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The Outsourcing Shuffle: 4 Ways COVID-19 is Changing the Face of the BPO Industry

Are you having trouble making plans that go beyond the short term? 

Six weeks ago, who knew where we’d be today, as office environments sprinted toward 100% remote work — and now, who knows where we’re going?

COVID-19 makes it nearly impossible to predict the future demands of call center organizations. But winners and losers will be crowned as leaders try to navigate this period of disruption and forecast for future trends.

Here are four industry changes you should expect in the coming months.

Biggest BPO Players Hit the Bench

The traditional call center powerhouses with weak work-at-home solutions are hurting. 

High-density populations and lower cost conditions in countries like India and the Philippines (attractive outsourcing characteristics normally) have exposed the vulnerability of each nation’s infrastructure to contain the current health crisis. 

Since late March, compelled by overwhelming coronavirus infections, both countries have been under strict lockdown measures which have hamstrung the entire call center industry:

While both national industries are working rapidly to go remote, the impact of internet speeds and inadequate equipment are making a full remote transition painful — which is drastically reducing the region’s current capacity.

Further, remote conditions in the region have exacerbated the security and compliance risk to organizations, as agents handle sensitive information, from financial data to medical records, via workspaces that lack normal security protocols.  

What you can do: Work with your vendors in India or the Philippines to assess the continuity of your services. Now, as it was before, customer experience is the most important product you can offer. 

New Players Emerge

With so much variance between countries concerning the coronavirus, it’s hard to know which region is handling the challenge the best. In reality, every country is experimenting in real time, with some opting for strict lockdowns, like India, while others (advisable or not) have kept business as usual. 

Luckily, for call center leaders, there are clear indicators that correlate with service continuity for call center partnerships.

If you’re looking for the next country to step up, look for the following:

  • Powerful internet infrastructure to handle traffic surges.
  • Strong technology platforms to manage omnichannel work.
  • Robust payment platforms to handle higher volume digital transactions.

Here’s a great chart from the Fletcher School of Tufts University, which shows how well different countries are situated to go remote.

The Outsourcing Shuffle: 4 Ways COVID-19 is Changing the Face of the BPO Industry

It’s tempting to draw the divide between nominally rich and poor nations, but many struggling economies, like Spain and Portugal, still offer high-traffic infrastructures for stable call center operations.

What you can do: Consider how effectively your current BPO call center operators perform across the three success pillars for social distance success. Again, these are 1) internet infrastructure, 2) technology platforms, 3) payment solutions. 

How are your outsource call center partners performing? Use our checklist.

Pure Play Work at Home BPOs Make a Power Play

Specificity and agility are winning market share today, as many opportunities have materialized for BPO vendors that can play fast and play nice to help struggling organizations. 

As expected, pure-play work at home BPOs have been fielding client requests faster than they can onboard. One BPO we spoke with onboarded 3,000 agents in the last two weeks alone in support of several state government and grocery delivery contracts. 

The rising COVID-19 demand has widened a perceived gap that already existed between remote BPOs and traditional on-premise organizations. What was initially a battle between early tech adoption versus technological holdouts has now shifted to remote agents that already work at home versus on-premise agents shifting to remote models. 

In short, many remote BPOs that previously held a technology advantage now hold an accessibility advantage, too.

What you can do: If you’re worried your organization is losing production or efficiency while your traditional brick and mortar call center partner shifts to an at-home model, consider how a remote BPO vendor, tailored to your exact agent profile, might offer improved scale and operational efficiencies. 

Do you need a 100% remote BPO vendor for your business? Let’s find one.

Remote is Here Now and for the Foreseeable Future

One strategy in response to COVID-19 has been to stay the course. After all, it was hard to know in February where we’d be just a few short months later. 

Some organizations aimed to “survive then thrive,” as opposed to proactively going remote; and many have had their businesses irreversibly harmed. 

If your organization is moving forward with a plan for the future, it’s obvious that remote work is the biggest sea change you must adapt for. 

In the short term, nearly all brick and mortar BPOs have switched or are in the process of switching to an at-home model, which has obviously created some growing pains as technology, internet, and hardware is deployed across remote teams. If you’re playing catch-up to a degree, that’s fine. In fact, it’s necessary — because even as countries explore lifting sanctions and reopening economies, many experts predict a severe second-wave in the fall that will potentially force organizations into even deeper and lengthy remote work conditions.

In the long term, once organizations stabilize and optimize their remote offerings, there may be less demand for the costs associated with a physical call center location. 

From rent and lease agreements for businesses to commute times and inflexibility for workers, it’s easy to see how a streamlined remote model would be attractive for cost- and retention-focused BPO leaders. At the very least, we foresee most BPO providers settling on a hybrid solution to both leverage the hands-on training of a brick and mortar environment with the flexibility, scalability and business continuity benefits of a remote agent model. As experts theorize that a second COVID-19 wave is possible, even probable, the call center industry will be taking steps to be prepared should a second round of shutdowns occur.

What you can do: With new access to global talent, consider call center vendors with a proven track record of delivering exceptional agents across boundaries. Now, more than ever, is a chance to connect with professionals that can deliver the best service and experience for your customers.

Struggling to see the path forward as you go remote? We’ll make it clear.

Have Questions About COVID-Related Changes to Your Industry? 

It’s time for action. But for many leaders it’s hard to know what choices are best to make — or even what choices you have. 

Let Outsource Consultants give you complete confidence in the face of COVID-19. Our expert advisors have our finger on the pulse of the current BPO market and we are ready to help. With 25 years of call center outsourcing experience, we can help connect your business with the call center partner that will help you thrive in these uncertain times. 

Just contact us for a risk-free, no-charge consultation to hear how easy it can be to find the perfect call center facility.