Phil Fersht’s ‘Horses for Sources’ blog is a great antidote to most consultant and analyst reports with an irreverence that means it must be the only blog about outsourcing where you will regularly laugh at the articles – and the comments.
I saw a recent article title ‘Work smarter, not cheaper’ that explored the talent agenda across the entire BPO industry. One of the main findings of the HfS research was that knowledge and skills related to automation are becoming increasingly important.
This is a view I echo. In fact, looking at the research results published by HfS I would make three immediate observations:
- There is a requirement for increased skills in the wider BPO industry as supplier companies perform many more complex tasks. What has really changed is the nature of how a company is structured. Outsourcing used to be a very defined process where a process was lifted out and dropped into the supplier with everything defined rigidly and labour arbitrage was often the driver. Now the way suppliers work with clients features much more flexibility – it’s far more collegiate and like a genuine partnership. Often you can be inside an office and not know whom the client pays and whom the supplier pays.
- Automation is changing many parts of the BPO sector, not least customer service where customers are often expressing a desire to just do things themselves at their own pace.
- The complexity in many BPO services today means that outsourcing is not really optional – it has become essential. This is certainly true for any brand wanting to offer great customer service. Handling the way that customer expectations are changing all the time – such as multichannel support – is really a job for experts who are only focused on making this work better.
Automation is a really interesting area within the customer service environment. In many cases customers who need help with a product or service don’t call an official number or email a specific address, they just ask questions on social networks. However, if a customer asks a specific question about a product they are more likely to do that using a search engine than on a company website so another entire area of work is ensuring that answers pop up in search engines like Google.
Dell is a company that does this well. They create video content that answers almost every possible question about their products and upload them to YouTube, creating an enormous library of Q&A product videos. These videos are viewed millions of times, which really does prove that their customers often Google a question then get the answer from a video rather than going direct to the customer service team.
BPO is working smarter today. I can see all around in my own area of the industry that people starting out as customer service agents have real career choices – and interesting choices. The skills they are developing can lead them into sales, marketing, and research – any part of the business where knowledge of customer behaviour is important.
BPO is changing fast, but as HfS suggests, the changes are making this business a more exciting place to be.
What do you think are the main drivers of change in BPO today? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @matt_sims1.
Photo by Moyan Brenn licensed under Creative Commons