Since March, the contact center outsourcing community has been debating how the post-COVID19 normal will look. And there is no clear answer to this challenging question. This subject (and many more) were highlighted in a CxOutsourcers live Q&A session, held exclusively for executives at front-office BPO operations on April 29th. Customer experience experts Melissa O’Brien, Mark Hillary, Alistair Niederer and Steve Weston all shared their insights.
With uncertainty around the impact of the ongoing pandemic lockdown on customer experience operations, outsourcers are searching for direction in terms of the strategic investments that need to be made, alongside the tactical actions that are required to get through the near-to-medium term.
The interest among executives in the future of the outsourced business model was palpable during the live session. Consumer activity is now falling at a swift pace, according to many credible economists, and BPO executives aired worries about the ongoing need for third-party services during the interactive session. The team of experts remained steadfast that while interaction volumes may slow during the foreseeable future, the need for the expertise that the customer experience service community brings to the table will be essential in securing consumer loyalty for their enterprise clients.
Obviously, work-at-home as a business model solicited a great deal of interest among those participants to the live discussion. A very important issue within this field of questioning relates to best practices that may guide outsourcers using this business model, regardless of their geographic location or industry.
In addition, the expert panel discussed the concept of recognized quality certification for agents. The panel of experts rightly indicated that these concepts were well worth exploring. This was alongside concerns about how to keep agents that are not used to working from home motivated and engaged. With so many new entrants in the work-at-home domain, there is significant potential for companies not used to deploying this model to make mistakes. Having playbooks that are industry-driven, and that can help guide the right work-at-home behaviors, is essential both for avoiding pitfalls and promoting best practices.
Equally, the future of offshore and nearshore operations was also a significant topic of debate. A number of participants asked how offshoring can be applied in a post-COVID19 commercial environment, and which locations were to remain pertinent in the market. With so many outsourcers heavily invested in various non-domestic delivery points, it is logical that executives seek guidance on this business model. Panelists were clear that while offshoring is not going away, it will likely see some shifts – less concentration in smaller numbers of countries in order to mitigate risk, and the possibility of expanding the home-working model where connectivity is more robust, were both clear directions from the experts.
Managing compliance matters was also raised and is understandably a worry for many operators. Data protection during disruptive times is never an easy play, and the panel was adamant that now is the time for outsourcers to meet compliance requirements to the letter. This issue is one with no margin for error, and in order to secure existing contracts over the long term, BPOs have to respond accordingly.
The long-term future of customer experience delivery will be debated vigorously over the coming weeks and months. However, what is obvious is that outsourcers servicing this market are focused on making the right choices now to solidify their competitive positioning. There are a many considerations that need to be taken into account, but understanding that business as usual such as it was even a few short months ago is not one of them.