The Next Normal | What does 2021 hold for the BPO Industry?

2020 has been a year of disruption for all. Now that it is coming to a close, we ask what can 2021 hold for the outsourcing and BPO industry? To provide some understanding of exactly that, ThinScale hosted a webinar with an all-star panel of experienced professionals in the outsourcing sector – providing key takeaways from 2020 and insights into 2021. This blog is a summary of the key talking points in that webinar. 

  • Peter Ryan – Founder & Principal at Ryan Strategic Advisory
  • Anne Bibb – Managing Partner – Remote Evolution corporation
  • Keith O’Looney – Key Account Manager – Work at Home – ThinScale Technology
  • Stephen Loynd – Founder & Principal at TrendzOwl

Particularly from the perspective of BPOs – How has the industry adapted to provide to their clients?

From Keith O’Looney’s experience working with ten of the top twelve global BPOs, he was able to give insights into what the most innovative companies in this sector have done to allow them to take over a lot of the market share in the last while. Primarily the more innovative BPOs ability to take on new clients from anywhere has been a huge advantage. As they are not limited to hiring locally, but are able to expand and take on employees regardless of location, and at a rapid rate.

Companies that have been able to capitalize on this decentralized recruitment most effectively have all had existing work at home solutions in place from the get-go. Needing to only focus on scaling rather than building their work at home solution from the ground up, then attempting to meet customer demand.

“They were able to go from 10 – 100, rather than trying to figure out how to get from 0 – 10.” – Keith O’Looney

On a positive note, Keith O’Looney did mention that the rest of the industry is beginning to see the value in having a solidified remote working solution in place, and have been making moves towards embracing work at home & remote working. Meaning the process of scaling up for other BPOs in future will be much easier, allowing them to meet customer demand quicker.

What are your thoughts about the agent experience  in 2020 & What do outsourcers and their clients need to be thinking about in 2021?

When speaking about employees and their transition to work at home, although a success story, Anne Bibb made the point that the majority of employees that transitioned to work at home, did not sign up for this type of working environment – studies showing that 46% of agents wanted to work at home full time – while a good number, this means that 54% of agents did not want to work at home full time – so what did the other half of the workforce want to do? Interestingly Anne stated that of that 54%, 48% said they wanted to work from home and the office – really hammering home the future of work is not just in work from home, but in work from anywhere.

While it may be possible to quickly pivot large organizations to remote working entirely, sustaining it is challenging – while having a hybrid work from anywhere strategy is much easier to maintain in the longer term and will be a crucial focus for many in the outsourcing industry come 2021.

“Being a hybrid, being able to pivot by having those office locations is much more strategic in that of a go-forward strategy.” – Anne Bibb

With this in mind, for 2021 employers need to identify how and where their employees want to work and how they can succeed in this new work from anywhere environment. Training, is needed especially for supervisors who experienced most of their careers in brick and mortar environments. An understanding needs to be had within the industry that old school methods of employee support and productivity management are not optimal and new methods must be implemented in work at home and work from anywhere environments.

Acceptance of work at home evolved throughout 2020. Where do we think it will be going in 2021?

According to Stephen Loynd, even pre-COVID, we were living in a time that experts called the “great restructuring” – where new business models and disruptive technologies innovate and develop rapidly, to the point of global industry transformation.

Ernst & Young performed a survey that showed that 41% of respondents were accelerating investments in new technologies due to COVID; with those investments now quickening, so companies will be better prepared when exiting this crisis. Contact centres particularly are seeing innovations with automation, omnichannel distribution, mobile, IoT, the nebulous “cloud,” and even innovations with AI. Work at home is absolutely in the same category as all the previous examples and should be looked at as the new reality for contact center innovation.

Stephen says companies must be agile, and that expectation for agility will be much higher in 2021. The Work at home model is very much a piece of that toolbelt of critical technologies in which contact centers and others in the outsourcing industry should be investing.

Work at home and remote working are here to stay, stating COVID was a force globally felt across industries. It has transformed workplaces to the point that they realistically cannot return to what was previously defined as “normal.”

“If you boil an egg after it cools off, it becomes fundamentally different.” – Stephen Loynd

What other key trends do you think those in the outsourcing industry should be aware of in 2021?

Keith O’Looney: Work has been kept to physical contact centers in the past due to three significant concerns: Security, Loss of control, and Agent productivity. With technology solutions such as ThinScale’s Secure Remote Worker, Concentrix’s Secure CX, and more, we are seeing these concerns addressed to the point where remote working is becoming the ideal environment in 2021, leaning partially towards gig workplace models for agents in US-based companies.

Anne Bibb: Companies who successfully rolled out work at home and are running it sustainably will continue to do so in 2021. However, businesses that have not fully embraced work at home will start looking at work from anywhere strategies. It is important to clarify that Work from anywhere is not a “work from Starbucks,” type solution, but a strategy focusing on business resilience through agile infrastructure.  It is the ability to pivot on a dime due to any unforeseen event. This is the key position companies in the outsourcing industry should be working towards in 2021.

Stephen Loynd: As pathogens and pandemics become more common, organizations have to be more flexible than they were in the past. Stephen sees four quick emerging trends:

1) Agility – the need to be an agile and digitally transformed enterprise to ensure resilience in any scenario, of which the work at home model is very much a part.

2) Streamlining of information – in a world of digital flux and change, this is going to become imperative for companies to embrace in the upcoming year.

3) Productivity – tools and technologies being implemented in 2021 as standard – “the 2020s will be an era of soaring productivity.”

4) Clear headedness & leadership – particularly in the outsourcing industry, predispositions and assumptions based on outdated information need to be thrown out, the pandemic has created a “fog of war” and company leadership must be clear headed and actively paying attention to the latest information in order to navigate it.

To see the full webinar,  click below to access the webinar free on-demand:

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