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How COVID-19 crisis will change the BPO industry

The outbreak of COVID-19 is changing the way we live. A similar wave of transformation is sweeping industries to enable them to work in a new constrained environment. This has impacted the industry in unprecedented ways and added a new layer of scrutiny for leaders to see business operations.

BPOs are using several strategies to overcome this situation and keep their business afloat while keeping the safety of employees at the center of strategies. In this context, there are three areas the BPO industry needs to focus on –

1. Moving from localized BCP to a distributed workforce

Traditionally, BCP or Business Continuity Planning refers to a specific location, region, or business unit., which becomes non-operational under unavoidable circumstances. In case of a crisis or discontinuity, work could be moved from one place to another. If two centers are operating in distant regions, work from one could be moved to another. The health crisis has turned the assumption of localization on its head.

BPO service providers with multiple centers across the world have been taken a hit all centers due to the COVID-19 crisis and forced to move their infrastructure at the employee’s home. This isn’t lights on critical work; it is a distributed workforce.

However, this distributed workforce has its limitations. Data security and productivity are primary concerns due to infrastructure quality and lack of supervision. Service providers overcame these problems by upgrading home internet of associates or deploying collaboration tools like Zoom, Google’s Hangout, Microsoft’s Teams, to ensure the supervisor is in constant touch with associates.

Further, the inability to record customer calls and potential PII data exposure necessitates additional control due to the sensitivity of the information.

This move is important for the following reasons –

– The cost of the difference between desktops and laptops will be easily justifiable.

– Work transition and training which involves travel and an initial few weeks of in-person interaction will move to collaboration and learning experience tools.

2. From multifunctional centers to siloed functional centers

BPO service providers that have single locations with a large amount of work for a specific function are at high risk. Service providers will move to de-risk operations. As far as it is viable, multiple service lines at one location doing critical work is a great option for service providers. A global crisis like the present may render this ineffective, but varying degrees of impact will make a difference.

This fulfills the following purposes –

The crisis will filter out service providers that can shift work rapidly and be seen as strong partners. Smaller shared services will struggle to adapt.

Deploying multi-locational /multi-functional shared services will reduce risk.

3. Accelerated standardization and platform services

The BPO industry has struggled with the adoption of standard platforms. Implementation of cross-industry processes has been a challenge too. This is due to the limitations of company-specific systems and process nuances. While new companies have lesser limitations, old companies struggle more. For instance, a cloud-based multi-tenant system accounts for about 20-30%. In this scenario, cross-trained resources can be easily deployed. Coupled with training and location as discussed above will increase the speed to respond quickly.

Adoption of platform services is important for the following-

Less manual work and more automated ways for increased efficiency and effectiveness

Businesses have increasingly complex processes. BPO service providers need to deliver business value.

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Written by Aileen Scott

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