The advent of automated technologies is reshaping BPO activities and changing the way enterprises interact with their customers. Gayatri Anandh, Head of Technology at Firstsource Solutions expresses her views on the impact of automation on the BPO landscape.
GS: What is the impact of automation on enterprises and BPO service providers?
GA: Automating call centre processes can provide a superior option for the business contact needs. Callers shall benefit and reward the organisation for offering comprehensive service and a greater degree of flexibility and control. It improves customer satisfaction and first call resolution and it is not necessary that the first contact is via a voice channel , it would be via IVR, via email or webchat channels or self service through the web and at their convenience. The ability to read customers mind by means of analytics engine can put a new dimension to a business process. The data available to the bpo service provider by way of the automation increase the customer insight available to the service provider, thereby, increasing the ability to go higher up the value chain of the clients business.
While at the face of it, it does translate to reduction in the call volumes to the service provider, today for a BPO provider, the key challenges are increasing cost of manpower, infrastructure and the days of labour arbitrage are dwindling. The key for a BPO service provider is to be able to go up the value chain. We have to look at reducing manpower by means of improving client’s business processes, possible automation, so in turn we do right shoring and right sizing to deliver in a robust model. Hence it is a win – win for us as well as for our customers.
GS: How is it paying off?
GA: There are some repeat tasks which can be better performed quickly and more efficiently by an application which does not undergo negative impact of fatigue and monotonous work. Such processes with automation shall drive customer satisfaction by not relying on agents to respond on content and procedures. So with scripting such processes, introducing interactive voice responses we can minimize the impact of high staff turnover which often degrades the quality of customer service, no matter how effective the training can be.
GS: How service providers are adding value in the context of automation?
GA: Whilst voice processes are getting automated, what is happening in the process is, we are moving towards unified communications. With broadband, endpoint connectivity getting more robust, voice is moving to email, web chat based communication channels on the user’s handheld. Thereby a real time interface still remains, value of BPO providers would become ever so very important to ensure these new service channels, are adapted to suit the customer. BPO providers should focus on customer insights through the sheer data available through automation and analytics and partner with their clients for product or process reengineering to provide better business results to the client. This data can be cross applied in other fields of the business life cycle and for all these, a BPO provider will be the key in driving it for their clients. A BPO service provider will tend to lose out in the normal course if they only provide transaction capability and do not contribute in getting better business results for the clients.
GS: How far will automation go in the coming years?
GA: There was a period when automation through IVRs was the buzz and we saw a steep increase in the same. I think this mechanism of automation has hit a plateau and I only suspect a reverse trend. Essentially because too many trees too many options tend to confuse and frustrate the user rather than enrich th experience. Clients are investing in automation of the processes and touch points to different channels given the increasing access to mobile technology and cloud computing. While this is the trend, we don’t see automation leap frog drastically in the very near horizon due to two specific reasons –
1. Automation of new business process workflows involves significant user level testing, assessing its security threats and any vulnerability associated with them is a key concern. Such new technologies take time to mature and we see this unchartered territory to see maturity only in next 4-5 years.
2. Automation and technology have high acquisition and development costs. In a recesssioanry market, this is a big deterrent for outsourcing companies to invest and risk their established businesses. So unless the ROI is well established, by the CTO’s and CIO’s, we won't see visible changes at a much faster pace.