Outsourcing firms handling call volumes from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) continue to remain competitive and profitable with successful initiatives to contain cost during the global economic downturn. Outsourcing providers also cite competitive pressures and regulatory factors that may affect future, short-term business growth.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan finds that the EMEA contact outsourcing markets earned revenues of E10,7-billion ($15,2-billion) in 2008 and estimates this to reach E14-billion ($19,9-billion) in 2014.
"Despite the economic downturn, market participants in EMEA have high expectations for continued expansion plans with new and existing clients into 2009 and beyond," notes Frost & Sullivan strategic analyst Michael DeSalles. "Outsourcers offer a multitude of benefits to their client base, including eliminating capital expenses, flexibility and access to qualified labour, multiple languages, reduced costs, advanced management techniques, and the opportunity to gain access to state of the art technology without massive financial outlays."
The net effect of the global economic downturn is that the new business pipeline from existing customers and prospects for several vendors has been promising as organisations look to cut costs. Past perceptions of loss of control over customer interactions are diminishing, as providers in this market deploy successful implementations, offer advanced services, and publish customer success stories.
"A number of market participants report that they have moved to better align their sales forces with client demand for vertical expertise, especially in financial services, as well as telecom, travel, and healthcare," DeSalles says. "Many providers are in the process of expanding their respective professional services groups in anticipation of new consulting opportunities."
Currently, the most evident challenge in call centers is that of complexity. This includes increased diversity and complexity of products and services, the need for agents' multi-lingual skills, consumer demand for speed and multichannel media touches, and increased emphasis on cross-selling and up-selling. EMEA providers report dealing with complex industry legislation and regulatory compliance issues.
"In today's environment, it is increasingly common for clients in EMEA to require 'blended' delivery models, using a combination of onshore, near shore, and offshore customer contact centers," explains DeSalles. "The offshore option provides clients with lower labour costs and 'follow-the-sun' service provisioning, especially for English-language call volumes. However, hiring sufficient support for other European languages is a challenge for all providers."
Those providers offering multiple solutions and agent models, such as client-in house agents, vendor brick-and-mortar agents, self-service options, and work-at-home or remote agents, are in a favorable position to take advantage of the market. Outsourcing firms that have CEO support to execute a solid security strategy, with an established internal security practice, will be well-prepared to meet these important client demands for data privacy, security certifications, and regulatory compliance.