Many of today’s largest call center companies were created between 1980 and 2000. The number of call centers around the world increased during the 1980s and 1990s, and by the end of the ’90s, the internet had begun to contribute to even further growth, with call centers handling customer service and technical support issues for websites. The early 2000s trend of offshoring services to reduce costs gave further impetus to the outsourced call center.

Today, the outsourced call center industry represents approximately USD 90 billion in revenues worldwide. Some developing countries rely on outsourced call centers to provide a relevant part of their economies. In the Philippines, for instance, the call center industry generated approximately USD 10 billion in revenues in 2012, representing about 4% of the country’s GDP. Call centers are an important source of jobs, even in developed countries: Approximately 1% of the total employed population in Europe works in call center functions. 

The industry, however, might be at a tipping point. Despite recent industry growth, call centers are at risk of disappearing altogether. And what’s to blame for this potential extinction? Digitalization along with voice automation and artificial intelligence (AI). 
This Executive Insights looks at the factors behind whether the call center industry is at a tipping point

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