One constant about the Australian CRM outsourcing market has been its consistency. Unlike other developed countries, Australia did not have a significant drop-off in growth following the 2008–09 financial crisis. However, this consistent demand has been in tandem with ever-present resistance to using offshore solutions in a market where the cost of running contact centers is among the most expensive in the world. Thus, vendors looking to break into (or increase their presence in) Australia need to exercise creativity in order to succeed.
Balancing cost and quality are key in Australian CRM delivery
According to Ovum's most recent contact center outsourcing price and cost analysis, the price per agent per hour for inbound customer care in Australia is nearly $50, making it second only to France as the most expensive place to do third-party contact center work in the developed world. This has not been lost on contact center outsourcers, many of whom are struggling to determine the best way to keep operating costs down in a country in which the labor force is highly skilled and heavily concentrated in large urban areas with some of the steepest real-estate prices in the world (roughly 60% of the country's residents live in its five biggest cities).
One solution that has frequently been floated among outsourcers in Australia has been that of using offshore solutions as a means of delivering contact center services to enterprises; but traditionally this trial balloon has fallen flat with enterprise executives, due to legacy concerns around the quality of offshore deployments and the subsequent impact on customer experience. In fact, in Ovum's CRM Outsourcing Business Trends Survey for 2015, published earlier this year, three-quarters of Australian respondents indicated no plans whatsoever to move work offshore, a figure consistent with previous years. Home agents have also been proposed a number of times, but have yet to find a great deal of traction within the Australian market. And, while self-service deployments have anecdotally been more successful and accepted among Australian consumers than in North America and Western Europe, they will not be a large-scale substitute for human interactions (be it voice or nonvoice).
Thus, Ovum believes that vendors looking for success in this marketplace need a fresh approach to cost-effective delivery. As a start, offshoring as a solution for Australian enterprises needs to be re-packaged, and countries with which Australian consumers and executives are familiar need to be tapped. A good starting point for vendors to explore would be those countries closest to home; in fact, Ovum's 2015 CRM Outsourcing Business Trends Survey revealed definite interest among Australian executives to consider Malaysia, the Philippines, and South Africa as offshore / nearshore delivery options. Equally, in recent years a number of outsourcers (most notably Sitel) have begun promoting New Zealand as a beachhead for Australian delivery that leverages the strong cultural connections between the two countries, as well as New Zealand's price point (approximately 15% cheaper than Australia).
This is not to say that Australian enterprises are likely to move en masse to offshore and nearshore locations in the immediate future. Any shift is certain to be gradual, and vendors need to temper expectations by ensuring decent levels of onshore capacity, with site-selection efforts aimed at lower-cost domestic locations. However, by positioning both local delivery capabilities with well-positioned offshore / nearshore capacity, forward-thinking outsourcers will find resonance in this market.
CRM Outsourcing Business Trends 2015: Knowing Your Contact Center Services Client, IT0019-003433 (March 2015)
Peter Ryan, Principal Analyst, IT Services