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Contact Center Industry Stats

Industry Size
There are presently 60,850 contact centers (with 10 seats or more) in North America, representing 3.3 million agent positions[1]. Those centers with less than 100 seats represent more than 44% of all contact centers and 1.36 million agent positions.

Gartner has valued the Customer Interactions Services Industry (contact centers) at $28 billion dollars per annum within North America, with 30% or $8.4 billion) of this figure representing outsourced activity Outsourcing service agencies (both inbound and outbound) represent 5.1% of the total number of contact centers equating to approximately 2,900 centers. These centers have a disproportionate representation in agent positions (AP’s) with approximately 313,000 AP’s. The average Outsource agency footprint is 108 agents per center (versus the overall average of 54 agents per center across the industry), or 10.2% of all North American agent positions.

In Canada, the outsource vertical represents 8.9% of the approximately 4,000 Canadian contact centers. There are over 41,000 outsource agency AP’s in Canada, representing 14.2% of AP’s. This equates to an average outsource contact center footprint of 118 agent positions.

The shift from US domestic call center locations to offshore and near shore locations will continue for the foreseeable future with US outsource agency seats declining an estimated 8.5% from 2004 to 2008[2]. Contact Babel has forecast that the number of AP’s in the US will shrink by 2% between 2006 and 2010. While the number of Canadian AP’s will grow by 8.6%. The majority of the estimated 40,000 AP’s lost over this time will be a result of move to nearshore and offshore locations. The largest USA AP reductions are forecast to be in the outsource space with a 6.6% reduction. This is followed by Telecom and Finance declining 6.0% and 4.4% respectively. These two verticals alone represent Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employment loss of more than 75,000 jobs over this period. Strong growth in other verticals, Public Services in particular offsets the overall declines to a degree. Retail support, catalogues, shopping and logistics will remain the largest verticals each with more 480,000 AP’s.

The following table presents the McKinsey perspective on the outsourced suitability and risk. While this was published in 2004, it remains accurate today.

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Figure 1: McKinsey 2004

If we examine specifically the call and contact center industry the following hierarchy exists in relation to suitability of work to be outsourced and/or off-shored. As the chart below illustrates the key considerations revolve around the complexity of the transaction and the value of the underlying business relationship that the transaction is a part of.

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The lower the transaction complexity, and the lower the underlying relationship value, the greater the likelihood of the task being outsourced or offshored. The likelihood of success, from a clients perspective, of the outsourcing endeavour also increases the lower the complexity and relationship value.

The US contact center industry by region
Region
Agent Positions
Jobs
Contact Centers
Working Population
% Employed in Contact Centers
Average size (AP’s)
West
583,159
991,370
12,246
32,392,000
3.1%
48
North-East
810,399
1,377,678
13,344
26,359,000
5.2%
61
Midwest
791,838
1,346,125
14,230
32,724,000
4.1%
56
South
884,604
1,503,827
17,080
50,235,000
3.0%
52

TOTAL
3,070,000
5,219,000
56,900
141,710,000
3.7%
54

Contact center density, the percentage of the workforce employed in call and contact centers as a percentage of the total workforce, ranges from a high of 6.2% of the population employed in contact centers in New England to a low of 2.3% in East South Central (Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama). Higher density equates to higher wages or turnover and higher operating costs for the center. This density also results in the majority of new center construction occurring in areas where the center density is under 3% (East South Central, South Atlantic and Pacific). Over time this trend will continue to drive up wages, turnover and operating costs and increase the density in those areas.

[1] North American Contact Centers Report- Contact Babel
[2] Contact Center Outsourcing in the United States – Datamonitor

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