As the global corporate response to COVID-19 continues, brands are watching their outsourced customer experience partners introduce new work-from-home operations to ensure business continuity. The reality is, many outsourcers are pushing a square peg into a round hole and calling it a success.
First and foremost, it cannot be understated that we absolutely believe that large providers are doing the right thing to combat this pandemic and protect their employees. Contact centers that house hundreds or thousands of workers are completely unsuitable during this global crisis, so sending people home to work is the only rational and ethical call to make.
It’s great to see the BPO industry taking the necessary measures to ensure people’s safety, but the question is whether or not traditional brick-and-mortar providers can maintain solid WFH service delivery over the course of 2020 and beyond.
Large-Scale Operational Hurdles
For many U.S. brands, much of their CX/BPO concentration is offshore with mega centers in India and the Philippines, mainly due to a low price point and high availability of talent. This approach creates a density problem, meaning brands are amplifying their risk with a single point of failure — if the mega center shuts down, what’s the backup plan?
As working from home is now essential in most countries, mega centers operators are handing in-center computers to employees to use at home. To configure these workstations for WFH, IT teams will be maxed to capacity. Meanwhile, downtime and call queues will increase as a result, resulting in a huge hit to customer experience. Additionally, one of the basic requirements for work-from-home operations is stable, affordable, reliable, high-speed internet, which becomes more of a factor offshore and increasingly complicated in the tier 2-3 cities where many mega centers and their employees are located.
While providers tout successful WFH implementations across the board, only time will tell if they are stable enough to last.
Employee Suitability for WFH
Contrary to popular belief, not everybody is suited to work from home. Big contact centers commonly employ a majority of Millennials and Gen Zs, and many of them will likely struggle to work from home on a long-term basis.
Dedicated work-at-home employment is very different from the hustle and bustle found in a large contact center. It requires a deep commitment from a specific type of person who can work successfully in a self-managed and often isolated environment.
The most valuable characteristics and skills we’ve seen in our Ambassadors are a working knowledge of computers and modern devices, being at ease with autonomy and isolation, strong organizational and time-keeping skills, and an active digital social life on several platforms.
While working from home might feel like a benefit for contact center employees in the short term, you cannot expect all of them to successfully adapt to a WFH lifestyle for extended periods of time. Many outsourcers are unaware of this risk, as it’s still very early days for their WFH operations.
Bringing Balance to the Equation
Risk is at an all-time high in the service delivery space, and brands are looking to balance their own risk as much as possible, either to prepare for long-term disruption or the emergence of a similar crisis later down the line.
Large BPOs and CX providers may claim to have virtualized thousands of seats, but their clients risk exposure if providers fail to sustain their new WFH operations. Essentially, these brands need a business continuity and disaster recovery plan that doesn’t rely on the promises of a single large-scale provider.
One of the ways that brands can protect themselves is by spreading the risk out and mitigating losses by partnering with more established WFH CX providers. Pure-play WFH providers in the United States employ geographically dispersed teams, ensuring business continuity during times of crisis, and removing that single point of failure in physical locations.
By inserting a pure-play WFH provider as a champion challenger, brands can balance their portfolio while assessing how providers compete. Aside from offering an additional layer of protection, it’s also a great strategy for measuring how each provider handles specific CX requirements.
With Q3 and Q4 on the horizon, retailers, utility providers, telcos, and other industries will be gearing up for peak season, which could be a huge challenge for organizations if their CX service isn’t up to scratch. From our viewpoint, the only way to prepare for this and ensure business continuity during times of crisis is by balancing CX delivery with dedicated WFH partners, eliminating the single point of failure that comes with large contact centers.