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Business Readiness for success: the evolving role of the BPO.

The last 10 years has seen Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) evolve into a sophisticated global industry covering an expanding and multi-faceted range of services.

In this blog post, Abtran’s PMO Manager, Tom Hyland looks back on how the industry has changed and how Abtran’s role today is more about helping clients to remain service-ready amidst ever-changing market forces and disruption.

Back in the 1990s, when the outsourcing industry was just beginning to grow, BPO activity was typically centred around the outsourcing of core functions with a focus on reducing costs and increasing operational performance and efficiency. In Abtran’s case, our focus was largely around the delivery of contact centre based customer service activity. Over the years, the range and complexity of our services has evolved from front to back office processes and the delivery of end-to-end services from a people, process and technology perspective.

For many BPOs today, this evolution has fundamentally changed the dynamic of the traditional client-outsourced supplier relationship with pricing based on full-time equivalencies (FTE) models becoming increasingly displaced with more outcome-based, performance driven contracts. For Abtran, this in turn has led to more partner based client relationships where success is measured more on the basis of business outcomes across the end-to-end customer journey versus the standalone delivery of more streamlined performance and KPIs.

Looking back over the past number of years, the increasing complexity of our services is particularly evidenced through the emergence of Industry specific BPO. For instance, many of the projects I’ve been involved with from a PMO perspective entail clients looking to enter new markets, particularly highly regulated and disruptive markets such as the UK Energy market. These organisations are looking for an experienced partner who not only can help them stand up a new operation and hit the ground running, but can also help them to navigate market requirements and regulations while enabling them to scale quickly in a customer focused and compliant way.

By positioning the customer as the central focal point, Abtran’s role today has also become more about putting the right solutions in place; whether that’s people or a combination of people and technology based solutions to help the client deliver on what today’s customers want – that seamless, secure and easy to use experience. For instance, one of the projects I’m currently working on involves the design to delivery of an online application solution in the Transport sector. Significant growth in self-service and online activity in recent years means that application design and development, and the delivery of digital listening and engagement services, are much more integral to the suite of services we offer out to clients on a routine basis.

In many ways, partnering a BPO like Abtran helps to take the risk out of change because we’ve been there and done it before. In this sense, our role has become deeper and more advisory-led. We’ve taken the learning and experience gained from other sectors over the past 21 years to guide, lead and then deliver in a practical, innovative and proven way.

When we look to the future of outsourcing, there is an argument that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics pose a threat to traditional Customer Service functions. However, I don’t see it that way. If BPO as an industry is to continue to be a forward thinking and sustainable model, it has to be about what’s best for the client as well as the client’s customer. And by leveraging technology to automate the routine, this in turn can free up the Customer Service Advisor to concentrate on more expert, knowledge based and complex queries, all the while delivering a better service experience for the end-customer.

For my part, I’ve never really understood the term ‘Outsourcing’ as implying ‘being on the outside’. At Abtran, we regularly have clients who choose to work on-site within our offices while many of our staff, particularly on the PMO side frequently work on client-site for extensive periods, ensuring we remain closely aligned and operate as a strategic, joined-up team.

From my experience, the key to a successful BPO partnership is about the ability to understand the client, their culture, their goals and then to leverage experience, skills and expertise to deliver better business outcomes in a way that’s flexible and meets the client’s needs whether that’s through insource, on-site or offshore service delivery.

From the client’s perspective, the most important element is to get the BPO selection right. It’s imperative to ensure that partners are the right fit, with the right experience, skillsets, capabilities, controls and credentials. From my experience, the most successful relationships and projects come about through an open relationship that’s built on trust. Communication is absolutely key to developing this relationship as well as having a very clear and aligned vision around the client’s goals and objectives while working proactively together to achieve them.

Of course, this type of partnership is not something that’s learned. It’s earned. It’s about being open and aligned, sharing best practice and working together to innovate and achieve the best performance, best results and the very best customer experience possible.

More About Tom
As the leader of the Abtran Project Management team and with over 9 years’ experience in the sector, Tom is responsible for the successful delivery of large scale implementation programmes for Abtran clients across both the public and private sectors.