I remember a class experiment in grade school where every student was timed to see how long they could hold their breath.
Any excuse to not do long division was fine by me.
But oddly, as I think back on so many purple-faced youth, it feels like every business is going through a similar experiment with COVID-19.
“How long must I hang on before I get to breathe a sigh of relief?”
The sudden shift to remote work, while very painful for many, has given oxygen to some very essential industries. And now that the dust has somewhat settled, the early results have been mostly positive, as productivity has taken only a modest hit despite upending entire workspaces.
For the call center industry, it’s becoming apparent that the at-home agent model is here to stay. Remote BPO services across different verticals have been shown to be effective and sustainable — so expect WFH to continue well after COVID-19 lockdowns.
The Current State of the At-Home BPO Model
Prior to coronavirus, the shift to remote work had already begun. Employee preferences for flexibility and convenience have grown the prevalence of at-home models.
But BPO providers were somewhat hesitant to fully embrace the WFH revolution, slowly dipping their toes into the shallow end as they moved to cloud-based software systems and began to beta test the remote model.
That all changed when COVID-19 forced most organizations to take the plunge overnight. But now many are finding the water surprisingly warm.
The at-home-agent model is the most functional approach during uncertain times, safeguarding services from the impact of pandemics, weather, traffic, and unforeseen issues with on-site facilities.
BPO providers that had well-established at-home agent models have been significantly thriving in recent weeks, because with systems and security in place they were already poised to onboard the wave of new clients needing an immediate remote solution.
Businesses should look for providers that have a firm mastery of at-home work today, because there is likely more disruption on the horizon. Despite many regions lifting their lockdown restrictions, many experts are projecting a post-reopening surge that could likely vault BPO providers back into shelter-in-place models.
Contact centers that had previously used at-home agents and those that have takens steps to support a remote model long term are the vendors best equipped to offer seamless BPO services if there’s a viral resurgence.
The Future of the At-Home BPO Model
So what about post-COVID? What happens when a vaccine is in place and this is all a distant memory?
Certainly, there will be changes to the call center landscape forever as organizations that are unable to weather this storm shutter for good. But the battle-tested providers that survive will have built a BPO model that is more cost-effective, more flexible, scalable and increasingly preferred by customers – and by employees.
In all likelihood very few BPOs, having been forced to build a remote infrastructure, are going to abandon all their hard work once call centers reopen.
Why? Because in addition to reducing the impact of curveballs – pandemic-driven or otherwise – the at-home-agent model gives BPO providers the chance to secure better talent long term.
Historically, physical locations created a limited talent pool, with viable candidates confined to areas within commuting distance. That meant the BPO services of a call center in Topeka were only as good as the people in Topeka.
With physical limitations removed, the at-home model opens BPOs to more qualified and skilled candidates around the globe.
Greater access to potential agents lets BPO providers do more. They can elevate their agent standards. They can require agents to hold specific certifications. They can unlock resources well beyond their physical location to help deliver better customer experiences for their clients.
Conversely, the pandemic has created an inflection point for workers, too.
What was once a coveted luxury (working from home) will become an expectation workers have for BPO employers. Supporting the at-home model has now become an essential requisite for BPOs to attract and retain the very best talent.
In the long run, expect the top-performing BPOs to offer a hybrid model that leverages both a brick-and-mortar model and an at-home component to cast the widest net possible to optimize client services.
How to Make the Right BPO Choice
Whether you’re scrambling to deploy in 2020 or looking for a long-term shift in BPO services, it just got harder to choose the right partner as many vendors that have just popped up in 2020 are trying to camouflage themselves as work at-home veterans – but it is not that easy.
To stay competitive, BPOs need to invest in the latest and greatest technologies and upgrade their processes to deliver a seamless at-home agent customer service offering. Moving agents home makes security infinitely more complicated, so security and compliance software should be heavily vetted. The right DaaS solution can create a secure home-based work station for employees, and PCI compliance software can keep customer data secure by removing the agent from the transaction altogether without any negative impact to the customer experience. Beyond these critical systems, BPOs need to put a huge focus on training and collaboration tools, like LMS and knowledge bases, and performance enhancement technologies like voice analytics and gamification — which have been widely overlooked but have now become mission critical for remote workforces.
As different BPOs adapt at different speeds, it will become very difficult for business leaders to assess these internal changes and select the right vendor for their organizations.
Using an impartial expert ensures that you’re meeting every essential criteria with your vendor selection.
Just contact us for a no-charge selection consultation to hear how easy it can be to find the perfect fit call center partner.