Posted On September 27th, 2013
Next week will see the 2 day Call Centre Expo event which is again being held at The Kensington, Olympia in London. The event is by far the largest call centre specific exhibition in The UK. It's at this time of the year that my friends and associates in the industry start asking whether we should meet at the event with many people concerned that it is is no longer relevant for those involved in outsourcing. So with this in mind, here's my take on the event.
(1) Call Centre Expo has increasingly become a call centre technology event as time has progressed. This is no surprise given that technology companies tend to have extensive marketing budgets and the event is not cheap to have a stand at. There will be some outsourced vendors at this year's event including SITEL who I understand are a major sponsor this year.
(2) 10 years ago, those companies who had a stand could expect to come away with a pocket-full of leads of companies looking to outsource. Over the years, this has definitely declined with many companies who have exhibited now telling me that there are now far less buyers (of outsourcing) attending this event. The move away from Birmingham's NEC to London was supposed to address this and this would appear to make sense given that there are many 'decision makers' based in London than in Birmingham. However, I am reliably informed that the majority of attendees are still operational and technical people. Of course, some of these may be on fact-finding missions and exhibitors may pick up a few low level leads. The difficulty with the format of the event is that there is unlikely to be any major innovations launched there and so those who buy outsourcing won't necessarily be driven to attend unless they just happen to be having a slow day and fancy the rather awkward tube trip down to Olympia. A few years ago, I listened to a fantastic speech in New York from Frank Casale of The Outsourcing Institute where he said that clients used to feel there were too few vendors but now there are too many. This is undoubtedly true and is one of the reasons for the declining success of 'Expo'. Clients no longer need to attend such events to find vendors. They already know plenty of vendors and their time is devoted to finding (and of course managing) the most appropriate ones.
(3) If you are attending the event as a visitor, then success is likely to be harder to find. Last year, I spoke to the CEO of a mid-sized Indian call centre who said he'd flown from India for the event only to find it pointless. On further discussion, I realised that he'd walked round the event speaking to exhibitors in the vain hope that one of the many buyers at the event would spot his badge and spark up a conversation which would eventually result in business. Regular attendees at the event might think this is a crazy thing to do but I am assured that he is not alone. If this is your strategy and you've already booked your flights, I suggest you get on the phone and try to arrange some people to meet whilst you are there. If you could meet half a dozen contacts while you are there, then it's safe to say that it's been a fruitful experience.
(4) For those of us who have been in the call centre industry a long time, the event is more of a chance to catch up with the many friends I have made over the years. Some of whom I've already arranged to meet and many more I expect to bump into whilst I'm there. For me, it's my one 'jolly' of the year and if I all I do is to spend my day in the Pizza Express next door drinking Diet Coke with old friends, then I'll consider the event a success. If we discuss work and it turns out that I can help them in their job or vice-versa, then it will be a bonus. I expect the technology vendors will have grander expectations of the day but at least my expectations are realistic. If you would look to meet for a Diet Coke in Pizza Express, please give me a call on 077400 96598.