These are, to cite the old Chinese curse ‘interesting times’ for organizations seeking to outsource their contact center services and for business process outsourcers (BPOs) alike. That is because serving end-customers has never been more challenging. Today’s buyers are proactive, quality conscious but price-sharp, unimpressed with brands unless they consistently deliver, and whose loyalty is as good as their last interaction. These individuals also utilize a growing and bewildering array of channels. And as shown by the popularity of the Do Not Call list in the U.S., which will shortly go live also in Canada, customers prefer to reach out rather than the other way around, unless they want you to.
BPOs cannot afford to invest in the latest tools without strong assurance that clients will want and pay for them, yet clients will not do business with these BPOs unless they have those As firms, including nonprofits and institutions, move their strategies toward meeting their customers’ needs, by investing in tools such as in CRM, call recording, speech analytics, and performance and workforce management systems at their contact centers, they have been moving away from BPOs for such high-value interactions.
The Drive to Value-Add
BPO firms, realizing these trends, have been stepping up their quality and services. They have been expanding into areas such as applications hosting , back office management, billing, conferencing, consulting , data analytics, HR management, and market research. In turn, the high quality contact center care has led to increased interest and demand for value-added services, thereby creating a virtuous circle.
The low margins, plus ease of entry, and many players along the retiring and cashing out of companies’ founders have made mergers and acquisitions the norm in the BPO industry. Yet while they have led to bigger companies with more clients and workstations it has not necessarily led to greater market leverage, and higher prices.
Companies will typically want at least two outsourcers on a program so if your two outsourcers who are merging happen to have the same customer, companies will pull that work to someone else, which helps keep prices down.
The increased emphasis on customer service and quality is impacting BPO offshoring and nearshoring.There have been many published reports of dissatisfied customers, and companies with having their calls handled in India. Clients and BPO firms are in response moving their more customer-sensitive work to other nations and in some cases back to the US.
The Everest Research Institute reports that offshoring including to India have been successful though for those BPOs and companies that made their metrics quality-focused, such as using customer satisfaction scores, and had agents undergo simulation-based training. Meanwhile the weak US and stronger Canadian dollar has ruled Canada out as an alternative. Many clients have pulled nearshored programs from there, forcing BPOs such as Convergys, ICT Group, TRG, and West to shutter contact centers.
BPO at Home
There continues to be strong move to bring BPO home: to those of its agents. The home agent value proposition is access to larger, higher quality and more flexible labor pool without the capital costs of formal contact centers.
West, which has had a home agent program for the past several years, has addressed the issue of data security , which has been a key inhibitor on the part of many organizations, especially financial services firms, in letting these individuals handle their calls.
Its new West at Home Locked-Down Desktop Security Environment transforms employees’ home desktop computers into a West proprietary environment. When its home agents begin work, the software only runs those applications or processes explicitly permitted to be operated, which locks down their computers. They cannot access other files, folders, or programs or go to West-unauthorized Web sites during this time, nor can they download, store and/or print information. When the agents have finished work, their desktops are restored to their former state.
Canada’s Domestic BPO Market
Canada’s currency relative to the US dollar has risen to the point where on some occasions it is more valuable, which has made it less viable for nearshored programs. The flip side to the strong Canadian ‘Loonie’ is that Canada has still, relative to the US, a strong domestic market thanks to its energy and more stable housing sectors. Outsourcing is one of the best means of reaching out to Canada’s 33 million consumers, and to its business and government sectors.
Boutique BPO firms are smaller companies whose value propositions stress top level high-customizable quality customer care and satisfaction and personalized attention to clients’ needs. They are noted for loyal, well-trained and experienced agents and supervisors backed by quality assurance systems. They can provide the ideal adjuncts and partners to best-in-class in-house contact centers. While their rates are not the lowest, they deliver value for money.
Outsourcing Your Help Desk
There are times when your contact center needs help with IT issues yet your help desk is swamped. And if you are with a small/midsized firm you may not be able to justify having a full-time IT team yet you need their services when your operations go buggy.
Help desk outsourcing enables you to quickly and effectively resolve many problems for less money compared with expanding your IT desk or bringing in an outside onsite support professional. The Utility Company has made it easier for more firms to benefit from help desk outsourcing.