Top 10 BPO Trends and Business Priorities for 2017

Dec 29, 2016

Improving customer service has become synonymous with improving the overall interaction experience, regardless of the industry.

Consumers are increasingly knowledgeable about the technologies they own, use and access. This has transformed the customer support landscape, as today’s customers are more aware and demanding of companies when their applications, products, or tools do not work.

In this context, while 2016 comes to a close, here are the top 10 BPO trends and priorities that providers should be focusing on during the coming year.

1) Customer Empowerment:

Customers are aware of their growing value and power in today’s highly competitive economy. They research companies and products before buying. Ecommerce sites and global logistics have given them worldwide access to suppliers. Flexible return policies permit customers to change goods and vendors quickly. As a result, companies have had to focus on delivering excellent Customer Experiences (CXs) as market differentiators.

Today’s customers are not just going online or into stores to shop. They are going omnichannel: ordering online and picking up in-store, as well as having items delivered to their stores. They also are “showrooming” and “webrooming” on their mobile devices. Indeed, trends suggest that higher value customers, who shop both online and in-store, spend more than those who shop online or in-store only.

2) Omnichannel Mates with Strategy:

The omnichannel consumer wants to be able to use all available channels simultaneously, including the in-store experience, and enjoy a seamless experience among all of them. As a result, BPO providers are challenged to deploy a complex blend of communications and collaboration technologies in order to stay relevant, competitive, and profitable

The benefits are clear: a better experience for the customer, lower times to resolution, deeper relationships, stronger loyalty, and ultimately more sales opportunities and higher revenues. Omnichannel engagement is all about relationships. This phenomenon has changed the technology needs of the modern contact center.

3) Voice of the Customer (VOC):

Obtaining and understanding the voice of the customer (VoC) is critical to future customer loyalty, customer social media, brand promotion, and competitive differentiation. As a result, companies are giving VoC greater strategic importance. How they choose to gather VoC data and use the insights will determine their ability to grow and succeed.

Key developments:

  1. Customers’ willingness to give feedback on their terms
  2. Transcending surveys to fully capture VoC: They are beginning to collect and integrate multichannel customer feedback, company interactions, social conversations, transactions, loyalty card use, and store and website visits.
  3. Sophistication and value of social feedback: Social listening quickly detects issue firestorms, product ideas, and sales opportunities. But the channel also provides dynamic, incisive, real-time, and often (but not always) authentic VoC. They are driven by the topics customers are most motivated to comment on.
  4. Listening to the voice of the employee (VoE): How staff engages with customers impacts the VoC. VoE surveys and quality monitoring can uncover issues that cause unsatisfactory CXs or discover ideas that improve them.

4) Self Service:

Self-service in customer care is moving clearly to the web and via social media as millennials take to mobile devices with a do-it-yourself mentality. The trend toward self-service has permeated nearly every aspect of society—and with good reason. Self-service is a near-perfect business model that benefits customers, while also impacting businesses positively.

For customers, self-service means greater control. Many customers embrace self-service only because they have become sensitive to poor service. Thus, the customer who has wasted too many minutes in long telephone queues is more likely to turn to an always-available web alternative.

A well-designed self-service portal covers these two customer requirements:

  • It allows users to do things—e.g., place orders, approve changes, communicate decisions.
  • It allows users to know things—e.g., monitor their network performance, look at billing or usage trends, determine what other products are available.

For businesses, on the other hand, self-service portals represent the ability for operators, supervisors, and managers to do their jobs faster and more efficiently. Contact center outsourcing companies and communications service providers (CSPs) welcome the increased productivity and decreased cost associated with the automation of functions.

5) Connected Devices and the Internet of Things (IOT):

For some time, support agents and teams have been remotely accessing computing devices and phones to monitor usage, troubleshoot problems, configure applications, and transmit and install new and updated software. Now support staff is being asked to perform the same tasks on a wide range of non-IT products and services, known as connected devices or the Internet of Things (IoT). The use of IoT in customer care allows the service providers to assume a more proactive approach towards its customers, thus increasing its satisfaction. Our research shows that globally there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020 and 177 million wearable devices by 2018.

6) Process Automation:

It is important to note that though automation is often discussed in the context of self-service (i.e., automating the steps that the customer takes when processing an interaction), here the discussion is primarily about automating the other side of the interaction—what the agent does and is exposed to.

On the one hand, a growing need to automate time-consuming manual processing and routine tasks is primarily driving growth. On the other hand, it will soon exert a significant impact on employees for the better as well as for the worse. First, there will be greater automation in operational processes resulting in greater efficiency and reliability. Second, an increasing number of people will lose their jobs to machines. According to The Economist and the University of Oxford, computers could automate 47% of jobs in the western world within the next two decades.

7) Predictive Capabilities:

The accurate predictive capabilities of AI-powered applications for better decision making have been key factors driving companies to adopt this technology in their contact centers. Artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) can largely help to understand complex data sets and reveal the most meaningful insights in real-time to help in critical decisions concerning highly accurate predictions. AI and cognitive computing will be incorporated into existing software, as with IBM Watson, Microsoft Azure, or Google’s Prediction API.

As an example, IBM Watson is being used by CVS, the second-largest pharmacy chain in the United States, to predict customers’ deteriorating health. Adoption will also be driven by new startups offering a mix of machine learning, machine vision, and NLP. The software will initially do more with existing data, but gradually it will find new applications, such as identifying objects or human emotions in videos or summarizing millions of words for an infographic.

8) Security:

Today’s customers are more concerned than ever about how companies use their data and track their activities online. Agent fraud, within captive or outsourced contact centers, also represents a significant threat. 

measure manage bpo trendsSource: Frost & Sullivan

9) Vendor Consolidation:

The final key challenge for outsourcers is the trend toward vendor consolidation. Companies no longer want to manage half a dozen outsourcing relationships. It is, therefore, imperative that outsourcing providers offer clients demonstrable added-value in the form of relevant and innovative services. Clients seek out true partnerships with outsourcing providers that accelerate growth by way of added sales conversions and revenues from up-sell and cross-sell activity.

10) Cultural Alignment:

The nature of the relationship between the client and service provider is vital to the long-term success of any outsourcing arrangement. It becomes even more important today because consumer expectations for excellent service delivery are extremely high, regardless of the vertical segment. The customer experience is increasingly being recognized as a fundamental competitive differentiator, even more than the product. This requires a shared vision and a good cultural fit between vendor and client. It engenders a high level of trust, a synergistic relationship, and a great deal of transparency.


Juan Gonzalez

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