Most businesses have a contact centre, but some don’t even realise it. If you manage customer inquiries or sales through the phone or email, if you respond to customers on social media, or if you engage with customers via web chat on your website, then effectively you have yourself a contact centre!

What is a contact centre?

A contact centre is a hub for answering inquiries, providing support or conducting sales.  This could be for existing or potential customers, employees or simply people needing help with a health issue. The contact centre may just be phone-based (hence the term “call centre”) or it may offer people a whole variety of channels, from email to chat on an app or social media, even video. It’s sometimes confusing that people use the term “call centre” to describe a “contact centre” interchangeably.

A contact centre need not be housed under one roof – it can be dispersed, with agents working in a virtual environment, for example from home, or from physical branches. An example is a chain of medical centres whose reception staff are not only dealing with the influx of patients on-site, but also answering calls about which doctor is on today. Under the hub model, all these calls could be centralised and handled by dedicated agents, leaving the reception staff to focus purely on “counter service” for patients.

Some fascinating facts about contact centres

  1. Fiji is not only a tourist destination, it’s a popular destination to outsource an Australian contact centre. English is an official language of Fiji (spoken in business and schools) and the country is famous for its warm and authentic customer service. With half of Australians holidaying in Fiji at some point, Fijians are also used to the accent and vernacular. It costs roughly 50% less to run a contact centre in Fiji compared to Australia, and it’s definitely one of the nicer places in the world to make a business trip! South Africa and the Philippines are also popular destinations for contact centre services. Philippines is the largest and most mature market of the three destinations, however South Africa is attracting an increasing number of businesses, particularly for sales and retention work.
  2. Contact centres are arguably the most measured and managed division of a business. Technology allows managers to measure metrics such as the length of time the agents spend on a customer interaction, conversion rates (on sales calls), first contact resolution (was the customer’s issue resolved the first time around?), and customer satisfaction or Net Promoter Score (customers can be surveyed immediately after an interaction with a contact centre agent). As they say, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Contact centres are also a goldmine of customer insights – by listening to calls and getting feedback from agents, you can uncover broken processes, reasons for customers not buying, and suggestions for new products.
  3. Contact centres are increasingly open longer hours, often long after the rest of the business closes. This trend towards after-hours contact centres is driven by consumer demand. There are contact centre outsourcing providers who can be trained to provide extended hours or 24×7 coverage for your business. Sometimes this facility, which may only cost a few hundred dollars a month, gives a point of differentiation with your competitors, helping you attract more customers who are too busy to engage with you during regular business hours.
  4. Australia is the most expensive country in the world to operate a contact centre. This is a result of high wages, a regulated labour environment and pricey real estate. As a result, many companies, small and large, look to the global marketplace in terms of locating their contact centre. It’s interesting that this was not always the case – back around the year 2000, when the Australian dollar was very weak against the US dollar, Australia was considered a cheap destination for service delivery. Exchange rates have a role to play, and it’s a good idea to keep an eye on these movements.
  5. About 30% of contact centres are outsourced to a third party. With so many options available (Google throws up 33 million results if you type in “contact centre outsourcing companies”!), it’s important to be very focused in your search if you’ve decided to outsource. The following article provides further information about how to pick a contact centre in Australia or offshore.