Economies in the Asia Pacific region have been bolstered by outsourced services, including business process outsourcing, manufacturing and other services. In particular, contact center services have helped the region weather the global recession. The industry has shrunk in 2009, though, amid reduced spending for IT and other services worldwide. Rebounding from the economic downturn, the contact center industry is poised to grow at an annual rate of 11.5% through 2016.

According to a recent study published by Frost & Sullivan, the Asia Pacific region will benefit from growing contact center revenues, from US$ 287.5 million in 2009 to US$ 616.6 million by 2016. This will be supported by the presence of multinational firms signing up for outsourced services from service providers in countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, which had actually been growth markets during the recession period.

Sustainability Amid Economic Downturns

During the recession that bogged down economies worldwide, the contact center industry in APAC was able to weather the economic difficulty through different means. In emerging markets like the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, domestic demand for outsourced services helped keep the industry afloat. For instance, firms in the ASEAN group of countries reduced their losses by looking toward higher-value contracts.

In developed economies like Australia, Japan and South Korea, meanwhile, migration toward IP-based systems (telephony, unified communications) helped the industry remain sustainable. This, combined with the above-average levels of Internet service (fast broadband and high broadband penetration rate), enabled an increase in the uptake of professional services like financial analysis.

Frost & Sullivan's industry manager, Krishna Baidya, comments on the differences between developed and emerging markets. "Consulting services are in the emerging phase in the region, with greater adoption seen in mature markets where deployments are often more complex," Baidya says. "Nevertheless, the developing markets in Asia-Pacific are witnessing high domestic demand. As local enterprises grow and the value of customer service becomes apparent, the complexity of deployments and the need for an enhanced level of accompanying services will be heightened."

Contact Centers: An Evolving Industry

The growth predictions will require effort from the region's contact center industry, though. In order to derive more value from the competitive advantages that the region offers, contact centers must be able to offer more than traditional "call" based services.

We have earlier predicted that call centers will have to evolve from "dinosaur" call centers to keep competitive. This will involve a move toward becoming contact centers that can offer more mature CRM services better-able in managing multi-channel customer experiences.

This ideal level of engagement will require players to beef up both their technical capacity and human resources. This will also mean that players in the APAC contact center industry will have to warm up to new methods of engagement.

While APAC firms may not be as keen on adopting social technologies yet, effective use of social CRM will help keep the APAC contact center industry on the right track to sustainable growth.