Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Study Examines the State of the North American Contact Industry: Part I

January 25, 2007

The contact center market is complex and dynamic, no matter what geographic region is the focus of discussion. While offshoring has become an increasing trend over the past decade, the industry in North America is still strong and growing. ContactBabel commissioned the study: North American Contact Centers in 2006: The State of the Industry. Over the next several days, we will examine this research and evaluate the current status of the industry as well as indicators for the future.
The North American contact center industry is vast, with 56,900 centers in the US and   3,950 in Canada. These centers also provide significant job opportunities for the communities in which they are located. In the US, there are 3.07 million agent positions, while Canada is home to 290,500 agents.
In the US, 34 percent of this staff of over 3 million is employed by centers that have over 250 agents and are considered large. Interestingly, these large centers only account for 4 percent of all sites in the nation. The mean average size of the contact center is 54 agents in the US and 74 agents in Canada.
In both the US and Canada, contact centers serve a multitude of industries. The strongest sector in North America is that of retail and distribution. This sector accounts for 19 percent of contact centers in this region. Other important sectors include finance, marketing, outsourcing and telemarketing, telecoms and utilities.
The North American industry overall has a relatively small number of large operations, employing several hundreds of thousands of people. As such, it creates a disproportionately large pool of employment in the largest few hundred contact centers. The perception among consumers seems to be that this is the typical contact center due in part to the fact that this is also where the greatest impact of offshoring is felt.
Each business sector or vertical market within the contact center industry is very distinct. The largest sector, retail and distribution, includes catalogue/direct mail retailers, package couriers, retail support for large physical stores and niche retailers. This particular sector has seen rapid growth, due in large part to the significant increase in online shopping, which requires telephone support.
The second-largest sector is that of the financial services industry. This includes banks, credit unions, credit card companies, insurance companies, building societies, collection agencies d credit reference agencies. While this sector accounts for 40 to 50 percent of several contact center solutions suppliers’ revenue, it has also shown the most inclination to move offshore.
Although they tend to be smaller organizations, manufacturing companies account for 11 percent of North American contact centers. These organizations tend to deal with customer support and sales to other companies rather than to the public. As the US still has a strong manufacturing base, the contact center support needed is proportionately larger than that found in other mature contact center industries.
Check back tomorrow as we continue to explore the status of the North American contact center industry for 2006. 
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Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMC and has also written for To see more of her articles, please visit Susan J. Campbell’s columnist page.