BPO Services Company: How to Choose One
BPO Services: An Overview
We perhaps intuitively understand the meaning of the three words that constitute the term Business Process Outsourcing, but do we have a common understanding of the phrase formed by bringing the three words together?
There is perhaps no ‘official’ definition of BPO though descriptions can be found on websites like Investopedia, Wikipedia and Quora. These are some common ways of expressing what a BPO is:
BPO is a practice used by different companies to reduce costs by transferring portions of work to outside suppliers rather than completing it internally
BPO is subcontracting work to another company
BPO is a subset of outsourcing that involves the contracting of the operations and responsibilities of specific business functions (or processes) to a third-party service provider
BPO is the contracting of a specific business task, such as payroll, to a third-party service provider
And here are some common examples of BPO services:
A vendor company handling incoming customer service calls for a telecom company
Data entry for products offered on an ecommerce site
Payroll processing and employee benefits administration being handled for a large corporate by a company specialising in this service
Another term that is being used somewhat interchangeably with BPO, is BPM, which stands for Business Process Management, perhaps driven by a need to encompass Global Inhouse Centers, the owned processing centers of businesses, within the fold. Of course, it could be argued that where a process has been carved out and is being run as a separate unit, albeit under the same company, it is still a version of outsourcing.
How does a BPO Service Company add value?
A company that manufactures aircraft engines makes all the thousands of its parts on its own. True or False.
All of us who have children educate them ourselves at home. True or False.
The answer in both cases is: False.
We live in an interconnected and interdependent world. Trying to add value to the best of our capability. To ourselves. To our employers. To our businesses. Entering into arrangements and deals and contracts through which we can make the world a better place. Doing some parts ourselves and purchasing other parts from people and businesses that can perform them better.
An aircraft engine manufacturer outsources various parts to many other companies that are equipped to make them more efficiently, or with greater precision or at a lower cost.
Most of us send our children to school because they have the knowledge and experience to provide our children with a better understanding of the world.
How is Business Process Outsourcing any different?
It is not. A BPO company adds value by taking on processing activities which can be better performed by them. This could be for a variety of reasons like bulk volume, better tools and technology or greater experience. But the bottomline is that BPO companies add value to your business by doing certain processes more efficiently and effectively than your business can.
Most of us operate in a free-market economy. Each business operates to maximise its profits and shareholder value, operating within the confines of a regulatory framework which is common to all.
There have been voices against business process outsourcing on flimsy grounds like ‘taking away jobs,’ Flimsy because people who object are happy buying reasonably priced athletic shoes made by outsourcing to a faraway country, or flying on an airline that bought its aircraft from another company which, in turn, purchased many of the parts from suppliers, but when their employer wishes to outsource some work that we do to a place where it can be done cheaply and efficiently, creating value for the business, we suddenly find that outsourcing is an unethical activity. It cannot work both ways.
Business Process Outsourcing, like any outsourcing, or any business activity, is not a given. It is a choice for which an assessment needs to be done for a decision to be taken. A business takes a decision, any decision, for improving its financial position. Outsourcing is no different. It is an opportunity to add value.
Evolution of BPO Services
A Business Process Outsourcing company was not always what it is today, running on a technology backbone over the Internet, with clients liberally sprayed all across the globe.
Let us take the hypothetical example of a US bank, with its headquarters and significant part of its business coming from New York, to understand the evolution.
In the sixties, and perhaps seventies, with rising prosperity, and with the growth of retail franchises, the need for separating processing activities that were not customer-facing, started being felt.
This is where the first stage of outsourcing, as we know it today, perhaps started, when this bank looked at options which were not far in physical terms, but where processing could be done in a much more inexpensive manner, and perhaps more efficiently. At this stage, it moved its large-scale processing activities from expensive New York to a lower cost option in the state of New Jersey.
Volumes kept rising. Communication technology improved. Air travel kept rising in frequency, cutting down time and distance between locations. The bank, at this stage, perhaps in the early eighties, having had experience of outsourced processing, became comfortable enough to move processing activities much further into the hinterland, even though most documents would still need to be moved manually. At this stage the bank moved processing to Des Moines in Iowa.
Competition and margin pressure kept rising. Communications technology kept improving. By the nineties, it became possible to move data and voice communication lines, at a commercially viable price. Eager to take advantage of labour cost arbitrage, which would more than make up for higher telecommunications cost, the bank started moving large-volume work, like Contact Centres, to India and the Philippines.
Competition and margin pressure kept rising. Communications technology kept improving. By the start of the new millennium, having tasted success with earlier outsourcing efforts, the bank started moving functions which were smaller, and perhaps more core to its business, like HRM and F and A, in an effort to take advantage of lower cost, as well as superior processing with a faster turnaround facilitated by the time difference. BPO companies in other geographies around the world started gaining scale and competing for business with India and the Philippines.
The bank continues to look for opportunities and the BPO services keep evolving. As existing manual processes get automated, newer tasks and processes are born. Now the bank is looking to outsource the moderation of user generated content (UGC) on its website.
In a nutshell, businesses will continue to look for value. It is hard coded in their DNA.
Choosing a Business Process Outsourcing Company
With the foregoing perspective, choosing a partner for our processing activities should become a reasonably straightforward process. At least we now know that the evaluation should be based on criteria that drive business value, and nothing else. The BPO service company we engage for our work should be able to deliver the best quality to us, in the quickest time, at the best price.
How do we establish the potential of a company to do this for us?
Range of services
Business Process Outsourcing covers a wide range of services. While at the point of choosing a BPO services company for outsourcing, the most important would be to ensure that the vendor has prior experience in your current requirement so that the learning curve is not long and steep, verifying the range of services offered and their capability helps establish the depth of their experience and their ability to support you as and when you choose to go beyond the current scope.
oWorkers specialises in content-oriented services in which we offer a wide range covering data entry, data processing, data annotation and content moderation. Over eight years of operation, we have processed millions of transactions for over a hundred clients.
Industry exposure and client confidence
It always adds value if a client can recommend your services. In addition to having one or more referenceable clients, for a BPO company, the cross-industry range covered as well as the number of clients served, is a useful indicator for its capability. Each industry, and different clients in the same industry, are likely to have variations in their requirements which will add to the knowledge bank and experience of the provider.
oWorkers has served over a hundred clients across a set of widely different industries like companies engaged in dematerialization, aggregators, marketplaces, e-merchants, e-travel players, AI companies, online media, gaming apps, social media websites, video production houses, universities and accounting firms, to name a few.
Multi site backup
When a business process is entrusted to a BPO company, the client does not retain manpower or other resources to provide cover in case the partner fails to deliver, perhaps on account of an external force, like a natural calamity, that makes the facility inaccessible and uproots the telecommunications infrastructure. It would be an extra cost and defeat the purpose of outsourcing. Such events, though infrequent, can occur. Though delay in work under such extenuating circumstances can be explained, the preference for a business would be if there is an arrangement that provides cover. Global BPO companies tend to operate from multiple sites, which can operate as back-ups for one another.
oWorkers provides BPO services from three of the most preferred global locations for the business. Where required, we are able to provide multi-site support that can also operate as a business contingency measure in the event one of the sites is down for some reason beyond our control. Our sites operate 24×7 and geared to offer best-in-class turnaround time.
BPO being a truly global business, where clients as well as the Business Process Outsourcing company could be in any geographical location around the world, the ability to handle business from anywhere requires multilingual capability. Businesses are always looking to expand. Whether you are already global or aspire to be, you will need a vendor with the ability to support your growth, rather than you having to look for another one to support a new language.
oWorkers supports clients in over 20 global languages covering most of the widely used ones. We are also open to adding languages to our supported list if a client has a requirement outside the list.
Project Management and Transition expertise
Moving work over to a BPO company requires a ‘lift and shift’ sort of an operation. Work being done within the client’s organisation under the responsibility of their team till today, will be done in the vendor’s company under supervision of the vendor’s team from tomorrow. This process is known as ‘transition’ and needs to be done carefully, lest parts fall through the crack, to be discovered only after the business has suffered damage. The skill of carrying out a ‘transition’ under the discipline of ‘Project Management’ is a critical skill at the time a new business process is outsourced to a partner.
Our project management and transition experience has been a key contributor to oWorkers having served hundreds of satisfied clients over eight years. For us, a client’s delivery experience begins the moment a contract is signed and the transition process is initiated, which our Project Management team takes up and owns through the point where the delivery organization can take it over. Our numerous engagements have also helped us in honing our practices further.
Technology being the key enabler, ensuring currency with technology, as well as the mindset of tracking technology developments and keeping pace with them, will be good qualities to possess for a BPO services company.
With 85% of our clients being technology companies, we are always on our toes to stay one step ahead while we serve them. We have forged partnerships with companies that own the technologies needed for our work, which enables us to deploy them in the service of our clients.
As the operations are on clients’ data, which moves around from client to vendor, and from one processor to another, a Business Process Outsourcing company has to ensure security of this data. Data is a key resource for a business and loopholes in maintenance of data can compromise the ability of the business. This typically works hand in hand with technology as data is mostly used in a digital format.
oWorkers operates from secure facilities and protocols. GDPR compliance is a requirement, not a choice, as we operate from the Eurozone. We are also ISO certified (27001:2013 & 9001:2015).
Attrition Management and Hiring
‘It is a feature, not a bug,’ is how Business Process Outsourcing companies often justify their attrition. While true to some extent, attrition is a constant bugbear for many of them and often the difference between a successful one and a not-so-successful one. The impact of attrition runs through the financials right down to the bottomline. Limiting attrition means a significant upside not only in knowledge retention but always in saving the cost incurred on hiring and training more and more resources. Attrition and Hiring are directly linked. The greater the attrition the greater the hiring need. And vice versa.
oWorkers is deeply committed to the communities we work in. A job with oWorkers is among the more desirable opportunities for people in the workforce which enables us to attract a steady flow of interested candidates for our open positions. It also enables us to ramp up and down for client requirements and seasonal volume handling with ease. We can commit to ramping up by almost a hundred resources within 48 hours. We provide the flexibility for our resources to work from home during the pandemic which also ensures that our delivery continues unhindered.
As a client, once you have outsourced your requirements to a professional outfit, you should not need to be involved on a day-to-day basis in running that business. The organisation of the vendor should step us to play that role. This is where the Internal Quality team plays an important role in a BPO. It keeps tabs on the output produced by the delivery team and ensures that the output that eventually reaches the client is of good quality.
oWorkers relies on its QA (Quality Analysis) and QC (Quality Control) processes to keep the delivery teams honest. The reporting line of this team is kept independent of the delivery team to ensure their work is not compromised. They also form an important link in keeping senior management informed.
Regulatory and Financial position
While ability to deliver is an obvious requirement, equally important is to ensure that the BPO company that seeks to be a partner is a friend of the establishment and the regulatory environment it operates in.
It is also important for the partner to be in a financially sound position so that the client can be assured of continuity of services at least in the immediate future.
oWorkers operates locally registered entities in all its delivery locations. It pays local taxes as well as social taxes from its employees. The work you outsource to us enables us to hire a few more disadvantaged people and help them become a part of the global digital workforce. oWorkers has been a consistently profitable enterprise with practices that help us keep costs in control and share the savings with our clients through competitive pricing.
oWorkers has been ranked amongst the top 3 data entry companies in the world. Our pricing is transparent and we can offer clients a choice of per unit of time pricing or per unit of output pricing. Several clients have reported savings of up to 80%. Many of our clients are referenceable and displayed on our website. A number of unicorn marketplaces choose oWorkers as their BPO company. We hope you will too.