New Zealand as a destination for Australia customers

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1 New Zealand as a destination for Australia customers New Zealand emerges as a viable option to supply Australian contact centre demand SUMMARY Catalyst Ovum view Asia Pacific and increasingly Australia is becoming an investment location of choice for numerous industries - but this interest is making business engagement in that country an expensive customer support option for both local and international organisations. Are there alternatives to servicing consumers in this booming economy in a cost-effective manner and still overcome some of the offshoring pushback that continues to be prevalent? Ovum believes that New Zealand is a viable market for the delivery of CRM services to the Australian market. It is reasonably scalable, has solid infrastructure, a strong skills base and close cultural affinity to the Australian market. However, Ovum feels that New Zealand-based nearshoring into Australia needs to be handled correctly by experienced providers. Key messages Publication Date: April 2013 Authors: Jens Butler, Peter Ryan Australia is an expensive contact centre delivery market, with limited options to reduce costs and pricing remains a key decision criteria in the contact services purchasing cycle Australian contact centre buyers are looking for stability and predictability in their service providers and from the locations they deliver those services from Language and cultural affinity continues to be a powerful influence amongst buyers Page 1

2 AUSTRALIA IS ONE OF THE PLACES TO BE It seems as if every eye is turned towards the Asia Pacific region given its propensity to continue growing whilst the rest of the world suffers recession, high unemployment, falling disposable incomes and constant bad news. And many aren t just stopping at the Asian powerhouse locations as investment targets the gaze is consistently continuing onto the lucky country and its apparent inability to fall into recession (last time this occurred was in the early 1990s). Add to this the fact that Australia has, in that period, moved from being a testbed for new offerings, has leveraged its Western/Developed economy structure (making it a simpler transition for many multinationals) in order to become one of the richest countries on earth. However, this rise in economic strength has also led to Australia becoming one of the most expensive locations in the world to do business (for example, the Economist Intelligence Unit's report from February 2013 places Sydney as 3rd and Melbourne the 5th most expensive cities in the world 10 years ago, no Australian city was in the top 50!!) and many traditional Australian sectors are struggling to compete with high input costs and a stubbornly high Australian dollar. With many of the tools that are usually available for providers to deliver cost effective services being sidelined by Australian buyer preferences, it makes the delivery of customer services via contact centres an increasingly-expensive and complex proposition for Australian enterprises. Page 2

3 THE AUSTRALIAN CRM MARKET IS UNDER PRESSURE Overall market The Australian contact centre market is a mature one and is highly competitive. In what points to the increasing budgetary concerns amongst Australian enterprise, over 50% of organisational IT contact centre budgets between 2013 and 2015 are expected to be flat or negative. This means that enterprises will need to consider alternatives to better manage their costs, whilst at the same time, not sacrificing quality. Outsourcing, as a sourcing tool, is a means of removing capital expenditure, managing costs and gaining access to quality deliverables. Figure 1: CRM budget growth in the Australian market 2012 to % 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% Change in CRM Budget 0% Increase Flat Decrease Source: Ovum O V U M Key drivers in the Australian market Given the competitive nature of the market, cost always has been and continues to be a major factor in the contact centre space. With labour generally comprising a minimum of 70% of the cost base in a standard service offering in developed markets, this is usually the area of cost cutting focus. However, within the Australian market, with the ever-rising employment costs pushing Page 3

4 contact centre hourly pricing above $50 per agent hour (for inbound customer service), it is becoming a more difficult balancing act to deliver the services required at manageable rates. Many innovative approaches come into play to manage this core component of the service delivery. And for Australian buyers, when it comes to choosing an outsourcing partner, according to a recent survey by Ovum on the state of the Australian CRM outsourcing market, as much as cost is a major driver, there are other factors that come into consideration when procuring contact centre services with a stable environment and strong language capabilities and skills be amongst the top decision criteria. Figure 2: Can you rate the importance of the following criteria in choosing a contact centre outsourcer Stability Price Horizontal Functional Expertise Language Capabilities Financial flexibility Vertical expertise Geographical Flexibility Work-at-home / virtual agents 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Percentage of respondents who rated criteria very important or critical Source: Ovum O V U M Page 4

5 Operational limitations in the Australian contact centre market With many of the major drivers and facts highlighted so far (cost, language capability, access to skills and a stable partner) and the ever-increasing competition that exists in this mature market, any opportunity for enterprises to leverage new contact centre delivery options is crucial. However, amongst the tools and levers available in the service providers' armory to manage some of the cost and delivery components of the service, a number, such as traditional offshoring and the use of home agents, appear to be unavailable to providers to this market: Offshoring In many markets the option to use offshore contact centre services from developing (and more cost-effective) locations has been the main tool for managing the labour component of the input model for a number of years. Unfortunately, given the current feedback from Australian buyers as to their hesitancy in using this delivery method (with 76% of recent survey respondents stating they would not consider offshoring), the traditional offshoring approach does not appear as a viable option. Home Agents Another cost-reduction contact centre delivery option is the use of home agents, which can reduce the cost of delivery as well as provide access to a skilled, yet distributed workforce. However, the willingness of Australian enterprises to use home agents is limited compared to the rest of the world - just 15% of firms in Australia indicate that they currently use home agents, with less than a third actually looking to expand their use of this option. Page 5

6 NEW ZEALAND AS A CONTACT CENTRE ALTERNATIVE FOR AUSTRALIA Ovum's research indicates that Australian contact centre outsourcing clients seeking cost effectiveness, high quality agents that are commercially and culturally aware and providers that can offer strong language capabilities; and with a number of delivery options that can address some of these concerns being off the table for the foreseeable future, alternatives need to be considered. Logically, this points toward Australia's nearshore neighbour, New Zealand, which addresses a number of these commercial challenges. New Zealand is cost advantageous for contact centre clients Stability Ovum's research shows that New Zealand tends to be at least 20%-30% cheaper than Australia, even when based in Auckland. This provides clients using an outsourcer based in New Zealand with an immediate price advantage relative to conducting this work onshore, in addition to removing pressure from already-strained CRM budgets. Add to this the continuing growth of regulation within the Australian workplace, which is making the cost of employment in this market increasingly burdensome (payroll taxes and insurance and superannuation contributions rising to 12% in July 2013 to name a few, adding over a third to base wages/salary). Compare this to New Zealand's more open de-regulated market perspective (being one of the most open economies in the OECD), highlights some of the cost and workplace advantages the location can bring when looking to service Australia. Therefore, in addition to the salary/wage rate differences between Australian and New Zealand, the overall cost of employment is generally well below that of Australia (generally in the range 35%-45% range in Australia compared to 15%-25% in New Zealand) when considering superannuation/pension payments, payroll tax, worker insurance, sick and annual leave, training, recruitment and occupancy costs. And with the current tight employment situation in Australia (unemployment sits at just 5.4% vs 6.9% in New Zealand) causing upward pressure on salaries/wages, the ability to hire skilled workers in the New Zealand market is an easier and more affordable proposition. New Zealand is one of the most stable countries in the world, has very close ties with Australia economically (since 1990 been partners in Closer Economic Relations (CER)) and is ranked as #1 in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. In addition, in terms of doing business, when compared against many of its contact centre peers, New Zealand ranks well ahead of all of them. According to the World Bank, New Zealand is ranked Page 6

7 globally as the third easiest place of doing business. This means less time and cost spent for outsourcers and clients in regard to dealing with red tape, resulting in more efficiencies and emphasis on strong customer service provision. Proximity / Familiar Markets Geography Time zone gaps are always a question raised amongst contact centre services buyers, and with the east coast of Australia sitting just 2 hours behind New Zealand, with Western Australia a further 3 hours maximum, it provides a substantial working day overlap. An additional long-standing concern associated with offshoring amongst Australian customers has been the distance from "home base" of many of traditional offshore delivery locations. Executives traveling to an outsourcer's contact centre site do not want to spend valuable time out of the office (in some cases travelling days at a time); but, this is an issue that plays a far less role for New Zealand, as can be seen in the table below, with travel time spent to New Zealand much shorter than that to other parts of the world traditionally associated with offshore contact centre work. Table 1: Shortest travel times to selected contact centre locations Sydney Melbourne Brisbane Auckland 3 hrs` 4 hrs 3 hrs Manila 10 hrs 12 hrs (1 stop) 14 hrs (1 stop) Kuala Lumpur 9 hrs 8 hrs 8 hrs Mumbai 16 hrs (1 stop) 16 hrs (1 stop) 16 hrs (1 stop) Johannesburg 14 hrs 17 hrs (1 stop) 17 hrs (1 stop) Shanghai 10 hrs 10 hrs 12 hrs(1 stop) Newcastle/Belfast 26 hrs (2 stops) 24 hrs (1 stop) 24 hrs (1 stop) Hyderabad 15 hrs (1 stop) 14 hrs(1 stop) 15 hrs (1 stop) Source: Ovum / Expedia O V U M Attitudes/Language However, possibly one of the greatest "overlaps" that highlights the servicing capabilities of New Zealand-based enterprises is the close cultural and language affinity to Australia. This very common bond starts with their close language, historical and cultural affiliations. English is the national language (spoken by 94% of the population in New Zealand) and pronunciation is very similar. But being able to speak the language is not the only factor in driving trust amongst contact centre customers - cultural affinity and understanding plays a major role. With over 600,000 New Zealanders living in Australia, the countries' close ties through the Commonwealth, ANZAC tradition, sport (and rivalry, especially in cricket and rugby), and culture, there is certainly a Page 7

8 far closer understanding of the Australian customer demands with a New Zealand based service organisation. And this is where such alignment has the potential to overcome the "offshoring" concerns of many Australian buyers. WHAT PROVIDERS ARE ABLE TO OFFER SUCH SERVICES A number of providers do service the Australian market from New Zealand, but one of the major players, with over 270 people operating out of their Auckland operation alone, is Sitel. It is showing its commitment to the growing quality demands being placed by the Australian and New Zealand markets by doubling the capacity of this centre by the end of 2013 and is already considering other locations within New Zealand. From a longevity and stability perspective, again a key concern amongst buyers, the fact that Sitel has been in the Australian market for over 16 years and has an experienced management team in place highlights the ongoing commitment required to service such a market properly. Being based in Auckland also provides access to over 120,000 students attending Auckland's 3 universities and 4 technical institutes and the largest labour pool in New Zealand (one quarter of New Zealand's working population of 2.4million). As much as English language plays a part in the decision process amongst buyers, given Australia's ever growing multi-cultural population, Asian languages are now the second most spoken in Australia. At Sitel's Auckland operation, it now operates an Asian Language Support service using a bi-lingual pool of Asian agents. In addition to its Australian and New Zealand presence, resources and local structure, being the global organisation it is, Sitel New Zealand has the ability to access and bring the company's global knowledge, portfolio and resources network and capabilities to the table. Page 8

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