Despite geopolitical tensions, economies are thriving in the Middle East, resulting in an increased focus on customer service. For enterprises new to competing in an open market, keeping customers loyal is vital and a growing number of companies are beginning to understand the significance of doing so. This region thus presents huge opportunities for contact center technology vendors.
Middle Eastern societies are changing. Its consumers expect high levels of customer service and a quick response to queries. The utilization of contact centers to provide customer services has traditionally been seen as a cost burden to organizations in this region; it is a ticked box to show that a firm is looking after its customers. However, industrial reform in the Middle East is fast becoming a reality in several industries.
Middle Eastern enterprises are trying to retain customers and grow relationships during a period of intense competition. Enterprises in the Middle East need to raise the bar and improve their customer service levels. While the easy option is to mirror western contact center deployments, savvy enterprises are taking this one step further and really thinking about the needs of customers in their region.
Middle East contact center technology market to be worth $60.1 million by 2010
The current fledgling contact center technology industry in the Middle East is expected to be worth $46.1 million by the end of 2007 and is forecast to grow to $60.1 million by 2010. Moreover, the total number of call center agent positions (APs) in the Middle East is expected to reach 130,100 in 2010. This growth will be the result of increasing demand for contact centers coming from enterprises that wish to build out their customer service capacity.
Hospitality and travel present both the biggest growth opportunity and challenge for technology vendors.
The Middle East acts as an entry point to the larger Asian markets
In the past two years, Middle Eastern countries have started to look ‘east’ towards fostering and strengthening relationships with India and China – the two largest and fastest-growing economies in the world. The need to invest in non-oil and gas industries has played a significant part in the declarations made between Middle Eastern and Indian governments. Furthermore, the geographic location of the Middle East to Europe places many enterprises in a strategic sweet spot. Traditionally, Singapore was the main hub for enterprises’ Asia Pacific headquarters; however, the Middle East has emerged as a very competitive alternative to Singapore as an entry point for western enterprises wishing to have transactions with India and China.
Middle Eastern contact centers demand high-end solutions and professional services
A degree of standardization in contact center solutions sold to the Middle East is expected to emerge, but these solution sets will tend to have advanced applications added to them. Contact center vendors need to make their offerings more appropriate to Middle Eastern customers by adding workforce optimization technologies, such as e-coaching and quality monitoring, and advanced skills-based routing to their solutions as this is a necessary requirement for Middle Eastern enterprises wanting to emulate western practices of customer service.
The Middle East is modernizing but on its own terms
There are several key challenges that vendors need to be aware of. Most notable is the need to be culturally sensitive to Middle Eastern working practices and religious norms. In several Middle Eastern countries, working days tend to run from Sunday to Thursday, as Friday is seen as the start of the weekend. Furthermore, as various Islamic religious obligations, such as Ramadan and Eid, follow a lunar rather than a Gregorian calendar, it can be difficult to conduct business in certain months. Observing lunar calendars in the Middle East can make it difficult to forecast sales opportunities in certain months; peaks and troughs apparent in summer months and winter months in western countries are not necessarily experienced in the Middle East.
Contact center vendors should explore partnerships with brands and regional system integrators
Systems integrators such as HP and IBM have kept a close eye on the Middle East. The international reputations of these brands give them an advantage. To date, many enterprises, local and international, have existing service contracts with the larger traditional systems integrators. It is the larger systems integrators that have the experience of working in western markets. This wealth of knowledge has helped many larger Middle Eastern enterprises transform their customer services operations, at the heart of which lies a contact center.