Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Do I stay or do I go ...to the Cisco blog site?

Well, dear readers, I'd appreciate your views.

My blog seems to be liked and it's been suggested that I could run it from the Cisco blog site at http://blogs.cisco.com/ciscotalk/europeancontactcentre/ . The posts up to 8th August last year have been moved across and I'll try to bring it up to date with the rest of them shortly.

The question is, do you (as my reading public) think this is a good place for the blog? Alternatively should it stay on Google's blogger? I'd appreciate your views, so please do leave comments or otherwise let me know what you think.

Friday, January 16, 2009

First of my contact centre predictions for 2009 happens - Nortel

I'm more than slightly surprised by how quickly one of the predictions I posted last week for 2009 has come to pass (see: "My Contact Centre Top 5 Predictions for 2009 ").

Nortel's troubles have been well documented, but it was still a surprise to see the article that Nortel was filing for Bankruptcy in the Toronto Globe & Mail on Wednesday. In many ways it is very sad to see a great company that once led its industry in such trouble. Of course bankruptcy doesn't mean the immediate end of Nortel, but it is hard to see how the company could regain it's once dominant position from where it is now.

The Globe and Mail also has a good article on whether Nortel could have been turned around. I tend to agree with it's view that they probably had the right CEO in Mike Zafivorski, but they needed him earlier than 2005. The blog has looked previously at internal management excellence (see the post: "Does lack of management experience cause most contact centre problems? The perspecitve of the "Puritan Gift"") and it's telling that one of the things damaged Nortel so badly was when it ripped up its internal people development processes in 2000.

There's no pleasure in seeing a great company and once inovative get into so much trouble and my sympathy is with the staff at Nortel.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More 2009 Contact Centre Predictions - Datamonitor

My last post ("My Contact Centre Top 5 Predictions for 2009") seems to have had a lot of interest, so thank you to all the readers who liked it.

I was sent today Datamonitor's latest contact centre reports ("2009 Trends to Watch: Contact Center Markets and Technologies", published 22nd Dec) and can recommend it. We have a corporate subscription to Datamonitor and and I've tended to like Datamonitor's research as it's focused more on the market trends and the buyers needs than on the vendors and their products. I also must admit to using them extensively in the past when I was working in consulting and needed insight into sectors of the retail financial services markets.

The report has some very good points to make about potential growth in the contact centre mid-market and around SaaS offerings. It also highlights that the super-large contact centre (so common in financial services) will probably not be driving forward technology spend in the current market conditions in the way that this segment has driven functionality in the past. I'm not sure about Datamonitor's view on the 'rehabilitation of outbound', at least for Europe and the UK. It is true that companies do want to use the outbound phone channel more proactively and better, but most to date have managed to damage their reputation with outbound (See my blog posts: "Barclays, silent calling & we've been here before..." and "Banks criticised by BBC for automated calls "). I fully agree with Datamonitor's view on the importance of business process (see my blog: "My Contact Centre Top 5 Predictions for 2009", though Datamonitor have an interesting and slightly different view) and the potential growth in contact centre analytics. I think they've got some very good insight on those subjects and I've got some interesting things to think about.

In short, I've found this Datamonitor report one of the better analyst assessments of the contact centre market in 2009 and it's well worth buying.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

My Contact Centre Top 5 Predictions for 2009

This year I thought I'd do something different to welcome the new year and stick my neck out by making some predictions. I'm often asked what I think the contact centre trends will be in 2009, and so I'll put forward what I think is going to happen.

Making predictions is always a risky business and 2009 looks so turbulent that the risks will increase. I'll have a go, but I am fully prepared that I begin 2010 with a blog post on how I got it wrong!

1. IP Contact Centres will continue to grow rapidly.
I'll start off with a relatively uncontroversial prediction. This is backed by most of the market analysts I've seen, but if 2009 proved anything, then it was that uncontroversial, analyst backed predictions could be totally wrong! The most up to date research I've seen was yesterday on Network World (see: "IP call centers will do well despite VoIP slowdown") where Infonetics' newest report had some interesting statistics. Infonetics predict the market for IP Contact Centre as growing 38% in 2008 and continued growth in 2009. The growth in 2009 could be as low as 5%, but that's still pretty rapid for a relatively mature market segment in recession. Forrester and Gartner have higher figures for growth, but I suspect they will revise them downwards as they reassess them in light of the global economic situation. Still, there is steady momentum towards Voice over IP (VoIP) in all aspects of telephony and I expect contact centre to follow the trend.

2. Fixing customer processes will be a major focus in 2009.
To a certain extent all contact centres (whether using TDM or VoIP for the voice traffic) can now do all the basic things needed, namely answer the phone and provide the agent with some information on the caller. These historically have been what technology spend has been focused on, answering the call (which is all the spend on telephony) and getting usable information to the agent (all the spend on CRM).

The problem is that telephony plus CRM has not not fixed most of the issues customers experience. What matters to customers when they call is (1) did I get my problem fixed? and (2) was it a pleasant experience. I've been interested in 2008 to see the big system integrators start to focus on process (see posts like: "System Integrators write interesting things about contact centre for the downturn!" or "Contact Centres, Process and Six Sigma") and much more focus on the customer experience (see posts like: "HSBC creates 250 UK call centre jobs & offshore in decline").

3. A major contact centre technology provider to fail/ be bought from administrators.
I'm not confident enough to predict who, but the press and blogs are providing quite a selection of possibilities. Nortel has had some rough press (see: "Nortel Drops After WSJ Says It’s Exploring Bankruptcy" and "Juniper: the big winner if Nortel goes under?") to pick just two recent articles and their financial situation is not good. There are still Nortel supporters, and I admire the optimism of the article "Don’t write off Nortel yet", but I can't say I share it. I do agree with the point the article makes that Nortel is underestimated and is still a very technically capable company and is likely to have fewer self-generated problems going forward.

Aspect may also have trouble, despite their alliance with Microsoft (see: "VoiceCon 2008 - IBM, Microsoft & Aspect"), but they haven't had the focus that Nortel has. They have a strong (and lucrative) product in Aspect Workforce Management but their core call centre offerings have seemed to struggle in recent years.

There is always the chance that Microsoft will buy one of these vendors (or perhaps private equity as with Siemens) but I'm not sure I see other obvious candidates. It's possible that SAP or Oracle might move in, as both have bought small IP contact centre companies in the past (SAP bought Wicom and Oracle bought Telephony@work) but that seems less likely.

4. Offshoring to decline further for front line customer service.I think it's hard to see further offshoring as going to be well received by consumers. Offshoring of call centres was perhaps already in decline for reasons of brand reputation and cost (see posts like: "HSBC creates 250 UK call centre jobs & offshore in decline ") and I think consumers will be very hostile to brands that are seen to be destroying jobs. In the banking industry this will be a particular issue, as with the banks potentially dependent on government, the views of politicians may suddenly be very important.

I think offshore for non-customer facing activities, like IT, may well go offshore more rapidly. The signs are there (see "Lloyds TSB offshores IT, not call centre ") and Barclays has been doing this for a while and I think this is an area where offshore may prosper.

5. Predictions will be wrong!
OK, this is a bit of a cheap one, but there is a serious point. In very turbulent times, the range of possible outcomes for a given set of events increases substantially.

The predictions I've made look the most probable, but I'm prepared to apologise profoundly if against my expectation, 2009 turns out to be the year of TDM offshore contact centres!