Find out how contact centers will be impacted by blockchain, robotics and vacant mall space

by Brianna Crandall — February 28, 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, according to a recent report from global professional and real estate services firm JLL. The firm’s 2018 Contact Center Outlook reveals that the US 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, e-mail and social media continue to spike in adoption, blockchain and robotic automation are emerging as disruptors in the market.

Tadd Wisinski, managing director and Contact Centers Group co-lead, JLL, stated:

The global contact center industry will continue growing through 2020, with the US remaining a premier location. 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 (question-and-answer) 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.

Leaps in artificial intelligence (AI) software technology, which draw connections between vast amounts of data, is also expected to create better customer experiences driven by data, insights, and past interactions — creating more efficient and effective communications.

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.

  1. 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.

Kyle Harding, executive vice president and Contact Centers Group co-lead, JLL, pointed out:

Retail landlords struggling to fill vacancies with retail tenants can benefit from broadening their search to include contact center users. 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.

  1. 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 five percent through 2026.

Harding continued:

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. While the responsibilities of CSRs are being rewritten, the job remains an integral part of customer service.

To learn more about the key trends influencing the contact center real estate market, see JLL’s 2018 Contact Center Outlook summary and download the report upon brief registration.