Top Business Process Outsourcing Trends in 2021
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
These words, attributed to John F Kennedy’s father Joseph, as well as American coach K. Rockne, and also made popular by a Billy Ocean song with these words as lyrics, could apply to the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry based on how they have handled the global meltdown in the face of the Covid-19 epidemic sweeping across the world.
The BPO industry has played a stellar role in ensuring that insurance claims are honored, ecommerce online stores are updated, community discussions on social media are moderated, new phone connections are activated, bank interest charges are explained and overdue car loans are recovered. While the world was locked down.
Used to working from a physical location, after lockdowns were implemented, it became impossible for people to commute to work as well as collect in any meaningful strength in an office space. The industry went into hyper action and quickly worked out protocols that would permit people to work from home, or wherever they were, and continued to support clients in the many different ways that it does.
But business and the environment around it are fickle. What was true yesterday may not be true today. Common BPO activities today, like ecommerce data entry and social media moderation, were not even words in the lexicon twenty years back. What is true today may not be so tomorrow. Millions of smart people and businesses are perhaps working on solutions right now that could dramatically change today’s certainties.
Occasionally events like the pandemic and natural (or manmade) calamities happen which have the power to alter the trajectory of humankind. Otherwise, business, like life, evolves. It rarely changes overnight, though sometimes it feels like it did. It is usually a strengthening or weakening or continuation of trends one may have already noticed.
So, let us look into the crystal ball and try to see business process outsourcing trends in 2021.
Virtual Workplace is here to stay
Shibboleths of the past came crashing down within a few weeks of the Covid-19 induced lockdowns having set in. On grounds of control, data security, supervision and perhaps other reasons as well, BPO work was ‘grounded’ to physical office spaces of providers from where it had to be performed. All other options were considered too risky to be even experimented with.
Faced with a decline in revenues and clients whose businesses would crumble if certain processes were not handled, BPOs did a remarkable makeover in the matter of a few weeks and set themselves up to enable their employees to work from home, or anywhere else, since office became inaccessible and collection of people in large numbers, which is how offices typically operate, was prohibited.
Amongst all trends, this is the one which we can perhaps be certain is going to continue and gain strength and acceptance, what with newer, more virulent strains of the virus apparently running amuck now even as industry leaders push for reform to make it easier.
oWorkers positioned itself for virtual work immediately after the lockdowns came into existence. Even today, our staff can choose to work from home, depending on the guidelines in place in each of the locations. We are fully equipped to work from the office, from home as well as a hybrid model.
Social Media related requirements will drive adoption
Social Media has been a success story in business process outsourcing trends in the last decade. The growth in social media usage has led to enhanced work volumes emanating from social media for BPOs. This is the result of increased adoption of social media by businesses, which is the result of their customers’ preference for social media for communication of various kinds.
Increased usage of social media has not only resulted in serving customer needs, since there is so much data generated on social media as a result of frequent usage, it has also become an important source for mining information as well as influencing behavior.
Social Media related services will be an important offering for BPO outfits. One part of the offering will be traditional BPO services that are rule-based, like community monitoring or responding to customer queries. The other part where BPOs are going to increase their footprint is in the realm of discretionary services, like supporting clients in developing a presence, or creating and running campaigns as well as on-page and off-page SEO work. For businesses that do not either have inhouse talent or a vendor for supporting social media initiatives, will rely on BPO partners will social media skillsets to go beyond traditional BPO services into content creation and distribution.
Content moderation services, that form the bedrock of vibrant interaction on social media, and presents it from descending into bedlam, are part of the core strength of oWorkers. We are committed to making the internet a safer place for everyone with our content moderation services in multiple languages.
Omnichannel Communication will gain traction among business process outsourcing trends
With customers driving the agenda with their choices, omnichannel communication will continue to gain ground. The customer who sent an email yesterday, left a remark on a social media post of the company today and might call in tomorrow, expects the business to know that it was he who made all the three interactions as well as know what these were about.
Omnichannel communication technology adoption that facilitates such communication across channels will gain ground. Different from the multi-channel experience of the past where multiple channels were available, but were often standalone channels, not connected to each other.
Omnichannel is a strategy of improving user experience through connecting a customer’s experience across channels of interaction. It helps customers continue their experience, one channel to another, picking up where they left off. As consumers engage and shift from one platform to another, unified communication across channels is essential for a seamless experience.
oWorkers is a leading player in its chosen area of work, data related BPO services, which includes customer interface over channels like social media that today constitute a core part of customer communication.
Startup Companies: The New BPO Client
BPO adoption has long been led by large corporations, as scale was seen as an essential ingredient of the outsourcing decision. After all, an initiative like outsourcing requires management bandwidth, which costs money. Unless it can be justified by a ‘significant’ change, the transaction cost will be too high. This has been the general train of thought. Which also meant that functions with large volumes, like Call Centers, were among the earlier activities to be outsourced.
As the business world continues to change, and numerous small players try to make a difference, startups and SMEs driving adoption of BPO is part of the emerging business process outsourcing trends. They are focused on their core business and do not wish to be distracted by the peripherals, like paying salaries or filing annual tax returns or moderating their social media footprint or managing the office facilities. They are happy to outsource many of these support functions to BPOs that specialize in them, even though some of them may cost more, and focus on their core business in an effort to make a success out of it. BPOs also give startups the benefit of paying on the basis of usage rather than investing in technology and tools and people.
oWorkers remains committed to supporting clients in our chosen areas of expertise in data entry, content moderation and data annotation. Our clients include a mix of large corporations, SMEs and startups, among them unicorn marketplaces.
Business process outsourcing trends will continue to witness a rise in anywhere to anywhere outsourcing
The backbone of technology that took outsourcing offshore is now taking it ‘anyshore.’ We live in a digitally connected world, which has been borne out by the connectedness provided by the internet during the lockdown when physical interactions were limited. Also, as seen earlier, we are no longer limited by scale for outsourcing. Locations which have a business environment favorable for requirements of BPO work, but failed to make a deep impression earlier, are now prospering. There are new locations coming into the limelight every day, be it Bulgaria and Romania in East Europe, Mexico and Colombia in the Americas and Egypt in Africa. Unless you have a need for a vendor who can provide hundreds of people for a particular service, which might limit the options to India and the Philippines and a few others, you could go to a vendor anywhere.
With its presence in multiple economies in varied environments, from Bulgaria to Egypt to Madagascar, oWorkers not only provides multilingual services in over 22 languages, it can also provide business continuity by leveraging its multiple centers as backups for each other, if required.
Investment in Robotic Process Automation and related technologies will gather speed
Technology is the enabler for BPO business to have taken birth, survived, thrived and spread its tentacles around the world. It is natural that BPO will keep pushing the boundaries of technology for the next innovation.
As it is core business for them, providers are inclined to make investment in technology for the next leap for the process, that an outsourcer may not be willing to, especially for a process viewed as non-core. In addition, with aggregated volumes across multiple clients, providers also develop the scale that justifies such investments which, again, a client, with their own volumes, may never have been able to.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is emerging as a technology of choice for BPOs, as it enables them to carry out repetitive tasks accurately and speedily. In addition, this helps overcome the challenges in the same work being done by humans who often face burnout as a result when doing repetitive tasks.
With its partnerships with technology companies, oWorkers has gained access to the latest technologies in a flexible manner, not limited to one particular suite, which it is able to deploy for the benefit of client transaction processing.
India and the Philippines will continue their leadership
India and the Philippines are not going anywhere in a hurry. The conditions that made them BPO hotspots to begin with, English proficiency, educational qualifications and large talent pools, continue to flourish. There has been and will continue to be, periodic resetting of the type of work handled. At this point, Philippines takes the lead in voice-based BPO services like Contact Centers, while India continues to be the biggest delivery center for all other services.
Supported by home-grown technologies in a fertile entrepreneurial environment, BPO outfits in both these locations will continue to innovate and implement technology solutions in a bid to create more distance between themselves and all the others trying to catch-up, in one of the fastest growing industries on earth.
In a dynamic business environment, oWorkers has established its presence in three geographies considered key for the industry. We continue to evaluate options as we grow and will take decisions in the interest of our business and clients, when the need arises.
Business process outsourcing trends will witness increase in investing in building skills
With many employees working remotely, providers have needed to face up to the reality of having to let go. Accustomed to micro management of frontline agents, with a Team Leader hovering in the shadows and a Quality Analyst plugged in to identify errors so that coaching could be provided, in a remote environment, perhaps out of the absence of options, they have had to trust the frontline staff to do the right thing, especially in processes where she was interacting with customers. To their credit, staff members have stepped up magnificently. Stepping out of the shadows of the image of a BPO employee as one who plugs away at repetitive tasks, BPO staffers have demonstrated that given the right opportunity, they can create value for the organization.
Organizations are now stepping up and making efforts to train employees so that they can create value. More significantly, individuals are shedding their reluctance to invest in themselves and wait for their employer to do so, and are taking up skilling by themselves, helped by the explosion of online courses.
Having adopted the philosophy of working with employed staff instead of freelancers, oWorkers monitors the performance of each individual and charts out growth paths in consultation with them. We also invest in training our employees to take up roles with greater responsibility. Of course, employees are welcome to take up further skilling programs on their own initiative.
Possibility of political overhang on business process outsourcing trends
The recent experience of politics getting involved in decisions that should ideally be taken by businesses on the basis of economics, in the largest outsourcing nation, casts a shadow of doubt on the possibility of such events occurring again in the future, though it does seem that 2021 should be free of such pressure, at least in the US.
Of course, similar threats, or opportunities, emerging in other parts of the world cannot be ruled out. It is a normal business decision, of getting a part of your work done by providers or third parties who can do it better. A construction company might buy cement from a cement manufacturer and not make it themselves. NASA may build a spacecraft with parts sourced from hundreds of vendors instead of building all themselves. But when it comes to Business Process Outsourcing, by raising the spectre of job losses as a result, hiring a vendor to handle customer calls or monitor social media is converted into an emotive issue.
On the provider side, BPO is seen as a driver of employment in underserved economies and hence can become a pawn in the hands of political parties and leaders trying to score brownie points with the populace.
oWorkers operates as a locally incorporated entity in all the locations it provides services from. We are a contributing member of local communities and well integrated. We remain committed to abiding by all applicable rules and regulations and will continue to put forward a case for a free market and a level playing field so that the BPO business can prosper.