Industry Commentary

Are BPOs Ready for a Recession?

By February 19, 2019July 25th, 2023No Comments

The economic cycle dictates economies that perform well will eventually slow down.  With so many demand markets having experienced significant expansion of late, it is no surprise that some economic forecasters now anticipate at least a mild contraction in growth in 2019. Should this occur, outsourcers must ask: How do we remain relevant?  This is a challenge that has faced contact center service providers since the industry’s inception, and it is one that this community needs to get right, regardless of if an eventual slowdown is a temporary blip or a full-blown recession.

It would be naïve not to recognize that a slowdown in the global economy is underway.  In the case of the European Union, growth within that community of nations has been revised downward for this year and next.  In the US, retail sales posted their lowest levels in December of 2018 since 2009. The Bank of England, meanwhile, anticipates the worst growth in a decade, due to ongoing Brexit uncertainty.  Prudent executives in all sectors need to be ready to confront a potential slowdown with realistic commercial strategies that will help maintain their relevance in a shifting marketplace.  Front-office BPO providers are not exempt from this.

One thing that outsourcing executives can do immediately is look to the last major economic growth contraction in 2008 / 2009, in order to examine how the industry responded to changes in the marketplace. Many BPO observers who predicted a boom in third-party contact center activity back then got it completely wrong.  They reasoned that enterprises would be eager to shed their costly auxiliary services, but in fact contact center activity slowed for both in-house and outsourced operations as consumer demand shrank across all sectors.  As a result, those heady projections of new outsourced workstations coming on line came to naught.

So what should outsourcers do differently this year and next in order to make sure that their value proposition is as clear as possible during an economic slowdown?  First, focus on loyalty generation.  In any type of a business contraction, enterprise executives will place value on partners that can help keep their existing base of end-users intact.  This comes in the form of exceptional front-line delivery, alongside the added-value services that help the enterprise know their consumer better in order to position products and services optimally.  Combined, this will help drive share of wallet, and cement a relationship over the consumer lifecycle. Second, outsourcers are in a position to help clients with other offerings that were not available a decade ago, but which are extremely relevant in the current business climate.  By helping enterprises incorporate targeted and stress-tested automated solutions into their front-line strategies, efficiencies will result in important cost savings.

Regardless of what happens to the global economy in the next twelve to eighteen months, the key for contact center providers is to ensure a state of readiness to face whatever comes their way.  If history is a good indicator, those that can clearly enunciate their suite of offerings to enterprise decision-makers, eager to mitigate challenging commercial circumstances, are likely to find a welcome audience.  Those that do not and that make it up as they go along will simply be irrelevant.