Work at home has become a new normal across the world, with companies embracing what was initially seen as a niche form of work as standard during this pandemic. On May 25th, Peter Ryan of Ryan Strategic Advisory, Brendan Kiely of ThinScale Technology and Rod Jones of Rod Jones Contact Centre Consulting came together to speak about key insights found working within and alongside the BPO and CX industries in South Africa and Worldwide.
Peter Ryan set the scene, introducing South Africa as a country that has very much been at the forefront of BPO and CX innovation during this crisis as one of the key delivery markets servicing West Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and now largely North America.
One of the major questions according to Peter was "what BPOs need to do to remain competitive and attractive to enterprise customers?"
Having the ability to provide home based agents has risen in the past weeks to one of the top priorities for enterprise customers seeking BPO services, to the point where lacking this facility can detract form a BPO/CX's overall value proposition.
Home-based agent capabilities - likely to rise to 2nd or even 1st in the coming weeks
Another point that customers look to BPOs for are high levels of security and data protection. When moving suddenly to WaH at such a large scale, companies want to know that their data and own customers will be protected.
"What is a contact centre to do if they have no experience working at home, delivering customer experiences from the residences of agents and all of a sudden they do a "Dunkirk-like" shift all the way from bricks and mortar to a virtual environment"
Brendan Kiely, bringing in his own experience working with six of the top ten global BPOs on their WaH endpoint deployments, spoke to the initial disparity between these large BPOs around how they thought it would all play out. Many BPOs thought it would be short term, whereas now many of the companies ThinScale is speaking to realize there will be a much longer tale to this crisis, and are planning accordingly.
"One company is planning for a resurgence of COVID in September or October, another is planning for July."
Brendan noted that those who had an existing WaH programme were in a much better position than most, as the focus was on scaling what they already had, rather than building up a programme from scratch. Attempting the latter typically brought about challenges at the endpoint particularly in the context of distributing hardware.
Those challenges came into very strong focus for ThinScale.
Overall Brendan noted that most of the BPOs he has worked with have embraced WaH in their workforce.
However ThinScale are seeing global companies that are running into significant issues that they will be looking to BPOs to help solve, especially around security. Compliance standards are always at the forefront of conversations for customers, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and GDPR are the most common. Business continuity planning is changing, shifting very rapidly. Some of our customers are ensuring that both in-office machines and BYOD machines are ready for another outbreak.
Companies are asking :"What should we be doing now to ensure our business is ready?"
"The core answer is we have to become WaH experts, not only from a technical perspective but also in how the industry recruits and manages people, targets, and goals."
Rod Jones has been speaking to senior management within South Africa's BPO and CX industry and contextualized South Africa's journey through the pandemic. When the lockdown happened on the 26th of March it dropped agent numbers to functionally nothing. Thanks to the efforts of BPESA, the main industry body and trade association for Global Business Services in South Africa, over the course of weeks, working alongside the government, they were able to get sub categories of essential and permitted services both international and domestic back to full-time work.
Over the past few weeks Rod has been speaking to multiple BPO operators, and noted there were severe problems moving agents back home along with 3g and 4g mobile connectivity. Whilst there are connectivity and power issues among certain demographics, it's clear from the research carried out that the creative and innovative nature of BPOs in South Africa puts them in a great position to help companies tackle this new WAH world.
"We are looking forward to helping the country move forward, though no one can really see into the muddy crystal ball [of the future]."
Looking to the future, BPOs in South Africa are focusing on data security, usage, quality experience and monitoring and motivation of agents. The question that comes to Rod's mind is whether they can sustain high levels of customer experience and customer service, whilst reinventing how they manage their workforce remotely.
"Despite the challenges, the industry in South Africa is very well placed to be the leader in this new world. With the commitment of BPESA, BPOs and CX companies in South Africa have the ability to define and redefine the industry in the coming months."Key Figures
- South Africa is the 2nd most favored location for offshore locations overall.
- In the most recent publication of the front office BPO omnibus survey, South Africa was rated the most favorable delivery spot for customer management in the world.
- For contact center operations: strong digital data protection was the largest challenge.
- Companies comparing competitive advantage of outsourcers rated home-based agent capabilities 3rd highest of 30 choices.
- Generally it is projected that 30-40% of all agents will be from home in the BPO industry.
- Specific to the BPO sector, South Africa had over 290,000 agents working pre-COVID.
- In South Africa Specifically, it is predicted that 40% of all agents by late 2020/ early 2021 will be WaH.
Watch the whole webinar on-demand by clicking the link below: