While many may still think of call centers when they hear the term “BPO,” leaps in technology have allowed businesses to offload many other functions to distant shores. Technical support, medical processing, finance and HR solutions, and the list goes on. Outsourcing has evolved into a complex arena, and to ensure success, you have to stay abreast of the latest outsourcing trends in 2016.


The Low-Price Proposition is Losing Its Luster

Among the BPO trends to watch out for, the most important is probably the fact that “we can do it for less” is no longer the winning come-on for most firms. With so many players already using the “low-cost” angle, trying to compete on the proposition of lower costs alone is no longer a sustainable strategy. Recognizing some quality and customer satisfaction issues from their outsourced accounts, American and European firms have started to adopt a “you get what you pay for” attitude. So if you’re still relying on a cost advantage to win accounts, you need to step up your game and start singing a different tune.


BPO Firms Must Keep Employees Happy (without Raising Costs)


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You’re probably very familiar with the problem of attrition in call centers; it’s an industry that’s notorious for unhappy workers and high resignation rates. It costs a lot to hire and train new people, so BPO firms need to find a way to stop losing employees. However, to keep the price of their services competitive, they must do this without using monetary incentives. Recruiting the right talent is one strategy, and you can do this by using personality tests more to minimize resignations from poor job matches. At the same time, consider increasing employee engagement and using social physics as alternative strategies to keep workers happy.


Forget Metrics: Customer Experience Matters

If you’re part of a call center, you may be tempted to stay focused on hard numbers like average handle time, average speed of answer, and service-level goals like “80% of calls must be answered in 30 seconds or less.” While the point of these metrics may be to ensure customer satisfaction, these benchmarks  may miss the mark: some complaints may need a more involved investigation to get to the root of the problem and solve it once and for all, but call center agents under time pressure may settle for band-aid solutions that will only aggravate the customer in the long run. In the end, developing a customer-first culture among agents is important not just to give employees a sense of purpose, but also to act as a compass so they can make judgment calls when necessary.


Cultural Connections Will Become Even More Valuable


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Getting satisfied customers isn’t just about resolving problems with their billing accounts; catering to regional idiosyncrasies and being sensitive to cultural nuances is crucial as well. Call centers in the Philippines have benefited from this with a workforce that is familiar with Western culture and idiomatic expressions. Philippine call center agents are also known for their recognition of idiosyncrasies like sarcasm or irony. Knowledge of slang and sarcasm may not sound special to you, but it can pay dividends when an agent is trying to speak to and appease a dissatisfied customer.


Integrated Systems will Challenge Agents

Unlike the traditional call center solutions that rely only on phone communication, current technology allows customers to relay concerns via chat, email, and other modes. To stay competitive or differentiate yourself in the marketplace, consider integrating these systems into your operations. This will require very involved change management as agents will have to be oriented on how to use these systems. Work also has to be done so that data from legacy systems (assuming they have to be decommissioned rather than integrated into new systems) is migrated without loss.


Robotics: A Wild Card for Outsourcing


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As the opportunities of off-loading routine, low-cost work to human employees have been exhausted, and the possibility of using robotic process automation (RPA) for typically outsourced jobs is being explored. This could be a chance for your firm to cut costs and minimize human error. While this could also free your BPO workers from repetitive, algorithmic tasks and move them to more challenging and engaging work. This could also threaten their employment, especially if their responsibilities deal mainly with rote tasks like data entry, so expect some pushback if this is implemented in your company.


Big Data Will Be Big for BPO Firms

As firms have become more and more comfortable in outsourcing non-trivial jobs offshore, BPO firms that offer more technical and expert services will be more accepted. For example, BPO companies are starting to offer business analytics services—essentially taking companies’ internal metrics or data from information systems and interpreting them to make critical decisions about a business. This will benefit companies that do not have the competency to decode the data or have more data than they can feasibly deal with.


Insurance Code Changes Shake Up Medical Outsourcing


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While India is seen as an outsourcing powerhouse, their medical outsourcing segment will face challenges as a highly detailed coding system for medical diagnoses was adopted in the US for insurance claims as of late 2015. India faces threats and risks such as power and broadband infrastructure inadequacies. On the other hand, US firms, which are able to accommodate the new system easily, and Philippine firms, which have access to a large pool of medically-trained workers because of their nursing students, have an opportunity to take advantage of this. If your business involves handling medical information from the US, you may want to take note of this.


Expect a High Chance of Cloud

As companies in general are becoming more and more comfortable with storing information in the cloud, call center and other outsourcing firms are also expected to adopt cloud technology solutions more. This is important not just for clients to coordinate with vendors, but also for outsourcing networks with different regional arms that need to collaborate. By adopting cloud technology, your firm can enjoy faster endorsement of necessary digital assets, enabling agents to finish tasks and resolve concerns more quickly.


IT Security Is Emphasized


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Keeping up with technology is just one piece of the puzzle: as information transfer and cloud storage become more common for both firms and vendors, questions of information security will also gain more importance. Be prepared to answer questions about compliance with regulations regarding customer details, such as proper handling of health and credit card information. In addition, you will have to fortify your own systems against cyber-attacks to ensure that your databases, and your customers’ trust, are not compromised.


Many different factors and considerations are now shaping the outsourcing market. From concerns about customer satisfaction and increasing demands for quality of service, to challenges with regards to workplace satisfaction, outsourcing outfits have a lot of issues to juggle in order to stay profitable. Clearly, BPO firms now have to be more perceptive. After all, no one knows which IT-BPO or call center trends in 2016 will herald a boom or portend a bust.

Author's Bio: 

Anna Rodriguez is a manager and a passionate writer. She owns Homey Guide Blog. Follow her at @annrodriguez021