When asked about what was most likely to knock a government off course, former UK Prime Minister Harold McMillan said it best. His response: ‘events’. This applies equally to the business world, and outsourced customer experience management is no exception. Over the past several months, Covid-19 has disrupted contact center operations across the globe in an unprecedented fashion. And, while so many providers have managed to sustain their deployments during this period, the recent Hurricane Isaias has highlighted that BPO players need to double down on business continuity planning. With so many potential risks in the current commercial environment, a solid crisis management blueprint is essential to seamless delivery.
Hurricane Isaias testifies to both the changes that the planet continues to face and the disruption that contact center executives need to deal with. The ongoing climate crisis is just one factor that outsourcers need to consider when planning for how best to deal with service disruptions. Consider that alongside extreme weather, providers also need to take into account the potential for natural disasters, such as the tragic earthquake in Mexico during 2017, or societal disruptions that can impact both onshore and offshore delivery centers. Recent examples include the London riots less than a decade ago, as well as political upheaval in Nicaragua that happened two years back. Clearly, having the right contingency plans in place to deal with a host of situations is a must for BPOs.
One of these strategies needs to be delivery point diversification. This has been an oft-discussed topic in the BPO sector, and there appears to be general agreement among providers that the days of an outsourcer overwhelmingly housing their capacity in one location are long gone. With so many beset by sudden lockdowns in a variety of countries, BPO clients will be prioritizing adequate redundancy as a partner prerequisite.
The onus is on outsourcers to diversify delivery points as much as possible, in order to minimize their risk profile. Not to say that this will be easy – for many this will be a costly exercise, especially for emerging or mid-sized players. But, with the right partner strategy across different locations, it need not be as expensive or complex as commonly thought.
Equally, there is the potential of limiting business continuity risk by way of technology, in the form of automated solutions. These offerings have improved dramatically in recent years, especially those that are powered by artificial intelligence. In many cases, automated interfaces can manage interactions with consumers from start-to-finish, which can be an invaluable advantage during a disruptive period. But outsourcers need to recognize the limitations of these solutions, and have the right agents available to pick up when the human touch is required.
Of course, there is the work-at-home model that can act as a quarterback during problematic periods. This form of customer experience management has clearly proven its worth to even the most skeptical of executives over the past five months. It is an obvious manner for outsourcers to drive the best results during sensitive business continuity situations, and must form a major part of any strategic plan.
Still, the key for outsourcers is to actually formulate those plans in advance, by preparing for scenarios that are both likely and remote. Prospective and existing clients demand no less, nor should they. Uncertainty is at a high point, as highlighted by Hurricane Isaias. Preparing for events of all types cannot be brushed under the rug, but addressed head on.