In the May and June 2006 editorials and prior issues, we covered extensively how the contact center industry was pioneered by launching TMC’s flagship publication, Telemarketing® magazine, in June 1982.
Along the way, we encountered hundreds of obstacles, and I thank God we managed to overcome just about all of them.
Frankly, our industry associations could have been more united to push in the same direction...forward!! Unfortunately, at times, they were going in different directions, thus paving the way for harmful regulations!
Against all odds, our amazing industry grew at phenomenal speeds. In the 1980s, estimated average growth for the The telephone becomes the primary instrument for
developing customer care.
industry was 200 to 300 percent per year. In the 1990s, the growth rate was about 30 percent per year, and after September 11th, in spite of a major offshore exodus, do-not-call legislation, etc., the domestic business-to-business, collections and fund raising sectors continue to grow at about 20 to 25 percent per year (in teleservices outsourcing) and 50 to 60 percent in the new call center technology sectors.
In addition, today about 100 to 200 new call centers are announced by major organizations in any given month!
Customer Care Is Here To Stay
As the global economy evolves, more and more competitors will enter the business world. As such, competition will become far more intense and the price of goods, along with quality, will decline rapidly, forcing many companies out of business. All global manufacturers will aim for producing better, faster and cheaper products!
In other words, no matter what product you produce, someone else in China, India or the Philippines, etc. can make it better, faster and cheaper.
QUALITY CUSTOMER CARE AND SERVICE WILL BE THE ONLY SUSTAINABLE
Online, VoIP And Call Centers Are Here to Stay For The Foreseeable Future
For a variety of reasons, conventional wisdom dictates that the call center will forever be the heart of every organization.
My reasons for thinking this are as follows:
1. Every company is a call center. As I have indicated in many of these editorials, if you take the telephone out of any company, that company will eventually vanish. It stands to reason that businesses need revenue, revenue is based on relationships, and relationships are nurtured primarily by personal visits and interaction with customers. In absence of that, the telephone is the primary source of building relationships with customers. As such, the telephone becomes the primary instrument for developing customer care.
2. At the moment, the world is thinking about and moving toward online marketing, online purchasing and providing online information.
For the foreseeable future, this trend will continue because it is inconceivable to think of any new technology to replace the Internet and/or the telephone and/or customer care and/or the development of relationships with customers.
3. The process of building strong relationships with customers is the heart of any organization. No company or business entity will get very far without cultivating powerful and mutually beneficial relationships with customers. As indicated above, the telephone and call centers will play vital roles in that scenario.
4. As the world discovers the incredible power of online marketing, online shopping and online information dissemination, the Internet will become one of the most powerful medias ever known to mankind. As the world goes to the Internet to find solutions to market and conduct business, invariably, the human touch will become the most important vehicle in business.
In other words, for the foreseeable future, consumers will require person-to-person interactive relationships for major transactions and purchases. In the 1980s, I defined telemarketing as 'a people-to-people interactive relationship vehicle,' which explained the tremendous growth, success and prosperity of telemarketing in the 80s, 90s, 2000 and beyond. Going forward, it is conceivable that a small portion of the population known as 'techies' or 'geeks' will become perhaps the only individuals who would rather have no relationship with the rest of mankind. But the rest of the world is not likely to change, because human interaction in every aspect of life will continue to play a major role.
5. As the online world of transactions, marketing, business, purchasing, etc. grows, so will the need for contact centers, because consumers around the globe will always prefer personal information from a live body, particularly when they are considering buying any significant product or service. Accordingly, this will fuel tremendous new growth and applications for call centers, which is why I stated in the title of this editorial 'You ain't seen nothing yet.'
The New York Times Story Also Supports My Thinking
In the June 25, 2006 issue of The New York Times' business section, there was an article entitled, 'Waiting For The Dough On The Web' by Richard Siklos. The following is an excerpt, and indicates why unparalleled growth is in the immediate future for online transactions of all kinds:
'Only six percent of all advertising spending in the United States went to the Internet in the first quarter of the year, according to Merrill Lynch. But it was clearly the fastest-growing category ' up 38 percent year over year. And Price Waterhouse Coopers forecasts that Internet ad spending over the next five years will more than double globally, to $51.6 billion.'
CRM Eventually Will Be Replaced
By Customer Care
Admittedly, it takes a lot of courage to make a statement like this. However, given that my vision has been proved to be true several times in the last quarter century, I am confident that CRM eventually will be replaced by customer care. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Most CRM installations to date have been disappointing in terms of performance, to say the least. The reason is that manufacturers were over-promising and under-delivering the benefits of CRM systems.
2. As you may recall, the CRM concept gained tremendous popularity; as a result, many manufacturers of CRM software showed considerable initial revenue and profitability. However, as we all know, the growth of CRM has been significantly reduced simply because many users are disappointed, and once they are disappointed, they are not likely to come back to the system easily.
3. Customer care, without question, will be the new buzzword for the foreseeable future, because once a relationship is built on a strong foundation, the nurturing of that relationship via customer care is the only way to maintain a credible relationship and continue substantial business transactions among the parties involved.
Speaking Of Credibility
Some 25 years ago, as I have indicated in many of these editorials, when I launched Telemarketing magazine, the tagline was 'The magazine of electronic marketing and communications.' That is, 25 years ago, my vision indicated that someday in the future, all marketing and business transactions would be done electronically. Here we are, 25 years later, and it seems that our vision was right on. It is based on this type of vision that I predict that CRM will soon be replaced by customer care, and the companies that begin to develop today new products and services for customer care will be the pioneers and the most successful vendors of the future for the contact center industry.
The Case Of Rapid Technological Developments
New technological developments have always been years and decades ahead of the widespread adoption of such technologies by call centers. This has always been the case and will continue to be the case. However, in recent years, several major new technologies are offering so much promise that I believe they will be with us for the foreseeable future, while undergoing continuous development and refinements. These technologies are:
1. VoIP, which stands for voice over Internet protocol. This technology is here to stay until something better comes along (because it offers as much as 95 percent cost reduction in telecommunications). No call center in the world can ignore this unparalleled cost reduction, to say nothing about the tremendously improved technological capabilities that come exclusively from the adoption of IP telephony. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, I suggest that you refer to www.itexpo.com and learn all about TMC's INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & Expo, which will be held from October 10-13, 2006 in San Diego, California. For your information, this is the 14th global INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & Expo sponsored by TMC, and it is considered to be the world's most educational and best-attended convention of its kind. Some 10,000 attendees from 115 countries are expected at this October's event. Speaking of conventions, our newly launched 'Call Center 2.0' will be collocated with INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & Expo. For more information, visit www.tmcnet.com/275.1.
2. Advanced Speech Technology. As indicated in the last two dozen Publisher's Outlooks, advanced speech technology will also play a vital role in the future of call centers. This technology, too, is here to stay because at the moment it is offering as much as an 85 percent reduction in the cost of labor. We have learned that many leading companies, such as Microsoft and IBM, are spending fortunes to develop future generations of speech technology to enhance call center operations while improving performance and bringing uniformity of presentations to customers. It is our understanding that the long-term goals of the leading technology companies today are to perfect this technology so that it rivals the human voice and, in fact, exceeds human capabilities. So if you haven't looked at speech solutions, I urge you to do so, because competing in the marketplace in the future will depend on this vital technology.
Other technologies that will play major roles in the development of future call centers innovations are as follows:
1. IP contact center solutions, the benefits of which are described above.
2. IMS, which stands for IP Multimedia Subsystems. This new technology offers by far the greatest promise for the future of telecommunications technology. It is the opinion of leading IMS authorities, such as the editors of IMS' magazine, that in the foreseeable future, this new technology will play a vital role in the contact center industry. To learn more about IMS, we suggest that you visit www.imsmag.com, where you can sign up to receive a free digital subscription of this new publication.
3. SIP, which stands for Session Initiation Protocol, is yet another new technology that offers equally significant future potential for the contact center industry. To learn more about SIP' magazine and to receive a free digital subscription, please visit www.sipmag.com. SIP' magazine is also published by TMC.
The Role Of Teleservices
In The Next 25 Years
Teleservices companies are the providers of call center services on an outsourced basis on behalf of Corporate America. This outstanding group of professionals represents the greatest depth of experience. When chosen judiciously, an outsourced teleservices provider can significantly improve many companies' bottom lines.
As call center technology becomes more sophisticated, Corporate America would be wise to focus on their businesses by outsourcing those functions that are not their core competencies. The most cost-effective and professional way to offer world-class customer care is to consider outsourcing, particularly to those teleservices companies that are regularly honored in this publication's Top 50 Teleservices Agencies Ranking and the MVP (Marketing Via Phone) Quality Awards. Readers can find the listings of the Top 50 Teleservices Agencies (inbound and outbound) in the March and April 2006 issues of Customer Inter@ction Solutions, and the MVP Quality Award winners in the February 2006 issue.
Two of the vitally important services offered by teleservices companies are lead generation and customer acquisition. There are many teleservices agencies that specialize in these vitally important areas and, therefore, they should be contacted when such services are needed.
Some New Concepts Also Look Promising
Hosted call center solutions and the use of home agents also show considerable promise in the contact center industry, and we believe that these concepts will remain with us and become more and more sophisticated and widely used as we go forward.
How Marketing Will Change, And How To Stay Ahead Of Your Competition
Some 15 years ago, I changed the tagline of this publication to read as follows: 'The magazine of integrated marketing.'
Once again, it was my vision that someday marketing would transform into integrated marketing. It took 15 years for the industry to embrace this new idea and this new vision of mine, and today I am pleased to note that practically every progressive company is open to this tremendously important concept.
The Nine Guidelines For Market Share Supremacy For The Foreseeable Future
1. You must think out-of-the-box;
2. You must own online marketing. In other words, you need to be on the first page of leading search engines such as Google, Yahoo, etc. If it is your goal to be perceived as an industry leader, you must be on the first page of search results. At TMC, we specialize in helping our customers appear on the first page of Google searches; in many cases, our customers become number one in their search terms on the first page of Google results! If you are interested in learning more, please visit www.tmcnet.com or drop me an e-mail at [email protected]. Always remember: if you are not on the first page of search engine results, you don't exist!
3. You must master integrated marketing. As explained in previous Publisher's Outlooks, there is no other way. You must simply adopt integrated marketing.
4. Master customer care;
5. Master customer service and CRM;
6. Know your competition;
7. Develop a winning technology and marketing strategy;
8. Above all, become a master marketer ' remember that the best products without effective marketing are worthless; and
9. Partner with the leading media with the largest online reach. To be effective, an online medium must have in excess of one million unique visitors and in excess of 15 million page views per month. As a point of reference, I would like to share with you that TMCnet.com is currently experiencing 1,050,000 unique visitors and 18 million page views per month.
Good luck and best wishes. As always, I welcome your valued comments. Please e-mail me me at [email protected]. CIS
Please remember where you first read this pioneering effort before the copycats copy us (as usual) and pass it off as their own.