The BPO Industry: The Reality of Today and The Future Of Tomorrow
With 28 years in the business Karl Brough, General Manager for UKIN Region, gives us his insights into the BPO industry as it currently stands and what changes he predicts in the coming years.
BPO Industry – What’s happening now?
The amalgamation of companies has been an increasing trend over recent years and today this is still a key talking point and trend. Many of the larger BPO companies are continuing to buy and acquire other businesses, resulting in fewer, but much larger players within our industry. Sitel is no exception to this, having been acquired by Acticall in 2015 to create Sitel Group; providing now not only BPO solutions but also an array of digital, training and technological expertise. Though unlike many other businesses, much of the growth from Sitel has been focused on organic growth, helping to build strong foundations for the future. To put this into perspective, the average rate of growth for the BPO sector is around 3.8% a year. Sitel has more than doubled in size over the past 5 years, growing at a rate of over 20% year on year and opening several new locations. Much of this growth is down to Sitel embracing new technologies and ideas, with the support of our venture companies; TSC, Learning Tribes, and Innso. Consequently giving our business a more entrepreneurial, digital and flexible mindset. This, along with Sitel being a privately owned company, allows us to make decisions more freely and helps to grow and invest in our business.
Many other BPO companies are doing the same, acquiring businesses to utilise their expertise in specific areas. Now the companies that are left are very niche, specialist firms that provide very specific services. It is vital for the survival and growth of a company to still be able to compete with these specialist providers who are proving to be disrupters in the BPO sector. To do this, a business must embrace the new and strive to be ahead of the curve in insight and innovation.
The Future of the BPO Industry – What’s next?
Unsurprisingly, technology will continue to be an ever-changing aspect of our industry. The BPO sector has always been at the forefront of technological changes, but the exponential rate in which technology is advancing now and will continue to do so will put increasing pressure on businesses to keep up with the times. While customers expect faster and more user-friendly solutions, so will the brands who look to outsource areas of their business. AI and Omni-channel solutions for customers to interact with businesses are a competitive advantage now, but in the near future, they will be a necessity. With the vast range of demographics, telephony will always have its place but it will not be enough as a standalone solution.
Advances in AI, chatbots and self-help portals also means that in the future, many of the more basic, transactional or simplistic queries will be resolved without the need of a human intervention. As the basic queries are taken care of by automated solutions, the phone call incoming queries will become more complex, resulting in the need to have highly skilled advisors. This will then have a knock-on effect on recruitment for the types of skills required and on the training provided to our teams to deliver first class service. In a scenario where a customer is experiencing difficulty with complex technical issues or has an emergency or complaint, the need for human interaction is still vital. It’s in these scenarios that a knowledgeable and professional person will be preferred by customers over an automated chatbot. This is not to say however that the human interactions cannot be enhanced by technology. It seems likely that channels such as video call will increase over the coming years, especially for technical teams who would benefit from the ability to show the customer through a step-by-step resolution to the problem; further enhancing the experiences our teams deliver.
With all this change happening, is there anything constant in our industry?
Undoubtedly people will always be a constant in our industry. Despite advances in technology the BPO sector will always need passionate and enthusiastic people to deliver the excellence we strive for. They are the key to our success. With the interactions becoming more complex in the future they will need to have a varied and notable skillset, but the likes of AI and chatbots will not eliminate the need for people but instead change the roles and skills required going forward. This is a people business after all.