

“Former call centers are now contact centers, where services can be delivered at a relatively lower cost via mail, email, fax, phone, Web site, VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) and handheld devices,” said Robin Giang, IDC senior analyst and one of the report authors, when contacted by email.

“Through these customer support ‘hotlines’, companies can up-sell and cross-sell to customers without incurring any additional sales expense,” she said.

Giang believes that call centers today are most likely to adopt technologies in the areas of customer and call center applications--including online ordering, online order tracking and interactive customer service.

The emergence of online services has all but eliminated barriers such as geography, time and language, explained Giang. This makes it easier than ever for customers to find alternatives to what they are looking for. Consequently, customer contact points, such as a call center, have become an essential part of a company’s strategy to providing integrated, 24x7 support to their customers, she points out.

Out of 763 enterprises in Asia Pacific that responded to the report’s survey, less than 7 percent are currently using call center technology. Three times more companies said they expect to need the solution within the coming years.

As for implementing call center applications, 11 percent of call centers surveyed are currently using some kind of call center applications, 5 percent are in the process of implementing one and 54 percent are undergoing evaluation, the study found.

“The traditional call center is currently evolving into what should more accurately be called a ‘customer contact center.’ A combination of technological development and changing market needs is essentially changing call centers from a corporate operational cost center into a strategically significant revenue-generating business process,” said Gary Koch, IDC’s director of IT spending, in the report.

The adoption of call center technology will not be even throughout the region, however, said Giang. China and India are likely to lead the growth owing to the internal needs of their respective markets.

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