The Contact Center Outsourcing (CCO) industry is continuing to undergo steady growth with technology driving transformation across the customer care value chain. According to the Business Services Insider, an industry report released by Brown Gibbons Lang & Company (BGL), technology is also fueling M&A, as digitalization disrupts traditional business models.

The BGL report features a roundtable of leading executives in the CCO sector who share their insights on developing industry trends, including how technology and work-from-home (WFH) models are changing the customer care landscape forever.

Today’s contact centers have embraced the significantly increased need for the highest quality service capability. Technology has broadened communication channels facilitating multiple customer touch points, or “contact” points— voice, messaging, chat, social media, email, and self-service—for a seamless omni-channel experience. Investment in technology, including artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), self-help tools, and chatbots, is expected to increase efficiency, lower cost, and significantly improve the overall customer experience. “These technologies represent substantial opportunities to improve our ability to deliver more efficient and rewarding customer engagements,” offered Doug Kearney, chief operating officer at Qualfon and a participant in the BGL roundtable. “There is going to be a lot more discussion and push around how you leverage AI, RPA, and chatbots as a result of COVID-19.”

Technology has also supported expansion of the WFH model, making remote workers now a permanent element of the “next-generation” contact center. The COVID-19 crisis escalated the critical nature of remote platforms and further solidified WFH as an alternative to the traditional hub-and-spoke delivery model. Frank Pettinato, chief executive officer at Avantive Solutions, shared his view: “There will be a lot of questions about business continuity, specifically WFH. Clients are going to be demanding it as part of their proposals.” “COVID-19 accelerated deployment of the WFH model industry-wide,” added Inktel Chief Executive Officer Ricky Arriola.

M&A activity was continuing at a brisk pace pre-COVID-19, with industry diversification, service capability enhancement and geographic expansion acting as primary drivers for strategic and financial buyers alike:

  • Competence Call Center, acquired by TELUS International, and the purchase of Webhelp by Groupe Bruxelles Lambert represent recent notable corporate transactions that significantly expanded the scale, scope, and geographic footprints of the combined organizations. Private equity investment activity underscores the optimistic outlook for the industry’s growth prospects. Atento (sale of Bain Capital equity stake to an investor group comprised of HPS Investment Partners, GIC, and Farallon Capital Management) and Sequential Technology International (acquisition by AP Capital Partners) highlight large platform assets that traded in recent months.
  • M&A is also a lever to build technology portfolios, illustrated by acquisition activity from Sykes Enterprises in AI (XSELL), RPA (Symphony Ventures), self-service (Qelp), and digital marketing (Clear Link); TTEC Holdings in AI and analytics (Motif); and RingCentral in cloud computing (Connect First).

The fragmented landscape continues to present M&A opportunities, and buyers are proceeding with a highly strategic approach to acquisitions in the current environment. We anticipate the second half of 2020 to be actively driven by the accelerated outsourcing trend and the view that high-quality customer care is an essential service.