The future of call centre outsourcing in Australia
The sudden closure of Melbourne-based call centre outsourcer BMS Interactive in March 2017 took a lot of people by surprise. Operating since 2000, at its peak, BMS employed close to 500 staff providing call centre outsourcing services for a range of clients. Sadly though BMS is not alone. In recent times we’ve also seen the closure of two further Australian based outsourcers, Sydney based Customers 1to1 in December 2016 and Melbourne based CallActive in November 2015.
From all reports Andrew Brydon, former CEO of BMS Interactive and his leadership team ran a good operation and this was formally acknowledged by the Auscontact Association awarding them the best Outsourcer in Australia in 2015 as part of their annual awards program.
In that same year when CallActive closed its doors, Brydon published an article urging the industry to “look forward and remain positive” making the observation that “over the past 12 months, demand for outsourced contact centre services has been at its strongest level for almost five years; a direct result of clients focusing on delivering quality customer experiences and bringing their CRM work back onshore. This, combined with increased customer demand for tailored, two-way, real-time, helpful interactions, both online and offline, has resulted in exciting opportunities ahead domestically.”
Yet just over 12 months later his company went into voluntary administration. So what went wrong? I’m not close enough to the inner workings of BMS but having lived through a similar experience I’m sure it wasn’t through a lack of trying and that the decision to finally close would have been incredibly tough on Andrew and the broader team. In a LinkedIn post, Brydon cited a range of factors that lead to their demise including the impact of the Do Not Call Register, off-shoring, in-sourcing, various online channels, and the removal of technical barriers all playing a factor.
There is no doubt that Andrew is right, all of those factors are playing a role in how BPO’s can remain competitive in today’s fast-changing world. So with thousands of staff across the country employed by BPO’s and many Australian businesses dependent on outsourcing either some or all of the CX to BPO’s, should we all be nervous about the future of BPO’s in Australia? I spoke to some of the senior leaders in the Australian BPO industry to canvass their thoughts.
The interviews below were conducted in March 2017 so it’s interesting to note that as of September 2018, there has been further changes to the local BPO landscape including Probe acquiring the Salmat contact centre business, Peakbound closing, and iSelect and Whirpool announcing they are bringing their offshore call centres back to Australia to name just a few. With the tanking AUD against the USD, I suspect there will be further changes to offshoring as the commercial benefits continue to decline.