Offering contact centre services on the European market
The European market for contact centre services is growing. To deal with this increased demand, companies are turning to offshore service providers. To provide contact centre services for European companies, you must offer fluent language skills and a multichannel approach. Non-voice services are becoming increasingly important. Basic ‘Tier 1’ inquiries and technical support are the most promising services for you to focus on.
Contents of this page
- Product description
- Which European markets offer opportunities for contact centre services?
- What trends offer opportunities on the European market for contact centre services?
- What requirements should contact centre services comply with to be allowed on the European market?
- What competition do you face on the European contact centre services market?
- Through what channels can you get your contact centre services onto the European market?
- What are the end-market prices for contact centre services?
What are contact centre services?
A contact centre is a facility from which all customer contact is managed. Contact centre services include a range of activities and channels. They consist of:
- inbound activities - managing large volumes of incoming contact, the majority of services
- outbound activities - outgoing contact
The main contact centre activities include:
- customer service & complaint handling (non-technical)
- technical support
- dispatching & event registration
- pre-sales activities (lead generation, appointments)
- surveys (satisfaction, qualification, market research)
- loyalty & retention
- sales (telemarketing)
- credit collection
Channels via which contact centres communicate are:
- Voice Portal Services (IVR Self Service)
- live chat
- social media
- traditional mail
Native language skills
European consumers expect customer service to be available in their native language. This makes the availability of agents that are fluent in the local language a vital requirement for companies in Europe.
Focus on European countries whose languages your agents speak fluently.
If you are interested in a particular European country, recruit agents that are fluent in the local language(s).
European companies generally prefer service providers that offer multichannel services. Their customers expect customer support to be available anytime, anywhere and from any device. For example:
- social media
- live chat
- text messages
Although telephone remains the main communication channel for contact centre services, digital channels are rapidly gaining ground. In 2015, 35% of customer service interactions used digital channels. This is expected to increase to more than 50% in 2016. With the rise of digital channels, multichannel services become increasingly important. 55% of customer centres confirm that a multichannel approach is key to customer satisfaction.
Provide a multichannel customer service strategy.
Offer 24/7 services.
Keep your agents’ skills regarding new contact channels up to date.
European companies look for specialists when selecting a contact centre service provider. Industry expertise is likely to create a better match between their company and its service provider.
Specialise in contact centre services for a specific industry.
Focus on the industry or industries you have expertise in.
Business Process Improvement
Improving business processes is an important driver for European companies to outsource contact centre services. In the past, contact centre providers were selected on their ability to provide basic customer service at low cost. However, lower costs per minute don’t matter if a call takes twice as long, or if the quality of service is low. This means contact centre service providers must be able to add value to the overall customer experience.
For example, improvement in terms of:
Focus on business process improvement as well as competitive pricing.
Good performance metrics
Performance metrics are another important selection criterion for contact centre service providers. For example:
- customer satisfaction
- average speed to answer
- call abandonment rate
- first-call resolution rate
- call duration
- call transfer rate
- cost of inbound/outbound call
Customer satisfaction is key, especially now that customers can easily share their reviews on social media. Slow/no response on customer contact or low quality solutions can damage a company’s reputation. This makes metrics like short response time and good quality problem resolution especially important for European companies.
- Provide information about your company’s performance metrics.
- For an idea on your performance compared to your competitors, see ContactBabel’s 2016/17 UK Contact Centre HR & Operational Benchmarking Report.
Growing European market for contact centre services
The European market for contact centre services is expected to grow from €13 billion in 2014 to €15 billion 2019. Within this market, non-voice services are a clear trend with an average annual growth rate of 12% compared to 2% for traditional voice services.
74% of contact centres expect an overall increase in interactions by 2017. To deal with this demand, 26% expect more outsourcing and 18% a greater need for offshoring contact centre services.
- Provide non-voice as well as voice services.
- For more information on non-voice services, see our chapter on trends.
Simpler contact centre services most outsourced
Simple ‘Tier 1’ contact centre services are the most outsourced. Relatively basic inquiries are easiest for companies to outsource. This type of service doesn’t require thorough expertise, making it relatively easy to train service providers’ staff. This continues to drive outsourcing decisions. Especially the outsourcing for technical support services is set to increase considerably. More complex ‘Tier 2’ services are mainly relevant if you are specialised in a particular industry.
Focus on basic contact centre services, unless you can provide expertise in a specific industry.
Provide technical support services.
Shift from voice to non-voice services
Customer contact is shifting from voice to non-voice services, like chats and social media platforms. Between 2015 and 2017 an 85% increase in non-voice channels is expected, along with a 16% decrease in voice customer contact. For example, the use of webchat customer service is set to double in 2016, to 70% of contact centres. The growing popularity of mobile devices and social media also drives this move towards non-voice channels.
Increasing use of social media
The popularity of social media use continues to rise, with 47% of Western Europeans regularly using it in 2016. This share is expected to reach 52% by 2020. Social media use is highest in the Netherlands, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom, at around 60%. In Germany and the Mediterranean countries, this is considerably lower. These countries are expected to show relatively large growth rates in the coming years.
Social media has become an important customer service channel for European companies. The use of social media as a customer support channel is set to increase with more than 50%, from 43% of contact centres in 2015 to 68% in 2016. 39% of European contact centres consider social media a key trend in customer service for the coming four years. Industry experts indicate that especially technical support has potential for you, as your staff can be trained for this.
Rise of mobile customer service websites and applications
European companies increasingly offer mobile websites and applications with customer service functions. Around 90% of European households own a smartphone and 60% a tablet. This makes mobile devices an important customer contact channel.
The use of customer service smartphone applications is expected to double in 2016, to 54% of contact centres. 38% of contact centres consider changing user behaviour like mobile use a main trend in customer service for the coming years, especially in IT support.
Include social media and mobile customer service in your offering.
Focus on technical (IT) support via social media and mobile services.
54% of contact centres used a cloud-based infrastructure in 2015. This is expected to increase to 76% by 2017. The main reason for moving into the cloud used to be cost reduction, but this is no longer the case. Other advantages of cloud-based contact centre solutions are becoming increasingly important. For example:
- faster deployment
- ease of managing remote agents
This is a positive development for you, as a contact centre service provider in a developing country. Provided you have a broadband connection, the cloud makes working from another location easier and the step towards outsourcing smaller.
Learn how to work with cloud-based infrastructures.
Invest in a broadband connection.
From multichannel to omnichannel services
Now that contact centres are adopting multichannel services, the next step is an omnichannel approach. In multichannel customer service, customers can choose between various channels. However, they can only use one channel at a time. Omnichannel environments integrate these channels. This allows customers to switch, for example between phone and tablet support, while completing an enquiry.
Integrate your various customer service channels into an omnichannel environment.
You can check your readiness to deliver omnichannel services via Forrester’s Omnichannel Customer Service Assessment Tool.
For more information, see Vocalcom’s 5 Ways to Deliver Optimum Omnichannel Customer Service.
Contact centre customer analytics allow companies to identify patterns in consumer behaviour by monitoring and interpreting customer contact. Effective use of this data can generate various benefits, such as:
- improved customer experience
- increased sales
- increased marketing efficiency
- insight into the effectiveness of your / your client’s business
Although 53% of contact centres consider customer analytics the most important trend for the coming years, 40% don’t have any data analysis tools in place. Especially for digital customer service channels, analytic systems are lacking (60% for email and webchat, 73% for social media).
Provide customer analytics services by collecting and/or analysing data per client. This allows them to improve their business.
Use customer analytics to improve your contact centre’s performance.
For more information on analysing large datasets, see our study on big data.
See our study about trends on the European outsourcing market for more information on general trends.
4 . What requirements should contact centre services comply with to be allowed on the European market?
What legal and non-legal requirements must you comply with?
National regulations on cold calling
Cold calling is the unsolicited approach of prospective customers you had no previous contact with. Many European countries have national legislation regulating this cold calling, to limit who companies are allowed to contact. In Germany, cold calling is illegal and can result in a fine of €300,000. In most countries, consumers and companies can opt out by registering with a do-not-call (‘Robinson’) list. This means companies cannot contact them for direct marketing purposes.
- Sweden - NIX-Telefon
- the Netherlands - Bel-me-niet Register
- the United Kingdom - Telephone Preference Service (TPS)
Research the national regulations on cold calling in your target country.
Transfer of Undertakings for the Protection of Employees
The European Union’s Transfer of Undertakings for the Protection of Employees (TUPE) Directive protects employees when (part of) a company transfers to a new employer. It allows staff to transfer to the new service provider on the terms of their existing contracts. In theory, this also applies to international outsourcing. In practice, European staff is unlikely to relocate to your country. Nevertheless, you should be aware of the TUPE Directive and its possible implications.
Study the TUPE Directive and discuss possible implications with your European customer.
Research the national TUPE legislation in your target country, as the exact regulations may differ, for example in the United Kingdom.
What additional requirements do buyers often have?
COPC Customer Experience Standards
The COPC Customer Experience Standards make up the most prestigious performance management system in the customer contact industry. The standards focus on best practices regarding people, processes, and performance. Costs of the COPC processes are relatively high. You can obtain full certification, or process certification for key work areas:
- customer satisfaction
- workforce management
- recruiting, hiring and training
EN15838 service requirements for contact centres
EN 15838 is a voluntary European standard describing the requirements for customer contact centres. It applies to both in-house and outsourced contact centres. The standard includes:
- management strategy
- requirements for agents
- requirements for infrastructure
- customer satisfaction
- mandatory and recommended Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
- social responsibility
Apply for EN 15838 certification.
See our study about buyer requirements on the European outsourcing market for more information.
Competition on the European contact centre market does not differ significantly from the outsourcing market in general. See our study about competition on the European outsourcing market for an overview. Also refer to our top 10 tips for doing business with European buyers.
Nearshoring more popular than offshoring
European companies prefer to outsource services to providers within the same country (onshoring). When outsourcing abroad, they prefer nearshore locations because of:
- cultural similarities
- there being little or no time difference
These are usually Eastern European countries, due to their relatively low wages. For example:
However, prices in nearshore countries are rising. This makes service providers in these countries less competitive compared to offshore service providers. That means you can either form subcontracting partnerships with them, or compete with them.
Subcontracting by European contact centre service providers
Subcontracting by European contact centre service providers is a good and realistic market entry channel for you. It means that European service providers subcontract contact centre assignments to you, which end user companies have contracted to them. These local service providers know the local market well and already have a buyer network. Another advantage of subcontracting are the low up-front capital investments.
Target contact centre service providers whose size is in line with your capacity.
Focus on providers that serve the same horizontal or vertical markets as your company.
Attend relevant industry events in your target country to meet potential partners. This also allows you to learn more about their business culture. For example Call Centre World in Germany, Customer Contact Expo in the United Kingdom and Stratégie Clients in France.
Use industry associations to find potential buyers in Europe. The European Confederation of Contact Centre Organisations gives you a list of national contact centre associations.
National outsourcing associations can also be interesting sources to find potential buyers. For example Global Sourcing Association in the United Kingdom, Outsourcing Verband in Germany and Platform Outsourcing in the Netherlands.
Direct partnerships with end users
A direct partnership with an in-house contact centre can be successful, but is generally complex. In-house employees often have a fixed contract, which means you have to take over employees, as they can’t easily be laid off.
Direct nearshoring/offshoring of contact centre services is more common among large European end users, like large technology suppliers. Many smaller European companies with in-house contact centres are still hesitant towards it. They generally prefer to outsource their contact centre services to service providers within their country.
- Develop good promotional tools, such as a professional company website and a company leaflet. Also invest in Search Engine Marketing, so potential buyers can easily find your company online.
If you specialise in contact centre services for a specific industry, approach in-house contact centres in this industry directly.
You can approach European service providers and end users of information security applications directly, or through an intermediary. A local contact person is an advantage, especially if you are located in a lesser-known outsourcing destination. Intermediaries, such as a consultant/matchmaker or sales/marketing representative, can therefore be an important channel to establish contact with potential buyers.
See our study about market channels and segments on the European outsourcing market for more general information. Also refer to our study on finding buyers in the European market.
Price is an important reason for European companies to outsource contact centre services to developing countries. Labour cost continues to be the deciding factor in choosing a contact centre location. Agent salaries make up a large share of the costs of a contact centre. This means outsourcing to countries with lower wages can lead to considerable savings.
For example, the average monthly salary of a customer service agent in the Philippines (€600) is about a quarter of that in the United Kingdom (€2,365).
Please review our market information disclaimer.