Sometimes nothing beats hearing straightforward feedback.  And, while the hard truth may be tough to take, it is better than sugar coating or tiptoeing around a reality.  These clichés were put to the test last week in the bustling British northern powerhouse of Manchester, where the Call Centre Management Association (CCMA) held its annual Contact Center Outsourcing Summit.  Tapping into the minds of a group of nearly 100 enterprise CX buyers is an occasion not to be missed, both from the perspective of understanding their priorities and what they are seeking in an outsourcing partner.

And the 2024 CCMA Manchester gathering yielded some fascinating mindshare on both subjects.  It is clear that what is top of mind for enterprise contact center buyers crosses multiple silos.  Among the most important is the direction of advanced technology in the context of CX; captive contact center leaders are enthusiastic about leveraging generative AI in the near – medium term, with many ready to implement these solutions where possible.  However, if the Manchester gathering is representative of the broader enterprise customer experience management community, there is significant frustration at the ongoing hype-cycle that takes a broad view of this technology, but remains somewhat evasive on detail about specific ways it can be applied within the CX space.

Then there is the matter of how enterprise contact centers are able to manage the boardroom pressures to deliver the best CX possible, so as to retain clients against the obstacle of limited spending flexibility.  The Ryan Strategic Advisory 2024 Front Office CX Omnibus Survey quantifies that in 2024 and 2025, one-in-two British captive contact centers will face flat or reduced budgets.  Participants at the CCMA Manchester gathering were upfront that these limitations would hit hard in their capacity to invest strategically in empowering people, streamlining processes and implementing the right CX technologies.

So what does that mean in terms of the outsourcing procurement dynamic?  Certainly, according to the attendees at the CCMA Contact Centre Outsourcing Summit, any credible BPO needs to come to the table with a well-rounded CX offering that includes a robust delivery platform that is based on both affordability and quality.  Equally, there is also the need for a partner to offer a credible technology stack, one that incorporates generative AI solutions alongside other elements, such as analytics, front-line automation and agent-assist mechanisms.  However, there was one other factor in deciding on a BPO partner that was consistently mentioned by attendees in Manchester – culture.

Perhaps in an age when the competition among third-party players to win new CX deals seems to be predicated on outdoing competitors on price, functional / technological offerings or delivery location footprint, it is easy for an outsourcer to place company culture on the back-burner. However, those on the buy-side won’t accept this.  Those assembled in Manchester made it clear that when scoping an outsourcing provider, the manner in which the BPO facilitates a positive, warm culture counts a lot when deciding on a partner.  As noted by one delegate, how a BPO cascades a strong culture across its operations impacts performance at all levels. It is also an indicator of how they will approach their relations with an enterprise client.

While company culture is hard to quantify, it needs to be a priority for outsourcing operators in the UK and beyond.  With enterprise CX leaders focused on strong outcomes for their customers, being able to highlight a positive working environment that drives performance and helps all team members achieve their potential will go far in ensuring sticky engagements.  To ignore culture will only hurt a BPO’s level of competitiveness over the long term.  The recent CCMA gathering was a clear snapshot of this undercurrent, which should be front-of-mind for third-party CX providers of all sizes.