Industry Commentary

CX Hybrid Model Demands Balance and Flexibility from BPOs

By April 27, 2021February 14th, 2024No Comments

Predictions rely on data and anecdotal evidence.  The art of prognostication is sophistry that has been mastered by few individuals, with the most successful being those who are constantly amending their forecasts to incorporate new information.  Now, as a post-vaccine world approaches, more BPO CX decision-makers are struggling to figure out what a hybrid delivery model will look like. The extent to which work-from-home agents will blend with counterparts in physical centers is a topic of debate that has many CX planners up late (even early!).  The key to managing this dilemma is flexibility, and an understanding that much will be dependent on specific client needs.

Let there be no doubt that a hybrid CX model will be a structural part of global customer management moving forward.  Over the past 14 months, outsourcers and their enterprise clients have learned that virtual agent delivery has a place in a modern contact center strategy. It has proven a viable way of conducting front-line operations during a very challenging period. In addition, not only does home-based agent delivery provide a reasonable alternative to the traditional ways of driving CX, it also helps ensure risk redundancy.

Still, the share of home-based agents may not be as dominant in a post-pandemic world as previously thought. Consider the predictions made by many in CX at the outset of the COVID19 crisis; some heralded the end of the contact center.  Following the Dunkirk-like shift from on-site delivery to work-from-home by captive and third-party operators, these prognostications made sense. For a time, the future looked as if it belonged exclusively to home-based customer management. To whit, the 2021 Front Office Ominbus Survey indicates that roughly 9-in-10 enterprises across western demand markets have deployed virutal working in some form, a marked contrast to even 18 months ago.

Then vaccine rollouts across major markets began in earnest.  With a potential end to the pandemic in sight, many CX decision-makers have begun to take another look at the extent to which they can leverage bricks-and-mortar delivery. Anecdotal evidence suggests a growing number of enterprises are looking for the bulk of their front-line work to be performed in-center, as opposed to from home. This is understandable for multiple reasons.

For one, the rapid shift to homeworking was riven with challenges for many enterprises — and in some cases, those BPO partners with limited experience in this domain. Also, the CX community has made significant investments in commercial real estate over the past decade, especially when it comes to environmental retrofitting and ergonomic workspaces. The aim to continue sweating these assets should not be underestimated.  Neither should ongoing evidence that a growing proportion of agents themselves wish to work in contact centers for at least part of the week.  Accommodating this desire will boost morale and performance, something no outsourcer or enterprise can ignore.  Due to these reasons, among others, outsourcing executives should prepare for a larger percentage of in-center work than was anticipated even six months ago.

The reality is, while the hybrid CX model pendulum is swinging toward more bricks-and-mortar delivery, much will depend on the individual client in question. Those sectors that involve a greater level of security compliance, or that emphasize a company culture centered around in-person team management, may lean in the direction of more on-site delivery.  Other firms will continue to embrace the work-from-home model, especially those in industries where virtual delivery has proven an operational benefit.  What remains certain is that each client will have a different vision of their ideal hybrid. As such, their BPO partners need to be accommodating.  A one-size-fits-all approach will not work as enterprises find their respective comfort levels. Working to determine the best hybrid balance between work-from-home and in-center support must be prioritized.