Contact centers ready to answer the call of digital disruption

Blockchain, robotic automation and vacant mall space influence global contact center industry

CHICAGO, Feb. 13, 2018 —  Following yet another strong year for the industry, the global contact center market is dialed in and on track for steady growth for the foreseeable future. JLL's 2018 Contact Center Outlook reveals that the U.S. is capturing the lion's share of contact center outsourcing (CCO), where skilled labor is accessible for complex and high-quality customer service. 

As the industry continues to grow, the impact of digital disruption is being felt more than ever. While non-voice channels such as chat, email and social media continue to spike in adoption, blockchain and robotic automation are emerging as disruptors in the market.

"The global contact center industry will continue growing through 2020, with the U.S. remaining a premier location," said Tadd Wisinski, Managing Director and Contact Centers Group Co-Lead, JLL. "However, finding labor to fill highly skilled customer service representative jobs will become a greater challenge. Coupled with the need to adopt disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, the contact center industry is poised to undergo significant change as it grows in the coming years."

With so many changes impacting the industry, JLL's report reveals three trends that will alter how contact center operators view their real estate:

1. Robotic automation will ease contact center operations for complex industries.

Industries such as healthcare, banking and financial services require subject-matter experts to guide customers through a wide variety of sensitive issues. By adopting robotic automation across their real estate portfolios, operators will allow customers to begin contact center encounters with initial prescreening and simple Q&A processes via robotic and computer programs. This not only limits the amount of people and space needed to run an operation, but also pushes the contact center industry toward higher skilled labor.

Blockchain, which is a secure, digital and decentralized record of transactions, could further aid complex industries by reducing time and effort in processing and securing transactions.

2. Contact centers: coming to a mall near you.

As CCO operators search for affordable real estate and skilled labor for their new contact centers, vacant mall spaces have become more attractive than ever. While contact centers have been filling vacant retail space for quite some time, now there are even more prime spaces on the market. Contact centers are a top option for vacant big box stores for three reasons: high parking ratios, open floor plans and access to transit and amenities.

Despite contact centers being dense work environments, mall parking lots far exceed the standard parking space ratio of eight parking spaces per 1,000 square feet. Meanwhile, the openness of retail stores creates an efficient floorplan that allows contact center users to staff appropriately. Malls are also located near residential properties, granting access to much-needed labor.

"Retail landlords struggling to fill vacancies with retail tenants can benefit from broadening their search to include contact center users," said Kyle Harding, Executive Vice President and Contact Centers Group Co-Lead, JLL. "In addition to ample parking and floor space for employees, malls provide amenities such as restaurants, entertainment and community areas that cater to the 'live, work, play' environment dominating today's work culture."

3. The job description for customer service representatives (CSRs) will change, but it won't go away.

While digital disruption is impacting the contact center industry, it hasn't stopped CSR job growth largely because of the complex customer service needs of today's consumers and continued on-shoring of contact centers. In fact, CSR employment has steadily increased across primary, secondary and tertiary U.S. markets. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CSR employment will continue to grow 5 percent through 2026.

"Contact center users and operators will continue to rebalance their real estate footprints to satisfy labor needs as they adopt new technologies, and this will require a skilled labor force to provide high-quality services," Harding said. "While the responsibilities of CSRs are being rewritten, the job remains an integral part of customer service."

About JLL

JLL (NYSE: JLL) is a leading professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management. A Fortune 500 company, JLL helps real estate owners, occupiers and investors achieve their business ambitions. In 2017, JLL had revenue of $7.9 billion and fee revenue of $6.7 billion; managed 4.6 billion square feet, or 423 million square meters; and completed investment sales, acquisitions and finance transactions of approximately $170 billion. At the end of 2017, JLL had nearly 300 corporate offices, operations in over 80 countries and a global workforce of 82,000. As of December 31, 2017, LaSalle had $58.1 billion of real estate assets under management. JLL is the brand name, and a registered trademark, of Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated.