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Business Process Outsourcing: Setting Sail For New Horizons

Digital recovery and innovation mark the sector’s growth success story.

Many sectors have suffered from the Covid-19 pandemic while business owners worldwide are beginning to brace themselves for what is being touted as the next big global recession. And while it is true that the effects of the health crisis are likely to be long-lasting and far-reaching, oftentimes a time of crisis can be the right time for enterprises to seize an opportunity.

The Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, like many others, has undoubtedly seen a shift in operations over the last 12 months. With much of the world at a standstill in spring of last year, players had to adapt to new working methods and find operational solutions that would allow them to continue providing for their customers. This, at a time when omni-channel services began to abound. 

This caused a huge shift in how business was conducted around the globe.

New business priorities and disposition

Carlos López-Abadía, CEO at Atento, explains: “While conventionally, physical proximity has always been considered as optimal in order to carry out certain business operations, the knock-on effect of COVID-19 has demonstrated that, regardless of employee locations, it is possible to adapt and maintain efficient operations. This has meant that all of us have begun to embrace a more virtual reality in many areas of our lives. And it is no exception when it comes to business owners. They are increasingly willing to extend corporate activities to the virtual sphere which, prior to the pandemic, they might have wanted to keep in-house.” 

In fact, the pandemic meant that, in many cases, industries had to wholeheartedly embrace the digitization of existing channels and increase the number of those channels they offered to consumers. In the event that they did not hold the capacity to do this alone, they turned to strategic partners in the BPO sector with the experience and the know-how to quickly scale up projects.

Juan Gonzalez, Research Director at Frost & Sullivan, says, "Providers have developed enhanced capabilities across channels and platforms to allow the easy addition of new channels, and other capabilities to make it easier for agents to handle multichannel interactions. BPOs that have been able to demonstrate their capacity to deliver a high-quality digital, stable and secure service have been the ones less affected by this crisis, and were able to cultivate new or strengthen existing business relationships. This should lead to high growth rates and business success by 2021 and in the years to come."

Atento’s own figures sing a similar tune. After an initial downturn in Spring 2020, figures bounced back rather buoyantly toward the end of the year, allowing for positive growth year-on-year.

This is good news for the sector. But it does not mean that there will not be changes in the future. There are several features that are likely to dominate over the coming months and years, brought about and further defined, in large part,  by the pandemic.

Digital recovery

Several sectors had begun mapping out their journey to cloud, and in many cases had even started implementing digital solutions. The last year has prompted an acceleration of these processes, from which there will be no going back. “For 2021 we expect global and local brands to continue using new digital channels to improve relationships with end-customers, speeding up the transformation of the industry into the digital age. We also believe that the shift to more digital experiences as a consequence of the pandemic is here to stay, which presents a great opportunity for us to power more and more businesses,” notes López-Abadía.

The new normal will be a digital one. This, alone, is not fresh news. But the rise in prevalence of AI, in many forms, as well as other disruptive technologies, such as speech analytics, natural language processing, machine learning and data analytics, has consequences that go beyond the need to develop new processes. Streamlining back-office and front-end processes, when combined with the human element has the two-fold outcome of boosting service provision and creating business efficiency gains.

Reshoring, nearshoring or somewhere in between

There has been a gentle move away from off-shoring in favor of reshoring and nearshoring in the past decade as companies have outweighed the pros and cons of outsourcing their business processes far afield. Whereas in the past, off-shoring was favored by those companies looking to reduce costs, the rise in digitalization means that a hybrid automated-driven process complemented with the human-touch can make reshoring and nearshoring viable cost-effective options for those who had previously shied away from them.

On the one hand, reshoring has its obvious benefits such as more streamlined management, cultural values and logistical benefits such as time zone parity. On the other hand, set within the context of the pandemic, the ability to keep business operations in motion using regions not affected by lockdowns would seem conspicuous in terms of good business acumen as a benefit for companies choosing nearshoring, or maybe even a hybrid approach.

Elsewhere, companies who have implemented working-from-home solutions can also guarantee that another lockdown period does not mean having to halt business activities or compromise customer service provision, though this, undeniably, means being able to prove that security measures are in place to safeguard both company and client data.

Innovation and implementation

Ultimately, success in the sector in the “new normal” will boil down to two things: innovation and the leadership skills willing to make that happen.

"All human progress has been achieved thanks to the influence of a few ‘irrational’ people who were able to inspire others, providing guidance and certainty in times of crisis and uncertainty. I see this period as a chance to seize an opportunity. The BPO sector is setting sail for new horizons, and those business leaders willing to take that leap of faith towards the new world will be riding the crest of the wave,” concludes López-Abadía.

Carlos López-Abadía, Atento´s CEO

This article was originally published here.

 

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