The COVID-19 crisis has impacted almost all sectors globally, with disrupted supply chains, country-wide lockdowns, and organizations exploring the possibility of long-term and even permanent remote working. The sustainability of this new model depends on multiple parameters, such as the ability to adapt to new working arrangements and the willingness to work across functions.
In this new normal, the BPO industry will need to be more flexible regarding the locations where its operations are performed. With a higher percentage of full-time employees working from home, everyone should have a laptop, VPN, multi-factor authentication, and video communication system in place so they can successfully work from home indefinitely. And for those who are back in the office, contingency plans should be in place, so an immediate pivot to work from home can be initiated without complications should the need arise in the future.
Governance also needs to be adapted for this new environment, having the flexibility to comply with all the operational, security, and performance requirements for employees working from home. In addition, new communication channels need to be implemented between employees and the leadership team in the office. This should include: video conference capabilities (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.), VOIP calls, video recordings, and business messaging apps (Slack, Google Workspace, etc.) to provide new hiring orientation, training, coaching, disciplinary sessions, and open channels of communication across teams. The typical best practices for an in-center environment do not translate 100% to a work-from-home scenario, so specific adaptations will have to be made to mirror the in-person experience as closely as possible.
Globally, the majority of companies addressed COVID-19 by acting swiftly to safeguard employees and migrate to a new way of working that even the most extreme business-continuity plans hadn’t envisioned. But even in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, employees will need to be flexible and able to rotate between working in the office and from home as vaccination rates increase and community transmission decreases. A hybrid model of sorts will work in some cases, but not all, so flexibility by all parties is imperative.
Due to security and regulatory requirements, certain work functions cannot be performed at home and instead must be performed in a centralized contact center, often in a secure environment within the facility. This requires vigorous protective measures to be implemented to ensure a safe, low-risk, and healthy working environment for all.
BPO partners need to be open to the new normal requirements and adapt them into their service offerings. With a larger percentage of the labor force working from home than ever before, changing the way security is implemented is vital. Security requirements are generally going to be set up differently, with new technologies needed that may increase the cost of the service.
However, beyond the delivery of SLAs (a basic requirement), the magic of good governance comes in the people both parties bring to the relationship. Historical vendor-buyer approaches no longer work well and need to be addressed and adjusted. At DATAMARK, we pride ourselves on the long-term collaborative relationships that have always characterized our governance models.
There are several challenges that must be considered when addressing B2B account management governance in this new normal.
Cybercriminals are switching tactics and exploiting COVID-19 related issues. As a result, working from home is becoming a gateway to new forms of data theft. Poor technological infrastructure and inadequate cyber and data security can hamper the productivity of WFH employees – and represent a cyber risk to companies. A VPN with MFA as a minimum requirement needs to be implemented for all people working from home. In certain instances, employees working at home will need to be on camera being recorded during labor hours.
With physical mailrooms moving to a more automated solution with the digitalization of processes and technology accessible to all customers, we need to be prepared to manage faxes, emails, and images, as well as physical documents. As long as the document and its content are not digital, you can never truly realize digital transformation enterprise-wide. So, while the paper is not going away any time soon, getting the content digitized as early in the process as possible is the goal.
Reinventing the workplace to address the new realities created (or exacerbated) by the global pandemic is key to success in 2022 and beyond. We must use this moment of reinvention as an opportunity to increase support for hybrid working configurations, with clear roles for remote and in-person approaches. Ensuring the continuity of teams in a WFH environment will rely on key communication tools being utilized across all divisions and hierarchies. Companies will need to create internal talent marketplaces to better engage their workforce.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will need to be implemented in all BPO operations to keep pace with the market. Processes need to be driving toward providing improvements utilizing technology that will represent a significant savings (ROI) for customers. Too often, technology is thrown at the problem, thus only giving the illusion of progress. At DATAMARK, rather than “paving the cow paths,” we approach the challenge first with an analytical deep dive, followed by re-engineering the processes with a digital-first mentality. Implementation of proper technology reduces costs, and companies need to be prepared to share savings with their customers to continue competing in the market.
Meeting SLAs is not negotiable; companies need to continue meeting the expectations of their partners under any circumstance. However, simply meeting SLAs will not guarantee your future with a customer, since that is the most basic expectation. This is where good governance makes the difference and should be viewed as an investment.
There was a study done by EquaTerra (now KPMG) that found bad/failed contracts only allocated 1%-3% of account revenue to governance, while successful contracts allocated 5%-8% to good governance. It is costly and disruptive to continually be swapping BPO suppliers in and out regularly, so you should revisit your approach to governance if this is a pervasive theme in your organization.
Governance should be modified to cover new requirements as people working from home and new technologies automate processes. This needs to be achieved while keeping control of the process with quality results and stronger security to prevent attacks.
At DATAMARK, we continued with the same length with our long-term partnerships, which led to expediting projects as the pandemic didn’t really affect this specifically. Our customer relationships strengthened with an emphasis on communication and collaboration. We ensure we have the correct technology while adapting to changes in their systems to move people out of the office – both temporarily and permanently.
Strong business continuity strategies will enable organizations to remain resilient while recovering quickly and efficiently from any business upheaval. The pandemic taught us that all companies, up and down the value chain, need to have more robust BCP strategies. Redundant sites are no longer adequate; we now need to ensure we have the flexibility to move the complete labor force to work from home, with all employees fully prepared to work remotely at a moment’s notice. As one of our customers commented in a recent article, “If you have redundant sites all in one country, like India, then you still have a single point of failure if that government locks down the country for something like COVID. It is imperative to have cross-border redundancy.”
With the potential for information flows to be disrupted when transitioning from an in-office to a WFH environment, the need for meetings to align priorities and shared objectives become increasingly more important in this new environment. Without these opportunities for regular calibration and connection, stakeholders are at greater risk of feeling isolated, disconnected, and uninformed. Video calls and meetings are much preferred to the phone, as you cannot see an individual’s body language, gestures, or facial expressions in a simple phone call. This means you are missing critical inputs that reduce your level of influence on the conversation and can undermine the effectiveness of the discussion. The best way to optimally influence and stay connected to your stakeholders is to communicate your ideas, feedback, suggestions, and concerns over video, when at all possible, when in-person is not an option. One rule of good governance is you can’t over-communicate, but under-communicating will certainly lead to issues and feelings of mistrust.
No company can afford to wait when it comes to account governance with your BPO provider. With the high costs of regulatory exposure, the challenges of manual retention, and the explosive growth of WFH employees, the time to adjust to this new normal is now. By working with DATAMARK, you can remove the traditional barriers to effective account governance and protect your business now and in the future.
Have you struggled with any aspects of account governance with your BPO? Has a specific challenge we spoke of in this article plagued your organization as well? Share your experiences and insights with us in the comments!