Nice Systems plans to expand its Hong Kong operations, based on its predictions of rapid growth in the call-centre industry. Yuval Ofek, an official with the Israel-based firm, said there would be more phone-service centres in the SAR as companies focused on meeting customer demand. He said there were 4,000 call centres in Hong Kong. 'We see the need for call centres in Hong Kong, and all of Asia, expanding. Price and selection have taken a back seat to customer service,' he said. He did not disclose specifics of Nice Systems' expansion plans. The Internet and globalisation of the world economy have allowed companies at all levels of the supply chain to become highly competitive in terms of product quality and what they charge. That leaves only value-added considerations, such as customer service, to attract customers. The shift away from price and product has helped spawn the concept of customer relationship management (CRM) and technology that monitors how effectively call centres deal with the public. Nice Systems said it had advanced CRM, and claimed the term 'customer experience management' or CEM. 'CRM is transaction-oriented, while CEM is more about the overall experience,' Mr Ofek said. He said CEM improved on CRM by allowing more data to be monitored, including voice recordings of conversations between customers and agents and automated phone or e-mail surveys that tracked people's impressions of how they were dealt with. The CEM systems can provide detailed analysis of customer-service transactions and give reports to company executives. 'There is a wealth of information sitting in call centres waiting to be used. 'Companies spend valuable resources going out and trying to find out what their customers are thinking, but the information is already there,' Mr Ofek said. Nice Systems has 150 installations of its CEM package in Hong Kong, with corporate clients including Citibank. The company claims about one-third of the global market. It is not alone in its expansion plans for Greater China or in the use of the CEM buzzword. United States-based Converse Infosys also is pushing CEM, and announced last week its intention to boost operations in the region. Israel Shamay, Converse Infosys vice-president for Asia-Pacific, said analysts expected the CEM market to generate US$1 billion in revenue worldwide over the next five years. 'These solutions will have an immediate effect and impact on customer relationships and loyalty in contact centres,' Mr Shamay said. Converse Infosys operates research and development centres in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, and recently opened an office in Shanghai.