6 Undeniable Truths About Building a Profitable Contact Centre in Asia

It is true that the contact centre industry in Asia, as a whole, is on the rise. With continued economic growth of the Asia Pacific region, albeit moderately, contact centres all over Asia stand to benefit. In the latest Regional Economic Outlook by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), growth in Asia is projected to "remain steady at 5.5 percent in 2015." Inflation is also expected to remain relatively benign. This signals good news for businesses operating in the region.

It is not necessarily true, however, that ALL contact centres, will make profits. With competition heating up in countries like the Philippines, India, and China, traditional contact centre profit margins that are usually described as ‘healthy’, even ‘robust’, may actually give way to ‘modest’ and ‘weak’.

As this industry continues to mature, customers and end-users will become more demanding, employees will have more career options (which means higher chances of attrition), and pockets of new opportunities will become lesser and lesser. So, how can a seasoned contact centre stay profitable? Is there room for further growth? Here are 6 undeniable truths about staying profitable in Asia.

Truth #1: Customer Experience is directly proportional to profitability.

According to Call Center IQ’s annual customer experience survey, "increasing customer loyalty" is a top priority for 29% of C-level executives. 21% see "increasing customer satisfaction" as the ultimate goal, while 8% are consumed with elevating brand advocacy. An additional 4% use customer experience as a means of gaining customer insights. The same percentage is committed to reducing complaints.

That means that 66% of C-suites—a clear majority—adopt a customer-oriented approach to customer experience. Customer-centricity is therefore not simply an invention of the overly demanding customer or the self-glorifying contact center professional. It is a business reality.

The findings of a Harvard Business Review study of more than 400 executives is in line with this premise. According to the study, leading-edge companies that are making the changes necessary for effective customer experience management gain a clear competitive advantage as a result of their efforts. These companies "perform substantially better across the whole range of business measures, from profitability to customer retention rate."

Truth #2: Seamless multi-channel environment is not easy. But it must be done.

Asian customers are internet savvy and highly connected. Consider this:

  • 47.5% - APAC share of global internet users
  • 52.2% - APAC share of global social media users
  • 47.6% - APAC share of global mobile users

Simply put, customers are accustomed to multi-channel interaction. They will use phone, PC, tablet, or any other device at their disposal as way to interact. Therefore, bridging the gap between online and offline is essential in modern contact centre operations. Using robust CRM tools that can provide one view of the customer across multiple channels may also be useful. Putting such infrastructure and processes in place may not be easy. But it is absolutely necessary.

Truth #3: Technology is an investment, not an expense.

What is true in finance is also true in technology – one must understand and see an asset’s value before investing in it. In contact centres, technology could be your great ally. With attrition being a core issue for every contact centre, understanding the right technology to complement your operations can help a great deal. The challenge is the right mindset, not only from key line managers but from top decision makers, as well. Once you start viewing new technology as an expense, the kneejerk reaction is to reduce it to a minimum, which is how an expense should always be treated – make it as close to zero as possible. But, once you understand that (the right) technology is an investment, it will create a ripple effect throughout your organization that translates to efficiency and profits.

Truth #4: Flexible operations procedure is a norm, not an exception.

One size fits one. This should be the attitude when it comes to dealing with operations procedures on a contact centre environment, particularly in Asia. With the rise of the inter-national, inter-cultural and inter-generational, work environment, having an adaptable operations and issue resolution mechanism is a must. When it comes to process improvement procedures, Six Sigma, Lean and the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) are among the best-known models around. The bottom line, however, remains the same: processes must be well-defined, adaptable and responsive to the operational challenges at hand.

Truth #5: Decide based on analytics, not intuitions.

In this day and age, hardly anything is decided based entirely on intuition. With the vast array of tools available to gather and interpret data, there is no reason why a ‘smart’ decision cannot be made. Top-performing companies are discovering that data analytics is not something just ‘good-to-have’. Rather, they find it essential in running a successful and profitable organization. The challenge here is that some contact centres are skeptical about putting up a robust data analytics infrastructure because of the significant hardware, software and maintenance costs that come with it. Not to mention the man-hours that need to be put in, in order to make the project successful. The good news: cloud computing is becoming a viable alternative for many of these companies.

According to Asia Pacific Data Center and Cloud Computing Market report by Frost and Sullivan, "cloud services" is projected to grow at 34.1% (CAGR) between 2013 and 2018. A staggering growth by any measure. This is great for contact centres in Asia, because not only does cloud computing reduce the burden of upfront and recurring costs, it also offers scalability that can match your business needs. No matter which route you take, decisions based on analytics is a sure bet in realizing a solid ROI.

Truth #6: Social Media should not be feared, it should be embraced.

There is a saying: Social media is like parenting. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, they change the rules of engagement.

While it’s true that rules change all the time, ignoring social media does not change the fact that it exists – and that that’s where most of your customers are. So, to have any chance of success in winning the social media game, you need not just play by the rules, but at the very least, play. Join the discussion. Share information. Do not be afraid to take a jab once in a while. By being part of the conversation, you gain a better sense of how your customers feel and you can tailor your operations to meet their needs. At the same time, you further amplify your strengths. An effective social business strategy is one where the contact centre serves as the central hub for resolving customer complaints before they make their way into social media. This way, potential issues can be resolved before they escalate, positive brand sentiment can be encouraged and healthy two-way communication can be preserved.