As with many industries that relied on in-person or office-based employees, Business Process Outsourcing in 2020 scrambled to adjust to lockdowns and remote work possibilities. The pandemic proved that many jobs are able to be moved to remote offices, be they in the employee home or a hotdesking environment. This made many employees very happy as they had been for years advocating the work-from-home model as a viable option. It also proved to many others that they need a combination of the in-person working environment and the ability to work from home.
In BPO industries, some transitions were far easier than others. For some BPO sectors, the transfer to the home office was overdue. For other sectors, it proved that the challenges of working from home in online teams are unsurmountable. Let’s take a closer look at 3 major changes in BPO industries expected this year.
Latin America Will Lead in BPO
While Asian nations have traditionally cornered the BPO market in many sectors, such as call centers, IT support, and logistics, Latin America is fast proving that it has the workforce required to take on a diverse application of BPO roles.
Latin America is seeing internal domestic growth. The region offers comparatively affordable labor costs, close proximity to and compatible timezone with north America, high-level English-language skills, and a higher tolerance and understanding of American social behaviors.
As people become increasingly aware of wage abuses in some regions, and poor working conditions for those in unskilled jobs in many parts of Asia, the push towards a closer connection with service providers has become apparently important to wealthy businesses in North America. This shift towards Latin America as a BPO service provider hub in the telecoms sector has, so far, been successful, as many agents were able to manage remote work and flexible conditions for employees very easily, while in many parts of Asia, this was not as easy. Living conditions for low-income earners in the Asia region mean that remote work has been challenging as large families live in small homes and often without the privacy required for telecommunications. They have, however, been able to manage other areas such as chat response, customer service ticket response, and IT. There is space in the market for Latin America to become a major telecoms BPO, but it is unlikely that the Asian region will relinquish control over the industry as a whole.
Call Centres Become Remote And Cloud-Based
Many call centers moved to remote work during the pandemic. The move required some upgrades to systems, standard operating procedures, and tech capability, but overall, changes for most larger companies went well. Costs were absorbed in many nations by governments supporting people working from home.
A survey of call center employees showed that 58% of respondents preferred full-time remote work, while 39% said that a hybrid model would suit their needs. The majority of BPO call center employees want to have the ability to work from home or the office environment of their choice, like a hot desk.
While the costs of hiring large office spaces for hundreds of employees are lowered, having a majority remote or flexible workforce comes with other challenges. Employees need to feel supported by excellent cloud-based apps that are secure, reliable, and easy to navigate. This upgraded support tech comes at a cost to the company. Some companies might also provide the hardware for employees to work remotely, which is a massive outlay.
However, the arguments that support a hybrid or flexible model are hard to refute. The staff turnover rate is far lower, meaning that training costs become less and customer loyalty is improved. For large BPOs providing support services for many clients, having a dedicated team of professionals who are established and content in their work means they can provide better services and demand higher rates from clients.
Increased Demand For Bilingual (English/Spanish) Virtual Assistants
The majority of BPO industry contracts are in telecoms and software development. The demand for bilingual (English/Spanish) assistants is expected to increase with the increase in centers opening in Latin America.
One of the fastest-growing BPO services is Virtual Assistants. These people make phone calls, schedule appointments, manage email accounts, and make travel arrangements for their clients. Bilingual assistants can speak more than one language, mostly in the North American market, which means English and Spanish. Such assistants are a valuable asset, and the job opportunity pays relatively well without the requirement on the part of the assistant to move to North America.
As businesses evolve to become truly international, virtual assistants will become more valuable, and accessible. BPO agents source assistants with high-level language skills, and intermediate computing and scheduling skills, to work as virtual assistants for wealthy corporations. It reduces the need for office space and provides valuable career opportunities.
In 2022, the shift in the BPO industry has proven to be towards remote working, Latin American dominance in telecoms, and an increase in bilingual virtual assistants. The benefit of BPO for businesses has also proven itself as more businesses understand that they need to find solutions for employing workers outside a traditional environment, such as an office. BPOs support small and emerging businesses with job roles that are expensive to create, fill and maintain, while larger businesses keep operating costs down by outsourcing roles that would otherwise be expensive. As people are becoming more aware of low wages and poor working conditions in some BPO environments, the shift towards transparent operators and marketplaces.