Industry Commentary

India Stands the Front-Office BPO Test of Time

By May 1, 2019January 10th, 2024No Comments

Customer experience offshore outsourcing is in a state of disruption.  With more locations positioning themselves as the logical alternative to domestic delivery or automated solutions, the choice for outsourcers and their clients has never been as pronounced. However, even in this catalog of overseas options, one of the most established offshore locales keeps its edge: India.  The country’s industry players continue to innovate in the domain of customer experience management expertise.  Those that previously wrote this location off as yesterday’s news could not have been more wrong, with providers already on the ground clearly looking to leverage India for their evolving front-line and more complex functional requirements.  It is also driving interest among prospective contact center investors, who are more willing to take a look at this industry giant.

It is telling that the BBC recently posted a podcast heralding the first contact center in India, founded over 20 years ago. It could be argued that Indian contact centers were the first to have serviced consumers from English-language demand markets in large numbers.  This was instrumental in the development not only of the burgeoning Indian contact center industry, which is one of the largest in the world, but it has also developed a culture within the space, and fostered a workforce familiar with the opportunities that it can afford.

This is not to say that it has been a completely smooth road. Indian front-office outsourcing faced considerable pushback for a number of years, with concerns related to accent neutrality and cultural disconnects. In many cases, these formed the basis of clichéd attempts at popular culture, which were simplistic and juvenile.  But, those that heralded the end of Indian contact centers could not have been more wrong.

Today, this industry has re-established itself as one of the most dynamic in the world, albeit for reasons unique to the current business environment.  Certainly, the cost arbitrage that has long been a key driver for Indian offshoring still exists. The scale of agents that are fluent in English and eager to pursue a career in customer experience is arguably unmatched. There is also a plethora of secondary cities, not to mention a responsive Indian outsourcing industry body at providers’ disposal.  But, the value proposition around India 2.0 is a more sophisticated play on customer experience delivery, one that ties in voice and digital front-line service with back-office functionality and broader strategic competencies designed to help clients realize better end-user loyalty.  Providers understand that India’s outsourcing community is no longer based solely around contact centers. However, contact centers remain an integral part of this sector.  And this is not lost on buyers.

In fact, the recently published Most Favored Offshore Contact Center Delivery Locations that was based on research from the 2019 Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey (which sounded the views of nearly 500 in-house contact center executives), India performed very strongly, tying for second place with South Africa out of more than forty different countries.  Enterprise contact center strategists have retained a solid regard for what can be done from this South Asian CRM powerhouse, and in many cases are encouraging their BPO partners to think in the same vein.

This is not to say that Indian outsourcing is not without potential challenges.  Western demand markets still face anti-offshoring pressure from legislators and consumers, which could be detrimental.  Equally, with more choices in the nearshore, travel-weary executives may choose options closer to home.  But it remains clear that India has managed to retain its relevance in front-office BPO, and is a key component in the offshoring dynamic.