While the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry continues to grow globally, it is also faced with increased competition from new disruptive technology and digital automation. This has led to the value of the BPO sector as we know it being challenged.

Sensing change was afoot, Enlighten, together with The Shared Services and Outsourcing Network (SSON) commissioned ‘BPO in the 2020s: How Leaders Will Be Positioned’, a report of the BPO sector launched in Singapore last month. I share here some of the key insights we found as it applies to both leaders and clients of BPO services providers.

Primarily, there is a growing sense of frustration in the sector. Leaders are demanding more transparency and a higher quality of service from their BPO providers. Equally, providers want more clarity around client’s service expectations and strategic plans from the outset.

It’s clear the sector needs to change and both customers and providers play an important role in shifting biases to build a successful partnership.

Visibility and transparency are high on the agenda

One of the primary desires from a business leader’s perspective is that BPO services providers must be more transparent with them and demonstrate higher quality, while at the same time reassuring their customers on information and data security, and providing more control options.

As part of this, providers need to prioritise operational excellence to better engage organisational leaders. They need to create visibility of what exactly is happening in a business’s daily operations.

Such visibility can only be achieved with the introduction of a continuous improvement system that adopts a solid, metrics-based approach to daily management. Further, as a means of improving feedback and engagement, self-service tools could provide the access, communication and partnership approach leaders are looking for.

Business leaders, on the other hand, should have clarity themselves as to the reason for outsourcing in the first place, which goes beyond financial cost savings. There needs to be a strong business case attached with clear objectives and desired outcomes to provide that clarity to providers as they work towards a closer working partnership.

BPO services providers need to drive deeper customer engagement

Driven by the lack of visibility over their outsourced services, leaders are insisting on more face-to-face engagement with their BPO provider, which speaks to the desire to have a more value-driven, strategic partnership.

If BPO providers can understand this and provide a more tailored service, they will go a long way in fulfilling the need for a more engaged customer experience.

While it is evident that frustration is plaguing the sector, there are encouraging signs that the gaps between clients and customers can be bridged and a shift to a partnership is more likely to transpire.

BPO services providers have been faced with an ultimatum of sorts – innovate to drive customer engagement or be left behind by the technological affordances of their completion: automation and disruptive technology.

Growing frustration in the sector has seen demands from leaders for higher transparency and service quality from BPO providers, who in turn have increased requests for clarity from clients. The sector will need to see improved communication from both clients and providers working in coordination to build successful partnerships and maintain relevancy in the future.