Industry Commentary

Lessons for BPOs from ‘The Last Blockbuster’

By April 19, 2021February 14th, 2024No Comments

Nothing remains static.  In life as well as business, the cliché holds.  No matter the sector, the ability of an enterprise to pivot to meet the needs of its consumers or clients is the difference between long-term success or failure.  Yet, what is truly fascinating are the parallels that can be incorporated from the experiences of the past into today’s commercial environment.  Who would have imagined that the front-office outsourcing community would be able to learn from the challenges faced by one of the biggest names in home entertainment in recent history?

In most Western countries, it is near impossible to find someone who at some point did not have a Blockbuster Video membership card in their pocket.  Blockbuster was omnipresent in every high street and strip mall, with eager movie-watchers flocking to the blue and yellow signage for the latest new releases.  But, as laid out in the brilliant Netflix documentary ‘The Last Blockbuster’, by not responding quickly enough to rapid changes in evolving consumer preferences, as well as ignoring upstart competition, this video powerhouse’s appeal quickly unraveled. It is now down to one branch.

While this documentary is both informative and entertaining in its own right, there are definite lessons that modern CX BPO executives can draw on.

The most obvious lesson is that no outsourcer can afford to be late to the party.  Much as streaming content started to become a ‘thing’ for mainstream consumers roughly a decade ago, with less interest in renting films or series at the local video store, today’s enterprises want an evolved front-line CX value proposition.

Fewer clients are willing to engage with a contact center service partner for an agent-only play. Rather, there is a desire for a more robust offering, one that encompasses added value solutions, business continuity, and professional services.  By simply providing what worked for the past two decades, a BPO will see a steady decline in clients, as did the once mighty video rental store. And keeping a close eye on disruptive competitors is another important lesson.  As laid out in the documentary, early in its streaming existence Netflix once approached Blockbuster to be bought and was rebuffed. Big mistake – consumers were acutely attracted to the affordable price point and accessible content Netflix offered. Subsequent efforts by Blockbuster to develop its own streaming platform were too little, too late.

Thus, BPO executives should keep watch on competitors that have strong offerings that are on the cutting-edge of CX service delivery. Decision-makers must be prepared to act on the chance to establish some kind of partnership with these firms, or if acquisition opportunities pop up.  Equally, making certain that cross-CX ecosystem offerings are seen as both affordable and straightforward is essential, especially as enterprises that are new to third-party outsourcing seek to grow their BPO footprints.

A final lesson from ‘The Last Blockbuster’ relates to commercial feasibility.  How many individuals will recall the pledge by Blockbuster to end late fees? We all remember those pesky charges that consumers incurred when videos were brought back after they were due.  Annoying yes, but the decision to get rid of late fees cost Blockbuster dearly, given its inability to rent out content that was in-demand while being unable to charge laggard customers for this opportunity cost. Therefore, outsourcers have to make certain that in 2021 and beyond their CX offerings are ones that will not only gain the interest of existing / prospective clients, but such solutions must also be commercially viable.  Margins in the contact center services space are tight already. Giving away the farm for the sake of securing unprofitable business will only ensure that providers that take this path go the way of the dinosaur.