How AI Adds Relevance to Customer Service With Empathy and Language Skills

How AI Adds Relevance to Customer Service With Empathy and Language Skills

How AI Adds Relevance to Customer Service With Empathy and Language Skills

How many of us feel that it is near impossible to reach a human voice when we need support from a corporation for a product, or service, we purchased from them?

And if, perchance, we do manage to reach a human voice in customer service, we wish we had not bothered, so uninspiring is the service?

 

Customer service is a balance

Customer service is a difficult balancing act. Not only does the server need knowledge about the products and services on offer currently as well as in the past, he/she needs to also possess the maturity to handle often agitated customers without getting themselves personally involved in the situation. In other words, they need to understand that the customer is calling because help is needed and not because he wishes to abuse the server. And, of course, the servers should be adept at handling multiple tools and applications at the same time, while trying to ensure they do not take up too much time on the transaction, which will add to the cost for the company.

With its 24×7 operations, oWorkers not only understands but has the wherewithal to support customers from around the globe for all their client projects.

 

AI-based technologies are being adopted

It is no surprise that companies are increasingly exploring the possibility of enhancing the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) based technologies in this critical area. Chatbot features have been in use in customer service for many years. Customers, however, have continued to seek out a voice to speak with or a live human to chat with despite the presence of chatbots.

AI-based voice interaction systems, armed with advances in technology that can impart a range of feelings, such as empathy, as well as a level of linguistic capability, are being experimented with. Several banks in the Gulf region are testing out customer response systems that are able to identify emotions such as frustration, anger and sadness. Mashreq Bank, one of the largest banks in the Middle East, and VISA, are understood to be basing their experimentation on a technology developed by a fintech startup.

It seems that in most cases, in blind tests, the customer has been unable to detect that the voice interacting with him/her is not that of a live, present, human. The same results have been found for live online interactions, like through a chat function.

The above notwithstanding, the technology does not claim to be perfect. Natural Language Processing, or NLP, the science of dealing with the myriad nuances of the spoken word, continues to be a work in progress. However, important advances are being made.

With its deep relationships with technology companies across the spectrum, oWorkers has the ability to engage the latest and best technologies for client projects, a privilege that clients can never get on their own.

 

The touch and feel of AI-based service

Imagine that you recently had an interaction with a service representative named Peter and rated it highly. Since a non-human representative does not need to sleep or eat, you can possibly connect to the same representative each time you call, weekday or weekend, early morning or late night, and have a feeling of continuity in your interaction, further augmenting the satisfaction.

The AI embedded in the technology will ensure that you interact with Peter each time you reach out.

The AI, on its part, will keep on learning and getting better and better with its access to a vast database of past interactions, along with each new interaction that happens. Improvement will be never-ending.

Implementation of AI and related technologies can be done effectively in the super secure facilities & protocols of oWorkers. The environment is conducive to maintain data security with its ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certifications and GDPR compliance.

 

Personalized service can be offered

We have already seen how you could connect back with the same representative when AI systems are in use.

You could also be responded to in an accent that is familiar to you based on where you are calling from, as well as your history. Language ceases to be a limitation. Whatever is the preference of the caller, the server will be able to seamlessly speak in that language. Of course, there will always be limitations, such as dialects and cultural differences. Spanish spoken in Argentina will be different from that spoken in Mexico. But that could be true even in interacting with a live human unless your service representative is your sibling or partner or someone as close.

Gender-based service can also be delivered easily, if it is found that customers in general, or certain specific customers, have leanings, creating experiences that will create a sense of personalization and importance for customers calling in.

Whether through AI interactions or with real people, oWorkers has supported a diverse workforce from its inception, which has enabled it to organically build the capability of offering support to clients in over 20 languages. These language skills are also useful in setting up automated AI-based customer interface systems.

 

Integrated with social media

The technology that is being currently experimented with provides ‘plug and play’ features that make integration with social media platforms a simple task. Social media, as we know, has become an integral part of reaching out to customers as well as enabling them to reach back for service and issues.

Once implemented, the technology can be used in multiple ways to raise the bar both for the company as well as for their customers. It could be used for informing customers about new services. It could be used to reach out to customers on a personalized basis and update them about the state of their account, such as bad credit, instead of the irritating impersonal messages like “if your account balance is below the defined threshold, please deposit funds immediately to avoid being levied service charges.”

Being an enterprise application, the technology lends itself to a client-specific implementation.

What does that mean?

It means that while many banks could be using the application, each will appear to be unique to customers as it will be set-up specifically for that company who will also be able to brand as per their own brand guidelines and marketing requirements.

With a track record of 8 years, oWorkers has kept pace with changing trends in the BPO industry and is well equipped to handle transactions that are current, such as those requiring engagement with social media platforms.

 

Leveling the playing field

The capacity to invest has always created a divide between the corporate haves and have-nots. Big banks and financial institutions, with deep pockets, tended to lead innovation in the sector through technology investments while smaller players like community banks and credit unions either watched from the sidelines or picked up stripped-down versions of the technology. As a result, they were not able to challenge the status quo and the pecking order in the industry remained unchanged.

With these technologies, the financial sector seems to be ushering in a new age of a playing field that is more level, and where institutions with lighter pockets can also have access to the latest and best technologies making a difference to the way they offer customer service.

oWorkers, for all their client assignments, are armed with a critical asset; the ability to hire the best resources. It has achieved the status of being a desirable employer in the communities it has set up delivery centers in, which brings in a steady flow of walk-in applicants. This also equips oWorkers to cater to short-term spikes in client volumes; it can hire almost 100 additional resources with a notice of 48 hours.

Best Practices for Remote Hiring in Virtual Contact Centers

Best Practices for Remote Hiring in Virtual Contact Centers

Best Practices for Remote Hiring in Virtual Contact Centers

Trust a good old-fashioned pandemic to shake up an industry and test the validity of long-held beliefs. Like operating from a physical space for Call Centers, which opens up a host of other requirements, such as the need to hire agents from anywhere who can work from anywhere.

 

The idea of remote Call Centers

The idea of remote work is not new in the Call Center world. Operating on thin margins and getting employees to work from home has long held the promise of better margins with lower real estate costs and perhaps more favorable employee salaries.

However, for one good reason or another, it has never happened. At least not at the scale at which it would make a difference. It was either going to compromise data security or fail to prevent dishonest practices from creeping in with no direct oversight, or lead to poor customer service with agents unable to seek immediate help from the floor. One thing or the other always prevented it from happening.

For oWorkers, virtual employees is only one additional step removed from the way it has been operating for the eight years of its existence; one step away from the client facilities. Identified as one of the top three providers in the world for data-based BPO services, for oWorkers, virtual workers are only a logical extension of the support that it has been extending to its clients.

 

Liberation after Covid-19

What the pandemic has been able to engineer might be nothing short of liberation for the industry from the confines of a bricks-and-mortar office.

With lockdowns enforced around the world, call center operators were unable to operate and faced revenue challenges. Their clients, at the same time, were challenged as their customer support systems were not operating. Challenging times such as the one brought on by the pandemic often help us separate the grain from the chaff.

In this scenario, to the credit of many call center operators, they managed to demonstrate the flexibility that clients expect from them and put together a patchwork of remote agents tied together on a platform that enabled them to continue services through remote work, albeit only a small proportion, that they gradually scaled up.

What this has made clear is that those earlier objections to remote call center work were mired in unreasonable arguments as they did not withstand the test of the Covid-19 challenge. In fact, it seems to be increasingly clear that remote operations will be an important part of the call center mix going forward.

oWorkers has been at the forefront of the shift to virtual work ever since the Covid-19 induced lockdowns started. Currently, its employees are equipped to operate from the office as well as remotely, depending on the situation, with equal facility. They operate on the backbone of secure protocols with ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) for security of data. oWorkers is also GDPR compliant.

 

The people management challenge and how to address it

Recognizing a challenge is often a great start to managing it. And every change brings with it one challenge or another. Companies don’t run away from challenges; they make an effort to find solutions.

Hiring and retaining talent has always been a challenge in BPOs and Contact Centers. Attrition at the agent level has been a known bugbear. With agents moving up the value chain, thanks to the introduction of AI solutions in customer interactions, the reliability and value per agent is becoming greater as agents are now handling the more complex transactions that cannot be handled by automated solutions. In this current scenario, losing an agent is an even bigger loss even as selection criteria become tighter while hiring as companies look for greater levels of competence.

Add remote in the mix and the degree of complexity goes up by several notches for hiring, onboarding, training and retaining. With remote work now acceptable, agents can take up a job anywhere in the world without moving an inch physically. Though, by the same token, a company can also hire talent from anywhere in the world.

But, will legacy practices be as effective in the new normal? What will be the keys to success on the people front?

Cast the net wider

It is perhaps expected that with location not being a constraint, the net can be cast wider. However, there will always be costs associated with expanding the size of the net or casting it wider. It is expected that specialization will emerge in skill availability as well which will help define the locations for a net to be cast in, for a particular type of service agent. It could so happen that employees for F&A services are more easily available in Poland while for Call Center services, the Philippines offers richer pickings.

Blessed with their recognition as a preferred employer, oWorkers has been able to attract a steady stream of walk-in talent to take up the various roles on offer in the many client engagements in progress. So far, the walk-in talent has been employed by the walk-in center. With work from anywhere gaining currency, oWorkers is able to attract the best talent in all its centers across the world in the choicest locations, and then match them to the most suitable openings being handled by any of its centers.

Be reasonable and realistic at all steps

In traditional hiring, job descriptions used as advertisements for attracting talent for a particular role, might lead one to believe that the role might be that of the leader of a powerful nation, such was the hyperbole in the copy. While the desire has always been to attract suitable candidates in large numbers, an unintended consequence has been that such job descriptions have tended to attract many unsuitable, unqualified or over-qualifies prospects, leading the hiring team on a hunt for the proverbial needle in the haystack; the few suitable candidates out of the mountain of applications.

With hiring from anywhere, and candidates looking for jobs anywhere, this can quickly balloon out of control. There is an urgent need for companies to bring sanity and realism into the jobs they advertise in order to keep wasteful applications to a minimum. Many companies are experimenting with processes like unmonitored interaction with nominated employees based on which experience applicants can self-nominate out of the race even after applying.

oWorkers has developed multilingual delivery capabilities organically, as a result of a conscious policy of a multicultural and multinational team. Candidates can express their language preferences while becoming a part of the oWorkers team.

Let the candidate do some of the hard work

Some hiring teams believe in making the process easy for the candidate. They open up multiple channels through which candidates can reach them. They initiate a dialogue with candidates to schedule and reschedule interviews. In short, they try to ensure that the candidate is left with no reason to opt out.

There are others who believe that this process is self-defeating. It becomes so easy that candidates with just a passing interest go through the entire process and withdraw at the last minute. These hiring teams believe that if the candidate has interest, small setbacks will not deter him/her from continuing with the hiring process. As a small example, they suggest letting the candidate choose the interaction date and time. Only if he/she is interested will a choice be made. It can lead to the elimination of a lot of needless effort.

Driven by systems and technology, oWorkers places at the disposal of the candidate an intuitive hiring application. The hard work that oWorkers does begins after candidates have traversed the journey on the tool and are still interested. The tool, like all oWorkers facilities, works 24×7.

Hiring anywhere means honoring labor laws anywhere

Today, you could be running a business employing resources located in Romania and Egypt, or even the other way round. Work from home, or rather work from anywhere, has liberated many companies and people from physical confines. While companies can scout for the most suitable resources anywhere in the world, employees can also look for the most suitable employer anywhere in the world.

But this brings challenges. We operate in a world of laws and rules. Most laws operate at a national level. Almost every geography has laws that seek to protect the employee from being exploited by the employer. Employers are waking up to the new reality and trying to navigate their way around the labor laws not only in their own geography but also the geography where resources could be physically located. For most corporations the right answer at this stage seems to be to ensure both the regulations are honored.  

oWorkers operates as a locally incorporated entity in each of its delivery locations. It pays social and local taxes for its staff members who are employees, and not contractors and freelancers, as some of the competitors prefer.

Hiring assessments and techniques

In the physical world, beyond the candidate meeting the basic criteria for the role, recruiters often relied on a native instinct called the ‘gut feel’ when they interviewed and otherwise interacted with a candidate. In the virtual world, opportunities for physical interactions that would enable a ‘gut feel’ to be formed would be limited. Hence it becomes important to introduce reasonably objective assessment tools such as behavioral assessments, depending on the role being hired for, and the level, to get a more wholesome perspective on the candidate.

oWorkers has a robust screening process, employing evaluation of education, IQ, language and experience, even in their legacy geography-bound hiring.

Onboarding is important

How does one onboard new employees when they are operating virtually. For that matter, the entire organization is operating virtually. Onboarding is that bridge which seeks to convert eager hires into contributing employees. Physical interaction used to be an important element of the onboarding process. But that was then. Now, without that option available in case of virtual employees, organizations are experimenting with social media for creating the initial engagement with new hires. Unpoliced encounters are also permitted with existing employees so that people coming on board can be better prepared in an honest, open setting, and begin to build friendships even before they have joined.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Employees, both past and present, rate oWorkers 4.6 or higher, on a scale of 5, on external platforms like Glassdoor.

 

Conclusion

The need for connoisseurs who can recognize diamonds in their rough state has never been greater, with hiring going virtual. oWorkers brings the same disciplined process to hiring that they employ on client projects to deliver great quality at industry-leading prices, often letting clients shave 80% off pre-outsourcing costs.

Covid-19 And Its Lasting Influence on Outsourcing

Covid-19 And Its Lasting Influence on Outsourcing

Covid-19 And Its Lasting Influence on Outsourcing

The birth of Christ has been used as a marker of time for hundreds of years perhaps on account of the lasting influence on mankind, with B.C. standing for the period before Christ.

The Covid-19 pandemic that we have been witness to over the last two years, has also left behind an indelible mark on mankind and wrought fundamental changes in the way we live and work. Some say that it is quite possible at some stage B.C. will begin to mean ‘Before Covid.’

With the heightened fluidity that the pandemic brought in, with workplaces open one day and shut the next, public transport operating one day and closed the next, established models of running a business have gone for a toss. Should we hire more staff to make up for lost productivity or let go of staff as they are not able to deliver? Should we do what we can do remotely and hope for the best or wait for normalcy to return? Companies have been faced with challenging questions.

Each company and business have had to discover anew the thin dividing line between reasonable and unreasonable business practices and ensure that the business is able to run profitably without going overboard in expenditure in order to overcome the challenges introduced by Covid-19, and keep the plates spinning.

oWorkers has continued to lead from the front in these challenging times for the industry. Having been anointed as one of the top three providers in the world for data related BPO (business process outsourcing) services within a short period of 8 years, it has also been instrumental in equipping its staff to operate from home when required.

 

The role of outsourcing

Trust a crisis to help people determine what is important and what is not. The idea of remote work is not new; it has been floated many times by many providers with many clients. However, for one reason or another, it has never found favor. Lack of supervision leading to poor quality, data security issues, inability to meet adherence requirements have been among the reasons, which now sound like excuses, offered.

However, came the pandemic and suddenly remote work seemed to have become the ‘manna from heaven’ that everyone had been wanting to implement but had been prevented by vested interests.

It is no wonder that the role played by outsourcing companies is being looked at with fresh pairs of eyes, and respect. After all, outsourcing providers have been adept at taking work away to far away centers and delivering it back, meeting and exceeding established benchmarks of quality and speed. In possession of the ‘satellite expertise’ that made remote work possible and effective, it is just a small step to working with a distributed workforce that could be working ‘from anywhere.’

Leveraging the expertise in remote working, oWorkers stepped up during the pandemic and kept services for most of its clients active during the worst phases of the lockdown. They were the reason why many clients continued to be within reach for their vast customer franchises spread across the world.

 

The emerging ‘office anywhere’

When the world came to a standstill in the spring of 2020, enterprising outsourcing partners bent over backwards to create platforms and processes, almost overnight, that enabled many clients to continue to be reachable by their customers over telephone and digital media.

And gradually the realizations dawned.

Instead of diminishing, employee engagement showed a marked improvement in people working from home without being under the direct line of sight of a supervisor.

In a familiar, relaxed environment, while saving the time spent on a commute, employees were able to produce work in quality and quantity that exceeded that while working from a physical office.

Needless to say, the issues classified as ‘work-life balance’ substantially reduced over this period.

PWC’s Director of Experienced Recruitment, Sam Ellis, captured the learning from the early days of remote work and stated in 2020 in a Guardian online feature, “Location and where you actually do your work may be less relevant in the future. I think we’ll still come together as a knowledge-based organization to share and collaborate but maybe not all the time.”

Whether it was responding to the placement of greater responsibility, or not being under the constant gaze, whatever the reason, its early success has established remote working as an option both for companies and employees for all time to come.

Having invested in employees, instead of the reliance placed by competition on freelancers and contractors, oWorkers has witnessed payback during the lockdowns enforced by the pandemic. With the familiarity of continuing, employed members who they have invested in, they were able to set up remote work facilities speedily. Staff members also rose to the challenge and took on added responsibility for their employer.

 

The value of a trusted partner

In this new normal, where remote work is expected to be, if not the only way, at least one of the several ways in which companies and individuals will operate, there is immense value in working with an experienced and capable outsourcing partner.

While reduced costs, faster turnaround times and better quality of output are the usual considerations in relying on a partner, there are many benefits that emerge as the partnership blossoms and matures, many of them relating to people and their management.

Hiring

Hiring the right resources is a challenging process in the best of times. While working remotely, the complexity gets multiplied. How does one evaluate a candidate when one is not even able to meet him/her face to face? Where does one ask for the CVs to be submitted? Who goes through the hundreds of CVs that land up for any job?

oWorkers already attracts more walk-in candidates than they can hire. This is because of their position as preferred employers in the community. The walk-in flow also enables them to keep their advertising costs in control as they do not need to attract candidates. Eventually, this gets shared with clients.

Onboarding and training

The challenges only begin with hiring, not end there. While a certain amount of comfort might exist with employees who we have worked with in physical proximity in the past, how does one become connected with new hires who joined after virtual work became a reality? And, how does one get them engaged with the company and its values? Can remote onboarding and training be done as effectively?

With dedicated training teams, and advanced training methodologies like e-learning already in place, training for new hires has continued apace, as has the process of onboarding. The 24×7 operational window that oWorkers offers to clients is also available to employees for their training and onboarding engagements.

Management of work

And eventually, how does one ensure that work does not suffer? That is the end objective, isn’t it? Hiring and onboarding are merely stepping stones that need to be done once. Work, however, is a continuous process. How does one track employee availability and absence? What about adherence? How does one ensure that the employee is available when he/she needs to be?

With a leadership team with several decades of hands-on experience in the industry, oWorkers has evolved performance measures and metrics suitable for a remote work environment and ensured that clients do not suffer as a result of the transition.

 

What you can expect from a quality partner

Committed players in the industry have demonstrated their ability to continue providing the edge, with or without Covid-19, such as:

  • They can offer capacity expansion at short notice. oWorkers, because of its known position of strength in the local communities, can hire up to a hundred additional people with a notice of only 48 hours.
  • A client need not be constrained by local events impacting their business. With centers in three major geographies around the world, oWorkers has the capacity to split client work across different sites. In the event of one site not being accessible due to man-made or natural reasons, the backup site can pick up some of the slack. 
  • Doing the same work for many clients makes many providers specialists in different areas of work. Clients often rely on their expertise and consult them before making changes in processes. Some of the areas of expertise for oWorkers is invoice processing, community moderation and data annotation.
  • With people working from homes and elsewhere, security and confidentiality assume even greater importance, with digital nodes accessing the information being far flung. Would a well-equipped supplier be better equipped to provide assurance of data security and privacy or would a barely equipped one be able to do that better? It is a no-brainer. With secure facilities & protocols and armed with ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015), oWorkers is a compelling proposition. What is more, they are also GDPR compliant.
  • Above all, capable partners are adept at handling uncertainty. oWorkers demonstrated leadership at the time of the onset of the pandemic and was amongst the first set of suppliers to equip staff to work from home, with robust processes and systems.

 

Partner with the best

In a global playing field, the opportunities as well as threats could expand.

A supplier who was limited to a certain catchment area for the supply of human resources now has the whole world to look for qualified resources in. At the same time, some resources from their catchment area may also be attracted by other suppliers since location ceases being a constraint. Hence, it makes sense to partner with the best as they will, in turn, be well placed to attract the best talent from anywhere in the world.

Outsourcing partners are fleet-footed creatures, handling a changing environment for business with dexterity. Today’s common services like data annotation for AI projects and community moderation for social media interactions did not even exist when BPO (business process outsourcing) started gaining ground around the world. It is the ability of providers to keep track of changes and adapt their offerings and themselves to stay relevant, that has kept the industry growing.

While cost considerations often drive the choice of a partner, in the long run, partnering with a qualified, able, committed supplier, though expensive on a per unit basis, will usually result in lower expenses over a period of time. Many oWorkers clients talk about saving up to 80% after outsourcing work to them.

8 Important Considerations While Choosing a BPO Partner

8 Important Considerations While Choosing a BPO Partner

8 Important Considerations While Choosing a BPO Partner

The benefits of contracting with a provider of business process outsourcing (BPO) services, like creation of scale, lowering of cost, specialized skills they bring, and many others, are perhaps well known. Business process outsourcing today is a well established and accepted practice for large and small organizations alike, allowing them the freedom to focus on their core business and grow rapidly. Many startups are choosing to go directly to BPOs for specialized skills instead of investing in creating a practice inhouse.

What is not as well known is that several BPO contracts end up in failure, and end up destroying value for the outsourcer instead of creating it. It is surprising because in many such cases both the outsourcer and the partner are successful companies. Still, when the two come together, it results in failure for both.

From the outsourcer’s perspective, this points to the need for a careful evaluation and due diligence while awarding the contract to a partner. What are the considerations that should be uppermost for an outsourcer while selecting a BPO partner?

 

Provider should have domain knowledge and experience

Each industry is unique. Though each company operating within an industry is also unique, with their own set of processes and technologies, it helps to have experience that could be considered similar as it creates a reservoir of organizational learning that comes in handy when handling other projects of a similar nature. Not everything can be documented and included in a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

It should be remembered that BPO partners are sought for work that needs human intelligence and interaction. A BPO handling e-commerce related work will know, for example, that there would be certain times during the year when the client will run promotions and volumes would spike up. The possession of this knowledge will position the provider to handle them better, perhaps by keeping a pool of cross-trained staff who could be additionally deployed.

With multiple engagements of a similar nature across different clients, providers are expected to demonstrate their expertise in handling work in that area.

oWorkers specializes in data related BPO services such as invoice processing, social media moderation, data annotation and data entry. It is counted among the top three providers in the world in data related services, a proud achievement.

 

Should be able to scale quickly to handle variable volume flows

While many unexpected situations arise in the life of a company, some of them are welcome events as well which the company facing them would be happy with and handle with glee. An unexpected spike in sales volumes is not a development any company will be unhappy about.

Even the happy unexpected developments bring in their wake the need for effective handling. We don’t want sales enquiries increasing with most of them not being handled. Not only will there be no business value of these calls, the unattended or badly handled calls can also impair the image of the company.

Digital businesses in particular can also scale rapidly making planning efforts.

The partner needs to have the capacity to cater to increased or reduced staffing at short notice so that neither excess volume goes abegging while paid staff sit idle when volumes drop.

As a preferred employer in all the communities it operates its delivery centers from, oWorkers gets a plentiful supply of walk-in talent. While it helps in reducing the cost of advertising to attract talent, it also provides a cache from which people can be selected for various projects, based on their assessed capability and interest. This also results in oWorkers being able to handle short-term volume spikes in client projects by being able to hire an additional 100 people within 48 hours.

 

Quality of work is non-negotiable

While each client will have its own equilibrium between the various benefits they get through outsourcing, generally quality is one aspect that is non-negotiable. Other benefits are welcome, but not at the cost of a drop in quality.

The target partner should be able to demonstrate a track record of investment in employee development and growth. Even a continuing engagement tends to evolve with time, requiring retraining and reskilling of staff

In addition, Quality Assurance (QA) is an established good practice pioneered by leading BPO companies. The Quality team sits outside the Delivery unit and monitors transactions on a sample basis to identify errors and repeated issues. This enables the company to ensure that quality issues are resolved before they impact a client. The QA team should also be acting as the eyes and ears of senior management, enabling them to intervene when required.

oWorkers deploys the classic QA structure, reporting to senior management. The QA team not only checks sample transactions and provides feedback to staff, it also runs improvement projects that are ongoing.

 

Lower cost is a given benefit

BPO providers have a unique model. If they were only doing a copy-paste of what the client does, it is arguable if they would be able to add any value, bringing the fundamentals of the industry into question.

Cost is one of the most visible and transparent parameters in a B2B relationship. It means the same thing to all stakeholders. It is expected by outsourcers that engaging a partner will lower cost.

How is a BPO provider able to provide cost-effective services?

BPOs specialize in breaking complex processes down into simpler ones. This way, they are able to hire less qualified resources, available at lower prices, to do most of the work, creating a price differential.

BPOs do not have a need for expensive real estate in downtown areas. They can operate from anywhere.

BPOs work with talent pools that are invisible to their clients whose comfort zone is sourcing talent relevant for their industry and function. This talent pool, available at a fraction of the cost at which clients hire, undergoes the efficient training programs of partners, and becomes job-ready.

The ability of a target partner to access such talent pools and train them should be evaluated as well as track record reviewed, as it can be expected to deliver a major cost benefit.

Many clients from Western Europe and North America claim savings of almost 80% after outsourcing to oWorkers. Coupled with their transparent pricing model, offering a choice between input and output basis pricing, it is not a surprise that they have satisfied and happy clients from around the world.

 

Required infrastructure services should have backup plans  

It is well known that BPO players have taken delivery centers to the far corners of the world, bringing people closer together and even playing a role in reducing economic disparities across regions.

However, each location is unique in terms of its environment for doing business, even though BPO, with its capacity for job creation, is usually welcomed. It becomes important to not only evaluate the location’s readiness to support, but also the provider’s ability to manage the elements, such as:

  • Adequacy of grid-supplied power and back-up arrangements, if required
  • Availability of local transportation for employees to commute, and alternate pick-up and drop arrangements
  • Access to talent pools in the catchment area
  • Ability to operate a 24×7 shift
  • The proportion of women in the workforce

Working with employees, as oWorkers does, and not freelancers and contractors like some of our competitors, is satisfying and offers flexibility in deployment based on need. oWorkers pays social and local taxes and is set up as a local entity in each of its delivery locations. Employees, both past and present, rate it as 4.6 or more, on a scale of 5, on independent platforms such as Glassdoor. All sites are geared to operate on a 24×7 schedule.

 

Track record of regulatory compliance and financial stability

As a client, what you want is a partner who can focus on the business, and not one who needs to worry about issues arising out of regulatory non-compliance. The partner being evaluated should be able to demonstrate a consistent track record of regulatory compliance such as running a compliant payroll, timely filing of taxation and other returns and compliance with intellectual property and data privacy laws. The partner should also be willing to take responsibility for all compliance related issues that might arise.

It would not be out of place to add here that the company should also have a healthy balance sheet. A financially stressed company is likely to cut corners and avoid investments, saving a few dollars today but causing long-term damage to your brand.

oWorkers has been consistently profitable. It values client data and operates from Super secure facilities & protocols with ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015).

 

Open, multi-level communication channels reflect a transparent operation

Multi-level communication is evidence of openness in a B2B relationship. When a vendor allows team members engaged in a client project at various levels to engage freely with counterparts on the client side, it reflects transparency in their operations; they have no dirty secrets that might be inadvertently revealed through a careless remark made by a junior employee. It also reflects confidence in the team as well as operational processes. Hence, a multi-level communication process reflects a vendor in a good light.

At the same time, they should be in a position to commit to a formal communication channel with defined personnel through which all official communication will flow, such as process changes and alerts that can then be cascaded throughout the team members who need that information. And, in the current context, a BPO should be in a position to respond 24×7.

With its policy of working with a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic workforce, oWorkers has an organically developed capability of offering multi-lingual services in over 20 languages.

 

Alignment of culture needed for long-term success

While this may be difficult to define and nail down, an alignment of values between the two organizations seeking a partnership as reflected in the atmosphere at work is important for long-term success. Otherwise, there are many challenges that crop up along the way where divergent views can create a gulf between partners. If the client follows a culture of permitting freedom and flexibility to employees, having a hard taskmaster focused only on output as a BPO provider might create conflict in many situations.

This also becomes important for the client’s brand in engagements where the vendor is the face of the client to the outside world, such as in a Call Center engagement.

The leadership team, with hands-on experience in the industry, leads by example and creates a professional and open work environment that is global in its outlook, where all comers are welcome.

Invoice processing services

Invoice processing services

Invoice processing services

Invoice processing services are a critical part of the activities of any organization. These are activities that generate a flow of money from one party to another. For one party, the buyer, it results in acquiring goods and services needed by their business, based on which they will create their own goods and services and generate revenue. For the other party, the seller, it is the culmination of all their effort and the reason for their existence, the generation of revenue. It means that their proposition has value for a client who is willing to pay money to acquire it.

Money is a key resource and flows through all activities of a company like a lubricant.

In a B2B (business to business) relationship, the seller raises an invoice based on the terms agreed with the buyer. It is a crystallization of all that has preceded and seeks to indicate the completion of a transaction, or a step in the transaction, creating a liability on the buyer for settlement, usually through transfer of funds.

What needs to be noted is that while the document is initiated by the seller, invoices processing services refer to the set of activities done by the recipient, the buyer, that will eventually end with a settlement through money transfer.

oWorkers is deeply embedded in business-critical processes of our clients around the world, such as invoicing. Having chosen to focus on our core strengths, we are already recognized as one of the top three players in the world in back office BPO services, no mean achievement considering that we have been in business for a little over 8 years.

 

Why outsource to an invoice processing company?

Each company has a unique positioning in the marketplace and a unique proposition, based on which it has a vision to achieve success.

Toyota and Volkswagen may be a part of the automobile industry, but they both have their own strategies and strengths and product suites which they seek to achieve success through.

AXA and Allianz may be large insurers, but they will have their unique set of products and services based on their understanding of market needs.

Regardless of the industry they work in and the strategies they adopt for success, what is common amongst all organizations is the need to create supporting processes either because of regulatory requirements or because they need to participate in a common marketplace.

Filing of tax returns, hiring from a common talent pool, adhering to safety guidelines at the workplace are examples. Invoice processing services are also an example of the same.

This creates a need for outsourcing.

How?

Most companies are expected to possess expertise in their area of work. Car manufacturers will perhaps have trained mechanical engineers and insurers will have a talent pool of actuaries and insurance sellers. What they often do not have is the skills to effectively handle the support requirements that exist.

While some may have the scale and financial muscle to hire qualified resources, for many others, outsourcing would probably work better.

oWorkers is uniquely placed to enable you to benefit from its specialized skills in this area, across the three global centers it operates around the world, while letting you focus on your core area of work.  

Despite the advancements in digital technology, invoice processing services remain a largely manual process. It is estimated that more than 70 percent of all corporations receive manual/paper invoices.

Why is that?

The main reason is that the generation of the document happens in the systems of the seller, often at the tail end of their sales or operating activity. In most cases, the systems of the buyer and seller do not talk to each other, resulting in that document being treated as an ‘alien’ object by the system of the buyer. Even if the two applications are the same, being enterprise systems, the implementation could be unique to each company, making anything coming from the same, but differently set up system, ‘alien.’

This creates the need for manual work which the current invoices processing company may not be comfortable with, not being their core line of work.

In such a situation, outsourcing to a professional invoice processing company like oWorkers, can work like a dream. With its entrenched position in local communities, oWorkers draws a steady stream of talent and is able to staff all client projects with suitable people.

 

Advantages of outsourcing invoices processing services

While all advantages of outsourcing are available to companies that outsource this work, a few need special calling out:

Expertise

As opposed to handling an activity, in which they have little experience or knowledge, the outsourcer will get the expertise of an invoice processing company that does it for a living and is an expert in it. At the same time, their own resources can continue to focus on their core business.

BPO providers like oWorkers have fine-tuned the art of hiring ‘horses for courses.’ They hire resources with adequate skills and train them up to be competent.

Technology

A supporting activity often does not get attention in a company. The attention is usually on their own business that generates revenue. This also results in lower capacity to invest in technologies to support the activity.

For a specialist provider, however, since it is a revenue generator, it gets senior management attention. They also invest in the latest tools and technologies in order to create efficiencies and win more business.

For the security of your data as well as to ensure financial transactions are executed safely, oWorkers operates from super secure facilities & protocols with ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015). We are also GDPR compliant.

Cost efficient

Specialists in any field often come armed with advanced educational degrees and experience, and can be expensive to hire. If a company gets these resources to handle invoices, it can be a costly proposition.

Most clients of oWorkers note savings of almost 80% when they outsource work. This is particularly true for clients from Western Europe and North America. They also love the pricing choice they get from oWorkers, to pay on the basis of input material or on the basis of output.

 

Best practices in invoice processing services

Through experience and involvement of a committed team of processors and supervisors, oWorkers operates with a set of best practices that delivers benefits to all clients. New clients are eligible for these benefits when they sign up. Improvement is always work-in-progress.

Upfront verification of invoice

Upfront verification is important to ensure that there are no errors once the data has been digitized, including basic checks such as ensuring it is meant for the company it is addressed to. If errors creep into the digital journey, they can leave a trail of issues. Verification also ensures that the payment is not delayed when the time for it comes. This keeps the buyer in the good books of suppliers.

Working with handpicked resources, out of the large pool of applicants, combined with our dedicated training team, oWorkers, an invoices processing company, executes on client engagements of various types, including verification of invoices that need to be paid. We are also able to support short-term requirements to support client volume peaks and can turn around such requests in 48 hours.

Check for duplicate payments

This has been the bane of many accounts payables teams, creating unwarranted stress on cash resources with the added complexity of recovery of funds. Even invoice processing services using automated solutions are prone to such issues.

With a system of checks and balances, such as exception reports, oWorkers is able to eliminate the possibility of duplicate payments. It helps to be working with employed staff, as opposed to contractors and freelancers that many competitors rely on. With longer tenures they develop the skills to do better. Both current as well as past employees consistently rate us above 4.6 on a scale of 5 on external platforms like Glassdoor.

Automation

Technologies are advancing more rapidly than many other things in this world. Even for inherently not-automatable activities like invoices processing services, solutions like OCR/ICR/AI/IDP are being leveraged and are able to handle up to 80% of the workload. Automation frees up resources to perform activities where they can add greater value.

oWorkers is second to none in deploying automation for client projects. With the relationships it has developed with technology companies, it is in a position to access the latest technologies, regardless of the activity.

Fine tuning the payment time

Paying an invoice too early or too late can have negative consequences.

Pay too early, and you lose the benefit of money in your account for a few more days earning interest, or avoiding paying interest on borrowings to that extent.

Pay too late, and you run the risk of being blacklisted by the supplier.

When our clients pay us, they pay for quality and efficiency. Optimizing the payment window saves money for clients. It is no surprise that many admit to saving almost 80%. In addition, oWorkers is also able to prioritize payments based on terms, rather than paying the First In First Out (FIFO) that many seem to follow.

Create performance standards and measurements

‘If it can’t be measured it can’t be managed’ is a well-known adage. Without specific goals and measurement systems to track them, many organizations have been known to flounder. Our professional management systems require standards and measures for every activity, including invoice processing services.

These standards, or KPIs, form the basis of our engagement with our clients and these also form the basis of our staff members managing their deliverables. We will help you establish and refine these standards and measurement systems.

Paperless processing and archiving

While related to automation, paperless management and archiving is an independent best practice too.

While automated systems will usually have workflows that take care of approvals required, an invoices processing company might still be following the practice of taking approvals on physical pieces of paper. Securing them in a digital as well as physical form becomes an equally important activity, in addition to archiving the document received that worked as the starting point.

oWorkers has fostered a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural workforce which has given it the benefit of organically developed multilingual capability. Whether processing on paper, or through workflows, this core competence is helpful in managing client transactions from around the world.

Implement a Purchase Order based system

A Purchase Order (PO) based ordering system is considered to be the gold standard for large corporations where the sheer volume and variety of orders places makes handling invoices a cumbersome task. Many future challenges can be eliminated up front by implementing a PO based ordering system.

oWorkers can help its clients implement a PO based ordering system. With state-of-the-art secure facilities that are further augmented by our ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015), our technological capabilities are second to none.

 

The oWorkers suite of Invoice Processing Services

  • Verification of invoice data such as values, material, etc.
  • Matching invoices to their purchase orders
  • OCR/ICR/AI technology-based data entry
  • Scanning of originals
  • Archiving both hard copy as well as image
  • Extracting relevant data from line items and header
  • Receipt creation
  • Transaction logging
  • PO receipt creation for supplier invoices
  • Chat, email, and phone assistance
  • Monitoring workflow
  • Triggering approvals
  • Triggering payments

How to set up an invoice processing procedure

How to set up an invoice processing procedure

How to set up an invoice processing procedure

All activity in a company is carried out for a purpose. While there is a larger purpose, or goal, of the company, which is usually to make money for its owners while operating in a certain segment or industry or niche, as well as related goals that define the philosophy of the company and what binds it together. They are often known as the Vision and Mission statements.

There are goals also at the operating level. These goals could exist at multiple levels, depending on how big the company is and how many different sets of people and teams are needed to pull all of them together.

For achieving these goals, which could be broken down to Key Result Areas (KRAs) or Performance Objectives, for each individual with some responsibility for a part of the goals, the company also defines how business activities are to be carried out. This is done to ensure that activities are carried out in the most efficient manner, and achieve the best results possible. A common name for a collection of such procedures is Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs.

An invoice processing procedure is likely to be an important part of the Accounts Payable section of most SOPs, unless the company has a separate SOP altogether for either Finance or Accounts Payable.

The leadership team of oWorkers has over 20 years of work experience in the industry. They work with clients to set up optimum procedures for all processing activity taken up by oWorkers for its global clients, which includes several unicorn marketplaces as well as technology companies.

 

The role of invoice processing procedure

Generation of and payment of an invoice are important activities for an organization. After all, the main goal of most organizations is achieving financial success, which is eventually going to be achieved through the activity of generating revenues or selling its products and services.

The production of a product or service that can be sold usually entails working upon some input materials. These materials need to be procured, or purchased. Many times, a lot of additional material also needs to be purchased all of which goes into making the final product or service.

The route to generation of revenue is through sales. An invoice is the document that is issued as a proof or record of the sale. It is issued by the seller to the buyer.

The buyer, on receipt of an invoice, needs to work on it and ensure that the seller receives payment for it, based on the terms that may have been agreed if it is a B2B arrangement, or right away as is usually the case in retail sales. As it results in the outflow of money, checks and balances are usually built into the system to avert the errors and fraudulent transactions that can happen where money is involved.

Efficiency results in timely realization of sales receipts for a seller. For a buyer, it ensures they get reasonable terms and results in a harmonious relationship with sellers.

oWorkers case is aided by the prominent position it occupies in the communities it has set up delivery centers in. As a preferred employer, it attracts a steady stream of walk-in talent which enables staffing client projects with the best resources for the role.

 

Invoice processing procedure

In a twist of sorts, invoice processing services actually refers to the work done by the buyer, after they receive it from the seller. From a seller’s perspective, the act of issuing one is usually not referred to as one. It is often simply the tail end of a sales cycle.

To process invoices is to initiate the set of activities that take place once it has been received by a buyer from a seller, till the point when it has reached the point of settlement, usually a transfer of money. Like most processes in an organization, it is also, often, a composite of many other lower level ones.

The storied ability of oWorkers to attract the right talent is evident when a client faces unexpected volume pressure. With its ability to hire an additional hundred resources at a short notice, oWorkers provides invaluable support that cannot be measured only in monetary terms. Without such a partner, clients may need to resort to keeping a standby set of resources which would be an additional cost.  

An invoice is received

They say the best place to start is at the beginning. The receipt of an invoice from a vendor is the beginning of the journey for an invoices processing company.

Though we live in an era when digital technology is all around us, the initiation of invoice processing services is, often, manual.

What is that the case?

The reason is that the generation of the invoice that needs to be handled is from a different system that is used by the vendor. Else, though this is becoming less frequent, it could also be a manually generated one.

Either way, the document that is received in the form of an invoice is foreign to the technology and systems, if used, of the buyer and is, hence, not recognized.

Though attempts have been made to process invoices in an automated manner, there are many exceptions. At this point, the one case where automation from a buyer’s perspective is possible is where the buyer is a large enterprise that insists on vendors to raise invoices on their system, and create accounts for them to enable them to do so. Because of hugely different bargaining powers, many vendors will perhaps agree rather than risk losing the business.

Otherwise, in most other cases, it is issued and then sent, either as paper or as an attachment with an email.

oWorkers has the capability to deploy the most updated technologies for supporting client transactions.

How does it do it?

oWorkers accesses the latest technology thanks to its deep relationship with several technology providers.

Verification

Once received, an invoice processing procedure calls for verification to be done to ensure correctness. Firstly, verification is needed to ensure that it really pertains to you and has not been sent in error. Besides, the other details pertaining to the order which would make it a unique transaction also need to be validated.

If the company has a Purchase Order (PO) based system for ordering, it also needs to ensure that the PO number has been mentioned, as it is a safeguard against future errors and duplicate payments.

Other than the above, since to process invoices, in most cases, means starting its digital journey here, it is good business practice to ensure all information is correct, at the port of entry.

The following are the usual details verified by a standard invoices processing company:

  • Name of the client – is this really meant for you?
  • Name and details of the supplier?
  • Tax ID information of both parties
  • Description of goods/ services supplied
  • Calculations showing the amount due
  • Payment terms based on agreement
  • Payment information – how to remit

Verification also ensures that the vendor has an opportunity to rectify the errors and resend the corrected version within the time window for receiving payment as per original agreement. Late verification and late correction and representation could delay the whole set of activities, with the vendor having to wait longer than the expected period for the funds. It ensures maintenance of harmonious relations with the vendor.

Its 24×7 operations, in each of its global centers, positions oWorkers to turn transactions around quickly. oWorkers is at work, whenever a client needs it.

Data entry and imaging are done

Once the verification has been done, invoice processing services will kick off the digital journey, which is how most get processed.

This is not to take anything away from companies who have chosen to retain their invoice processing procedure as a manual activity. Many small companies make the choice to stay manual as they do not consider the investment a worthwhile investment for their level of activity.

While it is recommended that such companies should consider engaging the services of BPO providers like oWorkers who, with aggregated volumes across several clients, are able to deploy the best tools. But, to each his or her own.

A related step at this stage is that of imaging. Since the invoice has been received as a physical document, it might need to be retained in that form for posterity. However, as most companies now also have digital storage, they would also like to store a digital version for easier retrieval and access. Only if that does not serve the purpose, in the event of a dispute, will they need to look for the original.

Different applications will have different workflows. It is expected that the company would be familiar with the requirements of the system they have chosen to implement and make the digital journey smooth.

Invoices processing company oWorkers supports clients in 22 languages. This enables a unified support for transactions, regardless of the geography they emanate from, making it easier for clients to manage and oversee.

Approval to pay is obtained

As it leads to the release of money, the central resource driving a business, invoice processing procedures call for caution and build in a system of approval so that frauds and errors are minimized. The approval usually works on two universal principles:

  1. There should be dual control in the system. One person should not be allowed the freedom to complete the entire process on his or her own. In a checkbook payment example, for instance, the check book will be stored with one person who will not have the authority to sign it. The person who has the authority will not have the check book. Only when the person with the checkbook writes a check and presents it for signature will the cycle be complete.
  2. Approval authority should be commensurate with the amount of risk the company will be bearing. The higher the amount of approval needed, the more senior should be the authorizer, or even a combination of authorizers. The principle operating here is that by committing a fraud, a perpetrator would be jeopardizing his/ her own exalted position and the benefits that come with it.

And it is not merely the payment authorization that may be needed. There may also be a need to seek clearance from the department that had initiated the purchase request to ensure that the order has been fulfilled and that they are satisfied with what has been supplied. Only after that the money approval process can be initiated.

In some organizations, the payment approval is obtained at the time an order is placed. This is done in the belief that once an order has been placed and fulfilled, the payment cannot be held back. At the presentation stage, it is only a matter of ensuring that the fulfillment has happened. This is usually the case in companies that follow a PO process.

Many clients report savings once work is outsourced to oWorkers. Some even report savings of up to 80% measured against pre-outsourcing numbers.

Payment is effected

And lastly, the payment execution.

This is what the supplier has set up a business for; to generate revenue that will translate into profits for the company.

Modern payment systems allow almost instant, electronic transfer of funds from one party to another. Legacy check-based payment mechanisms caused delays as the check had to be signed physically, then sent physically to the supplier, who would deposit it to his bank physically for clearing, after which the bank would present it to the drawing bank for realization of the amount after which it would be credited to the supplier’s account.

Of course, additional activities may be required for certain payments, such as the ones made overseas or in a foreign currency.

The invoice processing procedure usually also defines the most suitable time for making a payment. Most companies prefer paying as late as possible so that they have availability of funds as long as possible. This way, they can either earn interest on balances or save on interest they would have otherwise paid in case they were operating an overdraft account. In either case, paying as late as possible makes sense.

However, it should not be so late that it ends up either violating contract terms, or incurring penalties and being blacklisted by the supplier.

Its ISO certified facilities and systems create a secure environment facilitating client data to be handled safely while making external transactions such as payments. oWorkers is also GDPR compliant.

What does Offshore Business Process Outsourcing mean?

What does Offshore Business Process Outsourcing mean?

What does Offshore Business Process Outsourcing mean?

The word ‘offshore’ has been used commonly in many industries to denote a specific type of operation.

Offshore drilling, for example, refers to prospecting below the seabed for petroleum reserves, most commonly drilling on the continental shelves. It is sometimes used in reference to drilling for oil on inland seas and lakes as well. Offshore drilling presents a different set of challenges to those presented by onshore drilling.

Offshore banking refers to a bank that is regulated under an international banking licence. Offshore banks were prohibited from doing business in the jurisdiction of establishment and were understood to be used to secrete away undeclared income as there was an inherent opaqueness built into their operation. Owing to concerns about money laundering and financing of terrorism, governments are trying to make the operations of offshore banks more transparent and regulated.

What is offshore business process outsourcing?

The word ‘offshore’ has an English language meaning to it. According to the Collins English dictionary, offshore means situated or happening in the sea, near to the coast.

While that may be the technical meaning of the word, we will expand the meaning to reflect the common usage in business and industry, which is what our context is. In business and industry, offshore is generally used to refer to anything, location, event, service, that is situated outside the country that is using this term. It could be just a few miles away or it could be five thousand miles away from the borders, it would still be referred to as offshore.

Business process outsourcing, or BPO, as we might already know, refers to a business process being carried out by an entity that is different from the entity in need of its performance. It could be ticketing for an airline being handled by a BPO partner or it could be customer calls of a bank being handled by a BPO partner.

oWorkers has rapidly emerged as a leading provider of business process outsourcing services over a short period of 8 years. In its chosen area of work, that of providing outstanding data based BPO services, it is already counted as one of the top three providers in the world.

 

BPO classification

Offshore business process outsourcing also emerges as part of the classification system of BPOs.

As the industry has grown, so have the methods of classification. Classification is, perhaps, a natural human impulse, despite many gurus telling us not to typecast and straitjacket people and companies. It is a method of information processing. It helps us look for what we need. It keeps the data set within manageable proportions.

What are some of the common methods of classification?

By industry

This is one of the obvious ones. A BPO provides service and support to other companies, for whom those processes may not be the core activity. A BPO could be supporting a retail chain, or it could be supporting an airline. It could be supporting an e-commerce giant or it could be supporting a computer hardware manufacturer. A provider could come to be known as the provider to a particular industry if it has a preponderance of its contracts concentrated on one industry.

Though 85% of our clients are from the broad technology industry, they cover a broad range of vertical domains. The partnership oWorkers has forged with them gives us access to the latest technologies that can be used for client projects.

By function

A function is also known as a horizontal, as opposed to industry which is referred to as a vertical. It is the actual work that is done based on which BPOs are differentiated, if they either choose to, or happen to, have a significant part of their work in one particular area. It could be medical transcription or it could be data annotation. It could be loan collections or it could be telecom line provisioning.

As a preferred employer in all the local communities we operate from, oWorkers is able to not only attract the best talent, but also a steady stream of it, saving significant advertising cost. These resources are trained in the project or function clients have entrusted us with, to ensure we are able to deliver the higher standards that we are associated with.

Based on being customer facing or not

Many BPO activities are customer facing, with Call Centers, perhaps, being the most ubiquitous example. Representatives engaged in this activity need to interact with customers, either by responding to a contact initiated by a customer or reaching out to him/ her, for pushing forward the agenda. These are referred to as front-office BPOs while others, who do not need to interact with customers, are known as back-office BPOs.

Many clients like to offer a standard interface to its customers. With the ability to support clients in 22 languages, oWorkers is a force to reckon with in multilingual services, whether customer facing or otherwise.

By ownership

Many companies seek out third parties to outsource work to while many others prefer to either outsource to another unit of the company or an independent company under the same high-level ownership of the group that owns the outsourcer as well. If the BPO is independent, it is known as a third-party provider. If it is either another unit of the company or an independent company in the same group, it is referred to as a captive BPO. Captive BPOs are increasingly being known as GICs, or global inhouse centers.

All business relationships require sharp pricing. BPO is no different. Many of the clients of oWorkers continue because of the value they find with us. They routinely note saving almost 80% when they compare the pricing to the costs incurred by them prior to the relationship being initiated.

By location

BPOs are classified based on their location with reference to the location of the outsourcer or client. If they are in the same country, they could be referred to as onshore BPOs. Terms like nearshore and same-shore could also apply in some cases. A BPO located in a different country is known as an offshore business process outsourcing outfit.

Operating from three distinct global locations, oWorkers is deeply embedded in local communities. We pay local and social taxes for our employees, preferring the employment model over the contractor and freelancer models preferred by some of our competitors.

 

Locational basis of BPOs explored

Today a BPO can be located anywhere. Anywhere there is availability of suitable people. Anywhere that has access to the internet. Anywhere there is power supply and availability of computing devices. Anywhere there is reasonable rule of law and business agreements are honored. Which means…anywhere in the world.

It can be located right next door to the outsourcer, as was perhaps the case with earliest versions of outsourcing when companies sought cheaper real estate that was not too far away. It can be located in another state, further afield, to access larger talent pools and real estate even more inexpensive. Or it can be located in another geography, continent, country; anywhere.

Why?

Because it can be. Advancements in telecommunications and software technologies have unhinged the BPO industry from its physical moorings, enabling them to set up ship wherever they find it suitable to.

When distinguished based on its location, some of the common forms that emerge are:

Domestic business process outsourcing

This classification refers to BPO work being done for clients situated within the boundaries of the country where the processing center is situated. A BPO center located in the US that processes accounts receivables for a client’s business in the US, is referred to as a domestic BPO. If the same provider has a center in India which supports a different, India-based client, that will also be referred to as a domestic BPO activity, even though the two processing centers belong to the same company.

This could be further broken down into state-level work as well, but that is not common practice, since business regulations typically apply at a country level.

Our staff, both past and present, are our best resources and representatives. They rate us over 4.6, on a scale of 5, or above, on independent platforms like Glassdoor.

International business process outsourcing

If the BPO provider’s center located in the US was delivering services to the client in India and the center in India to the client in the US, they would both be referred to as international business process outsourcing.

This is also often referred to as offshore business process outsourcing, as we will also cover a little later in this piece.

International business process outsourcing operations tend to work for creating greater balance in the distribution of wealth across nations and communities by taking the work of richer nations to be performed in less wealthy nations. This creates opportunity and employment in the developing nations while moderating pricing for such services in the wealthy nations.

With our ISO certification (27001 :2013 & 9001:2015) as well as GDPR compliance, oWorkers adheres to the highest standards of data security that for many of our global clients is an essential requirement.

Nearshore business process outsourcing

This is an extension of the domestic BPO. Domestic BPO defines activities that are carried out within the geographical boundaries of the outsourcing nation. Nearshoring takes it a step further and brings servicing locations that are contiguous, or located nearby, even though they may not be located within the same political boundaries. The outsourced work of companies in the US being done in Mexico, or the work of German outsourcers being done in Poland, could be examples of nearshore BPO.

The impetus for nearshore could be greater cultural alignment with populations in closer proximity such as language, or greater need for interaction between the outsourcer and vendor requiring time zone alignment, while delivering standard BPO benefits such as cost savings and business knowledge.

The strong presence in local markets gives oWorkers the flexibility to cater to short-term, unexpected spikes in client volume that would otherwise require an expensive bench to be retained. With our presence, we can hire an additional 100 resources within a matter of 2 days.

Farshore business process outsourcing

Offshore business process outsourcing could be known by many names; farshore is one of them, though slightly more specific.

While offshore could refer to any provider location situation outside national boundaries, farshore would mean a location that is reasonably distant; in other words, one that is not nearshore. There are no clear markers or standards to say what is considered nearshore and what is considered offshore. It would probably be sufficient to say that a location reasonably distant to have differences in culture and language could be considered to be farshore. However, this is not a definition cast in stone. Judgment would be required.

With the different time zones that our clients operate in, having a 24×7 operation becomes important to cater to client requirements. All centers of oWorkers are equipped to provide this facility to clients.

Offshore business process outsourcing

This is the classical business process outsourcing example. This is also the most frequently used term in that context, rather than some other close ones like international BPO and farshore BPO.

This is the term used to refer to business process services that are outsourced to a provider who is situated overseas. This could encompass both nearshore and farshore, as the provider location could be anywhere in the world. There are many examples of providers, especially in the case of third parties, taking client processes to newer locations as they expand, of course in consultation and agreement with the client.

Most elements of an outsourcing engagement come into play in an offshore arrangement, such as availability of suitable manpower, difference in labor cost, support from provider government and possible financial incentives.

With a management team that has hands-on experience in the industry of over 20 years, your business is in good hands with oWorkers.

Onshore business process outsourcing

There are many terms used in the description and classification of BPO services. Onshore business process outsourcing is another one. It closely resembles domestic business process outsourcing and the two could be used interchangeably.

That being said, domestic BPO is the more commonly used term, preferred over onshore, which is seen more as a descriptor of what offshore business process outsourcing is not.

Whichever model of business process outsourcing is suitable for you, the oWorkers solutions will create value. We even offer you the choice between input based and output based pricing models.

What Do Data Entry Clerks Do?

What Do Data Entry Clerks Do?

What do data entry clerks do?

Data entry being a pervasive activity in today’s world, everyone perhaps has an intuitive understanding of the term data entry as well as expectations from a data entry operator. And they are all, most probably right.

However, called upon to provide a definition, or a formal explanation of the duties, we will all perhaps struggle. This is not because we do not know, but because the duties of a data entry operator are so basic and commonplace that they are almost assumed to be a given without the need for a definition or formal articulation.

Do their duties vary by industry? What do data entry clerks do in a bank that they do not do in an insurance company, or an airline, or a telecommunications company, or a non-profit organization?

Do their duties vary by function? What do data entry clerks do in Human Resources that they do not do in Marketing, or in Legal, or in Administration or in Accounting and Finance or in Sales?

What we will find is that they don’t. The responsibilities of a data entry person do not differ based on industry or function. It could well be one of the more uniform jobs across the industry and function spectrum.

With a leadership team with over 20 years of hands-on experience in the industry, oWorkers is able to deploy data entry resources most effectively, based on their skill and experience.

With a large number of technology companies as clients, including unicorn marketplaces, oWorkers has access to the latest technology and tools. This enables our staff to use the most current technologies for client work.

 

Job Description of a data entry clerk

If you are not the first human to consider employing someone to do a data entry job for you, it is always instructive to look at job descriptions that are being used for the same purpose. Many others have thought about the issue and offered solutions. Let us leverage their collective wisdom for this purpose. Of course, should we wish to make changes before issuing our requirements, it remains our prerogative.

The Job Description we perused listed the responsibilities of a data entry operator as follows:

  • Entering customer and account data from source documents within time limits.
  • Compiling, verifying accuracy and sorting information to prepare source data for computer entry.
  • Reviewing data for deficiencies or errors, correcting any incompatibilities and checking output.
  • Maintaining information on our company databases and computer systems.
  • Collecting and entering data in databases.
  • Maintaining accurate records of valuable company information.
  • Maintaining accurate, up-to-date and usable information in our systems.
  • Inserting customer and account data by inputting text based and numerical information from source documents within time limits.
  • Compiling, verifying accuracy and sorting information according to priorities to prepare source data for computer entry.
  • Reviewing data for deficiencies or errors, correct any incompatibilities if possible and check output.
  • Researching and obtaining further information for incomplete documents.
  • Applying data program techniques and procedures.
  • Generating reports, storing completed work in designated locations and performing backup operations.
  • Scanning documents and print files, when needed.
  • Keeping information confidential.
  • Responding to queries for information and accessing relevant files.
  • Complying with data integrity and security policies.
  • Ensuring proper use of office equipment and addressing any malfunctions.

Quite a handful, don’t you think? But, hopefully, it gives us an answer to the question: “What do data entry clerks do?”

And this is only at the functional level. At the industry, or vertical level, while the job description might remain the same, there would be additional complexities and requirements that would need to be learned for effective execution.

Work may need to be done online or offline. It might involve working with insurance policy issuance or it could require working with municipal birth records. It might ask for handling and uploading name cards collected by a sales leader or it might need translation of a document. The operator may need to data enter manually scribbled notes in the margins of a book or enter invoice related information.  

However, despite the apparent complexity, what makes it possible for data entry jobs to be performed effectively is that most of the time the focus will be on one or two of the functional requirements, not all. And that particular task will need to be done again and again. That might create its own set of challenges but that, and how to handle it, is a discussion for another day.

Regardless of the job profile, on account of its close connections in local communities, oWorkers is able to attract a constant flow of walk-in talent throughout the year, eager to work for us. This helps us in keeping our hiring costs low, which eventually reflects in our pricing. Our clients regularly report savings of upto 80% when compared with pre-outsourcing costs.

This also enables us to cater to peaks and troughs in volumes, without asking clients to bear the cost for the full year. We have the flexibility to hire upto 100 additional heads within 48 hours.

Our employees have an additional skill, that of languages. oWorkers supports clients in over 22 popular languages of the world.

 

Skills needed for the job

Defining “what do data entry clerks do” is one part of the story. The other is the doing part. Someone needs to get all this work, that we defined earlier, done. Who is the person who is going to do this work? What kind of person is needed for the job to be done? What is the profile? What skill sets do we expect the person to offer?

Educational background

The considered view of managers who hire for data entry jobs is that data entry capability is not aided by any prior educational attainment. The only requirement as far as education is concerned is more of a hygiene factor. The person should be educated enough to be able to understand and execute on requirements. She should have familiarity with basic application software as well as working with devices like laptops and printers. Beyond that, she should possess the basic human skills of being able to work with people and in a team of people and be socially comfortable. Beyond that they can be trained on the requirements of the job.

This is perhaps the reason why supply exceeds demand and wages are low. Most people, who may not be able to qualify for other jobs, can aspire to become data entry operators. On the flip side, since the entry requirements are low, data entry can be a great method to get more people form less than privileged backgrounds into formal employment from where some of them might be able to work their way out of poverty. This is why political leaders often provide support to data entry businesses as they see it as a means of getting more people employed.

Typing skills

Almost everything that will get done in a data entry business, will get done with the help of a keyboard. Maybe a mouse that goes along. Hence, it stands to reason that aspirants for data entry roles should make an effort to brush up their typing skills. One correct answer to the question, “what do data entry clerks do?” is “they type.”

Typing skill is the combination of typing speed as well as typing accuracy. It can be nobody’s case that the operator types fast while making a lot of errors.

An input provided to a computer by means of keypad is very specific, and cannot be mistaken for anything else. This helps the computer in processing data as opposed to inputs it has received that are not specific, an image for example, that it cannot do much with.

Familiarity with application software

Typing interfaces on computer keyboards have evolved from the typewriter, widely used in the pre-computer days to convert the informality of handwriting into the formality of typed information. Though typing skill would mean familiarity with the typing interface of computers, an additional requirement is familiarity with application software.

Application software refers to the software of a program that information will be keyed into. In many cases these are standard software programs like MS Word and MS Excel which can be used for a variety of requirements. It is expected that aspirants looking for data entry jobs come armed with this knowledge. In today’s day and age, it has become a bit like knowing how to type or knowing how to speak English. Of course, in many cases the application is a custom software used only by that company. This will require some training to be imparted to the data entry operator.

Language Skills

Nothing much will happen if two human beings cannot communicate. Communication skills form the basis of all human interaction. And language is the bedrock of communication. Humans have evolved communication skills to the point where we make some sounds from our throat/ mouth that are understood by other human beings. They respond by taking out more sounds from the throat/ mouth which we understand equally well. This is language.

Language could be used casually and informally in a social setting. It becomes more structured and formal, and even precise in a business setting, which facilitates the process of work. Apart from the task, language skills are also important for interacting with colleagues, customers, vendors, and everyone else, both verbally and in writing.

Behavioural Skills

Apart from language, the other equally important part of communication skills is what we convey through our actions and body language and eyes. Just like a ‘picture speaks a thousand words’ a non-spoken gesture conveys more than the spoken word. It is often considered to be the truer of the two. While it is possible to use words different from what you are feeling, as it is a deliberate action, since the body and its parts respond in a natural way to stimuli, there is less room for them to be artificial. This is, of course, true for a workplace setting where people work in close physical proximity, but it is relevant in virtual work as well. True feelings can be conveyed through body language and eye movements.

A person with good behavioural skills will add value to the team, whether to one that does data entry or anything else.

Internet and Research Skills

Taking the computer argument a step further, if it is a computer it must be connected to the internet, the all-pervasive network that connects all computing devices in its embrace, one way or another. Thus, if a data entry person has to work on a computing device, she should be familiar with the internet and possess the ability to do what is called ‘research’ in support of the data entry work she needs to do. Many data entry jobs are done across the world wide web, with data going into a central server instead of being accumulated in small servers around the world and then accumulating as a subsequent step. With bandwidth greatly increasing, most people are now able to work smoothly on systems across the internet.

Another correct answer to the question, “what do data entry clerks do” is “they do research on the internet.”

Number skills

These are an essential part of the make-up of a human being, like communication. Date entry operators don’t need to know differential calculus, but need to have the innate comfort with numbers to identify obvious errors and issues that they come across. Numeracy helps in recognition of patterns. If an operator comes across a date of birth which is, say, 1960, while the hundred he input before this belong to 1990 to 1995, a numerate operator might notice and question and enquire and validate before he goes on, while a non-numerate operator might not. Essentially, it is the ability to handle numbers with ease.

Soft skills

Some use the term soft skills to refer to behavioural skills that we have covered earlier. We have used the term to refer to the other innate skills required by a data entry operator to be successful in a work environment, not merely the ability to get along with other people and communicate with them. These may not be specific to data entry but are equally important for the job. Ability to prioritize, in a multi-task environment, is an important skill, as is time management. These are skills rarely taught, or even specified, but always expected. Soft skills also include an awareness of the organization and its goals and direction and the ability to use them as the Pole Star when you come to a fork in the path and need to take a decision all by yourself, when you are operating virtually and perhaps working late at night.

oWorkers uses a variety of assessment tools at the time of hiring, including typing tests and IQ and EQ tests, to ensure that they are suitable for the data entry job. Our training teams continue to work with frontline staff to ensure that their skills are polished and current. Refresher programs are held for continuous skill building of staff.

As we deliver on client contracts with the help of employed staff and not freelancers, it becomes our responsibility to manage the growth of our staff. Their skills are evaluated and they are assigned to different tasks with the objective of skill-building as well as avoiding boredom in a monotonous job.

 

The oWorkers advantage

oWorkers has been identified as one of the top three providers of data services amongst all BPOs globally. It is GDPR compliant and ISO certified. It has centers in three separate geographies, offering the possibility of business contingency to clients if they so need. The work you outsource helps us employ more people from disadvantaged communities around the world. We know “what do data entry clerks do.”

Improving ap invoice processing requires consistent effort

Improving ap invoice processing requires consistent effort

Improving ap invoice processing requires consistent effort

It is perhaps a given that without improvement and upgradation, products, processes, things and even humans, who have evolved over millions of years, are necessary to prosper and, at the minimum, survive. Human beings compete for resources and the ones with the best ideas and strategies and tools end up winning. And that is what most humans wish to do; win. And that is unquestionably what companies want to do; win. In fact, the purpose of creating a company, which is an artificial entity, is to achieve success in its defined area of operation. For achieving success, one must be able to stand out in a competitive crowd. Not once, but again and again. For that, again, the company must keep improving its products, services, strategies, processes and everything else.

The cars we drive today don’t look and feel the same as cars fifty years back. Not just the looks, but even the technology that goes into the engines is different. Features like ‘cruise’ control and automatic transmissions were either not there or rare.

Why has this happened?

Because car companies have tried to improve their offerings.

And it does not end here. Car companies, and even non-car companies, are racing to create the smartest electric vehicles and batteries that can sustain them. Car and non-car companies, again, are racing to ‘autonomous’ vehicles that do not need a human driver. It never ends. We will never reach a state when one can sit back and say that whatever improvements had to be made have been made.

Why should improving ap invoice processing be any different?

As an integral business process, invoice processing has undergone changes in an effort to stay current with the times.

As a new entrant, oWorkers has relied on its ability to improve client operations to make a difference in the marketplace. The acceptance of its solutions is evident as it is already counted as one of the top three providers globally in the space of providing data based BPO services.

 

Suggestions for improving ap invoice processing

Through experience and involvement, committed processors start understanding systems and processes and the areas where improvements can deliver significant benefits. Some of this wisdom is presented in this section. It must be remembered that these are not one-time, but ongoing efforts, in an effort to keep building a better and better process.

Verification of invoice upfront

Despite the presence of processing technologies, invoice processing is still largely manual, at least at the start of the process, since it requires operating on a document that has been generated by another company’s, the supplier’s, system. Upfront verification ensures that the received invoice is accurate, pertains to your company, and, if the due date was today, would be processed and paid.

This avoids delays at the time the verification is done only at the time of payment, as the supplier might take time in correcting and resending it. While for the supplier it will mean delays in receiving the payment which could impact their cash flows, for the buyer it could result in spoiling the relationship and even being blacklisted.

Our human resources are our pride. At oWorkers, we have chosen to work with employed teams, and not freelancers and contractors that some of the other providers seem to prefer, as it reduces management effort and responsibility of growth and compliance. Our staff helps us execute on client engagements of various types, including verification of invoices that need to be paid.

Check for duplicate payments

Duplicate payments are costly for a business. They create unwarranted stress on cash resources and can sometimes be difficult to recover.

Though more common in places where manual processes are used, even companies using automated solutions with invoice matching capabilities, have been known to make duplicate payments.

Creating and constantly renewing a system of checks and balances, such as exception reports, can go a long way in eliminating this scourge and improving ap invoice processing.

oWorkers is evaluated by its staff on independent platforms such as Glassdoor. Both current as well as past employees, most of whom form a lifelong bond with the company even though no longer employed here, consistently rate us above 4.6 on a scale of 5. We pay all local and social taxes for our staff members and operate as a locally registered entity in all our global delivery locations.

Automation

While automation is an obvious suggestion, it needs to be understood that it is not a forever solution. Technologies are advancing more rapidly than many other things in our world. What is new today can be old and unsupported in 5 years. Hence, a continuous evaluation of emerging technologies for addressing business problems is required. Activities like GL (General Ledger) coding and matching invoices to purchase order accounts that take up a lot of manual time and effort can be done in the blink of an eye by the right software. A suitable AO automation solution can free up resources to perform activities where they can add greater value.

oWorkers is second to none in deploying automation for client projects.

How do we do it?

Our deep relationship with several technology companies gives us access to the latest in technology. Further, many of these technologies can be used by us for client projects.

Outsource invoice processing

Today, there is no limit to the activities that business process outsourcing (BPO) companies can provide. Invoice processing is not an obscure service being provided but a prominent service outsourced by millions of companies. Their reasons for outsourcing may vary, but they mostly experience benefits arising out of outsourcing. It enables them to efficiently handle a process which is not their core competence. At the same time, the outsourcer, with the aid of aggregated volumes across multiple clients, and the service being a revenue line and not a cost line, which is what it is for the client, is willing to invest in technology and process improvements. This, in turn, leads to improving ap invoice processing for the client as well.

Invoice processing is an area of expertise for oWorkers. With the ability to operate 24×7 across our three centers, and taking advantage of the time difference with global clients, we can speed up the turnaround time for all invoice processing related activities.

Fine tuning the payment time

Eventually the invoice needs to be settled by releasing payment. The payment has to be done in a manner that maximizes the benefit of any discounts and promotions offered by the supplier. At the same time the payment should be made only when it really needs to be.

Why?

This enables availability of those funds with your company for a longer period of time, either earning interest or avoiding payment of interest in case of an overdraft.

When our clients pay us, they pay for quality and efficiency. Many of them admit to saving almost 80% of their pre-outsourcing costs when they engage oWorkers.

Create performance standards and measurements

We know the adage, ‘if it can’t be measured it can’t be managed.’ One of the established practices in modern business today is the setting of relevant performance standards, or goals, for each role and its incumbent. These are designed to set expectations in terms of what is expected, and used as the benchmark against which actual performance is evaluated.

Hence, for improving ap invoice processing, if your company does not already have it, establish a set of standards or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Additionally, ensure that each of them has a reasonably transparent mechanism for collection of data that constitutes the outcome. And, most importantly, evaluate them regularly to ensure that they are relevant and reliable, and update them as and when required.

oWorkers has set a high benchmark by offering a choice to clients between an input based or output based pricing, with the choice resting with the client.

Paperless processing and archiving

Though linked to automation, this bears being called out as an independent recommendation. What sometimes happens with automation is that for approvals and other elements of workflow, documents are printed and circulated. If the payment authorization is on a physical piece of paper, it stands to reason that it will then also need to be maintained and archived, as that is the primary evidence of the authorization.

If the workflow, including authorization, can be handled through the platform, it reduces the need for paper to flow, as well as the need to store and archive it. This is even more relevant for large companies with distributed operations as tracking paper can be expensive and time consuming.

oWorkers has fostered a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural workforce which has given it the benefit of organically developed multilingual capability. Whether processing on paper, or through workflows, this core competence is helpful in processing clients transactions from around the world.

Implement a Purchase Order based system

Large corporations cannot live without a Purchase Order (PO) system as their requirements for purchases are generated by a number of different departments that could be physically located in many different places. The number of requirements generated can make even an automated system difficult to handle, including traditional trouble areas like duplicate payments. A PO based ordering process can substantially eliminate future challenges as it brings most of the approval processes up front and establishes an entry in the system that needs to be matched off when an invoice is being paid.

With our ability to attract employees, being a preferred employer in the local community, oWorkers can choose people for various client projects based on their ability, and train them accordingly.

Control over authorization

Money is fungible. Any money is good money unless taken through fraud or theft. Authorization and release of payment, hence, is a sensitive control area that needs to be balanced against the need for speed, since payments need to be made in a timely manner.

While a dual control mechanism is de rigueur, how that is handled is also important and can lead to improving ap invoice processing. Authority should be given based on position and seniority; the higher the amount the greater is the authority needed to pay. People with authority need to be periodically sensitized about the importance of releasing items in their queue in a timely manner. This may need to be done again and again.

We operate out of state-of-the-art secure facilities that are further augmented by our ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015). We are also GDPR compliant, as we operate out of the Eurozone.

 

Improving ap invoice processing – a constant endeavor

As often noted, good quality does not occur by chance. It is the result of continuous effort. And it is worth striving for not only as a means of standing out from the crowd but even for basic survival. We need to remember that everyone else operating in the same marketplace is also doing so, striving for improvement, striving for quality. To not do so would be to invite disaster.

With companies striving for improvement in various spheres of their operations, many different methodologies have emerged that support the process of achieving that improvement. After all, a company acts in a deliberate manner. It seeks to act to further its interests and do so in a manner that can be understood and supported by a large number of people who are involved in it. That calls for a process or methodology to be followed even for making an improvement in a legacy process.

ISO (International Organization for Standardization), COPC (Customer Operations Performance Center), PCMM (Process Capability Maturity Model), Six Sigma, Lean, Kaizen, DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) and Total Quality are some that come to mind.

And each of them could also have many variants. The sheer variety of quality systems, and standards, available, and, in use, can be bewildering.

Perhaps expectedly, a class of specialists known as Quality Analysts or simply Quality professionals has emerged over the last few decades. Their role includes guiding companies as they seek to improve their processes and operations in order to stay competitive and create value for owners.  

oWorkers has invested in a team of QAs who report to the senior management of the company and not to the delivery teams. This facilitates an independent review with the experienced leadership team jumping in when warranted. With over 20 years of hands-on experience, there are not many challenges that they cannot address.