Sizing Up the Call Center Industry

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As a spokesman for the industry, I often am asked for data about our industry's size and scope. I recently received a copy of a study immodestly titled, "North American Contact Centers in 2006: The State of the Industry, August 2006." Steve Morrell, principal analyst at a British company called ContactBabel, produced this report.

[Click here to download a PDF of additional charts or copy and paste the link into your Web browser http://www.dmnews.com/cms/lib/6640.pdf

After an extensive review of the material and an in-depth discussion with Mr. Morrell, the American Teleservices Association supports these results.

Without a complementary study of similar size and methodology, we cannot warrant all the results to be accurate. However, in the few areas in which the ATA has its own compiled data, the results are consistent. Key findings of the study:

• The U.S. industry has 3.07 million agent positions representing 5.219 million jobs, or about 3.7 percent of the employable U.S. population.

• Large contact centers (with 250-plus agent positions) employ 34 percent of U.S. staff, despite accounting for less than 4 percent of physical contact center sites.

• The retail and distribution sector has the most contact centers (19 percent), with finance, manufacturing, outsourcing and telemarketing, telecoms and utilities also important sectors.

As industry members have long suspected, the vast majority of contact centers are relatively small. Eighty-nine percent, or 50,650 of the 56,900 contact centers in the United States, have 100 or fewer positions. Only 1.4 percent, or 800 centers, have 500 or more positions. However, this small group of centers accounts for 22 percent of the total agent positions, with 675,000.

Regionally, the Northeast enjoys the largest percentage of its employment from contact centers with 5.2 percent, and the South has the lowest with 3 percent. However, because of the South's disproportionately large working population, it has the largest number of agent positions with 884,604. A state-by-state breakout is available with the complete ContactBabel report.

Virtually every industry uses teleservices. The number of contact centers reflects industry use. This report, though, indicates that of the total U.S. contact centers, outsource providers account for only 5.1 percent. Clearly, outsourcers have larger contact centers as the total number of agent positions represented by outsource providers is 10.2 percent.

It is impossible to adequately depict the wealth of data in this 79-page report. Write in at ContactBabelStudy@ataconnect.org, and I will forward you a copy of the analysis.

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