As we enter the last week of the EU referendum campaign, the overall decision remains on a knife edge – and it’s clear that across the contact centre industry, the choice of whether to stay or leave remains the focus for passionate and heated debate. A snapshot poll of a small sample of senior decision-makers within the UK contact centre industry, which we recently conducted, found a small majority believing a vote to leave the European Union would be positive for the future of the UK contact centre industry.
Key arguments in favour of leaving related to the increased opportunity to reduce the weight of legislation and red tape for businesses, while wresting back autonomy and sovereignty from Brussels. Some of the poll respondents with pro-EU opinions, expressed the view that a Brexit would weaken the UK’s position across the world and that the country would be at the mercy of the will of other EU countries in terms of finalising trade deals.
While our state-of-the-market poll showed a majority of respondents favouring leave, it’s clear that the contact centre industry is as split on this as the country as a whole – and this divergence of opinion is not all that surprising. When you look at Europe it’s a patchwork quilt of many different countries, languages, cultures and ways of dealing with customers. Different-sized companies working in different sectors approach customer experience in different ways. For example, many large mobile phone operators have in country call centres handling interactions in local language with native agents. But then they have extremely large customer bases.
But what about the smaller to mid-size business that’s actively selling in Europe but doesn’t have enough customers and critical mass to warrant an in country contact centre? Step forward the multi-language contact centre of which the UK currently has many.
Closing down the Gateway?
The majority of respondents to the poll also believed that ‘the UK’s position as a one-stop-shop gateway for North American businesses looking to build a strong footprint in Europe’ would not be adversely affected by a leave vote. It’s clear though that despite the scepticism highlighted in our survey about the impact of leaving, the UK’s position at EU’s top table has allowed it to provide a one-stop-shop for many businesses based around the world, particularly in North America, who are looking for a gateway into Europe.
The above argument provides yet further evidence that almost any topic related to the EU remains a bone of contention for the contact centre industry.
Take the issue of regulation, for example. Small businesses often claim to be drowning in a sea of red tape and regulation, which together act as a cost and a drag on doing business. Exiting the EU seems the obvious cure, liberating customer-facing firms from all that red tape. But then the counter-argument is: do they really want to be liberated from it, as a lot of those regulations are around key issues of data security and data privacy and may be crucial to the integrity of business in the contact centre? Added to that, even if the UK came out of European Union, if you were working for a business based in the EU or dealing with a customer based there, you would have to deal with those regulations anyway.
In recent weeks, it has become clear that the referendum debate is raising more questions than answers and that’s increasingly the case as we approach the date of the vote. No matter what the topic of discussion, there are no easy solutions, and while many in the industry will no doubt be celebrating on June 24th, there are likely to also be a significant number drowning their sorrows as the week draws to an end.