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Every business is looking to cut their operating costs, and for many, that means outsourcing their non-primary functions to other companies, or even other countries. However, with the rise of certain new technologies, the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry could be at risk of losing a large portion of its market share.
As it turns out, it’s not just retailers that need to work hard to stay competitive, and BPO companies may find that 2019 could be a painful year for them if they are not keeping up with the industry’s latest trends. As the founder of an outsourced provider to startups in the BPO space, I’m following these trends to guide our progress this year.
Robotic process automation will automate processes.
One of the biggest trends we’ll likely see in 2019 is a movement toward using AI and software to automate tedious business processes. In fact, it’s estimated that over 40% of American jobs could be lost to automation by the 2030s. For the BPO industry, this is rather scary. While BPO has benefitted from being able to provide labor at a reduced cost by moving their operations to lower cost-of-living countries, software can provide labor that has almost no cost once it’s trained.
However, while some may see artificial intelligence (AI) as the silent killer that will leave many people jobless and destitute, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle. This AI will be more likely to work alongside its human counterparts, doing the heavy lifting and tedious work for them so that humans can focus on what’s really important.
That’s because computers are really good at performing monotonous tasks like diligently thumbing through piles of data to find trends or minor details that might have been missed. However, they’re not very good at tasks that require creative abilities or decision-making that is not based on clearly defined rulesets.
This means that humans will still need to add their touch to make this software useful, and BPO companies will still have their place in managing AI and correcting its course when it goes astray. In fact, smart BPO providers will likely be able to use these machine learning and AI tools themselves in order to increase efficiency for their own workloads. This will allow them to cut their own costs and make more profit on tasks that can’t be so easily automated.
There will be a larger focus on social media tools and automation.
Social media has exploded. While at one time it was something that only teenagers cared about, now everyone is involved, and any business that is not using these platforms effectively is missing out. Social media usage is now the third most popular online activity, and these consumers will expect every company to be just as invested in social media as they are.
Unfortunately, managing a social media account is now a full-time job, or in some cases, many full-time jobs. This means spending hours on content that gets engagement and paying employees to answer customer questions and concerns quickly and in a professional manner.
While in the past, the call center was the way to go for tending to your customers, it’s much less likely that they’ll be willing to make a phone call to get answers for their concerns. In 2019, companies will be looking to outsource this work in ways that increase engagement and keep their customers happy.
There will be a big focus on providing quality customer service, especially because social media is a double-edged sword. Great customer service can win the hearts of consumers and even go viral, but bad customer service can spread like wildfire and damage brands.
The internet is a very public place, and companies will be looking to outsource to BPO companies that can quickly address their customer’s concerns and put out fires before they spread. They’ll also be willing to pay top dollar for services or products that can help them to grow their business. This might include opportunities to fix problems or to capitalize on PR opportunities in trending tags.
Cloud computing and SaaS will only get bigger.
Many moons ago, you had to host your own software solutions if you wanted to use them for your business. This required purchasing expensive servers that needed to be maintained, and that meant employing an on-site IT staff to manage everything for you.
Today’s businesses are much leaner than those of yesteryear, and in 2019, it’s likely that we’ll see a much bigger shift toward SaaS and cloud products. In fact, around 95% of survey respondents have now adopted cloud technology.
The reasons for this are pretty clear. It’s almost always cheaper to use a cloud service rather than an in-house solution, and it’s even more beneficial tax-wise. Cloud services are Opex rather than Capex for accounting purposes, and that means those businesses can take their tax write-offs sooner rather than spreading them out over several years.
This means that the BPO industry must adapt themselves to using cloud tools because those businesses will expect you to use their software when they contract you for outsourcing of various tasks.
BPO companies will need to be more well-rounded.
Outsourcing used to be all about call centers, but now you can outsource almost anything, and many lean startups and smaller companies will be looking for a BPO that can do it all. This means providing customer service, social media services, design work, IT help and anything else that they may need.
However, this is not necessarily a bad thing, and it could actually be a saving grace for BPO companies that may lose work to automation and AI. By shifting their focus to creative jobs and tasks that software simply can’t do, they will diversify their offerings. This could mean even bigger profits for BPO and more employment opportunities that are shielded from the impact of automation.