The unprecedented events and disruptions from 2020 and the early part of 2021 reshaped industries and set the global economy on a new trajectory. Although forecasting remains tricky amid continued uncertainty, there are numerous changes and disruptions that are set to shape the human experience and business process outsourcing and services (BPO/S) industries in the years ahead.
1. Multiple Hybrid Physical and Virtual Work Models
While the transition was already underway before the pandemic, the need to shift to remote working models due to physical/social distancing and shelter-at-home regulations is arguably one of the biggest disruptors.
As the world continues to grapple with the crisis in 2021, many workers will return to physical workspaces, but it is unlikely that the workplace will ever return to pre-pandemic models. The ‘next normal’ will consist of a hybrid approach that will exist on a spectrum based on individualized requirements.
Many brands and service providers may someday return to 100% on-site operations, while others might maintain a 100% virtual at-home approach. However, for most, the future of work will likely consist of a blended approach that mixes on-site and at-home operations at ratios ideally suited to meet client preferences, specific operational needs and job roles and functions. For example, organizations such as Salesforce say their workforce will only come into the office one to three days a week when the pandemic is over.
These requirements will depend on the type of industry within which they operate and the tasks workers perform. For example, banks and other highly regulated industries that are risk averse may want, or need employees on site, whereas other industries – such as education and technology – will likely settle into more nuanced hybrid models.
Contact centers and BPO/S service providers will likely rebalance their workforces and institute rolling agent rosters so that they work on premise a few days a week and remotely on other days. They may also strike a balance between dedicated work-at-home and an on-site agent teams.
2. Wide-Ranging Cybersecurity and Data Protection
With the shift to multiple hybrid and virtual work models, many organizations will continue grappling with ways to mitigate security risks and protect data and company systems from threats in the virtual environment with the same efficacy realized in physical workplace environments.
In addition, more countries and states will advocate for greater personal consumer data protection. For example, rising public concerns about data privacy and surveillance have spurred a nascent movement in China, predominantly among consumers, to secure personal data and introduce greater oversight for companies that collect and store personal information.
California has also introduced one of the most expansive privacy laws in the country to date. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which went into effect on 1 January 2020, places limitations on the collection and sale of personal consumer information and provides consumers certain rights with respect to their personal information. This white paper by CxOutsourcers explains more.
3. CX and EX Transmute to Human Experience (HX)
We already know about the importance of customer experience (CX). We also understand the benefits of great employee experience (EX). But more organizations will embrace and perfect human experience (HX) to remain relevant.
HX has emerged as an all-encompassing concept related to experience in all its forms. It seeks to amalgamate user, customer, employee (workforce), leadership, partnership, digital, technology, innovation and social experiences under one banner.
As such, HX is the sum of every interaction with an organization that shapes how people feel about it.
From a customer perspective, consumers no longer want to be treated as generational or demographical ‘targets’ – the days of the ‘hard sell’ are over! Instead, people want humanized experiences that acknowledge their purpose, empathy and desires. All engagements shaped around HX should reflect these values and also embrace the customer experience generation.
4. Upsurge in Digitalized Customer Engagement
Human experience includes digital experience (DX) which will motivate organizations to adopt consistent experiences across different types and forms of digital channels and devices.
Expect a surge in digitalization initiatives as contact center and BPO service providers pivot more aggressively away from voice-only services to omnichannel digital CX services such as web chat, instant messaging, social media, SMS, speech-enabled IVR and interactive agents.
The entrenched behaviors and engagement preferences shaped by the pandemic will remain the major drivers behind this shift, even once the pandemic is under control.
The new behaviors and digital channels that consumers have grown accustomed to using are not expected to change. In fact, usage will accelerate as economic activity picks up in line with the global recovery.
5. Balancing Automation with Humanization
Amid this surge in digitalization, organizations will need to maintain the human touch across every digital channel and engagement.
Organizations will need to balance automation in the form of chat bots, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) with human-to-human interaction. Robotic workers will need to augment, support and provide real-time intelligence to human “super agents”, rather than replace them.
New job roles for human workers will likely emerge as digital technologies and automation increasingly pervade the workplace. Expect to see new job roles crop up such as “Man-machine Team Manager”, “Digital Journey Architect” and “Personal Data Broker”.
As a result, we will see the rise of hybrid human and robotic capital plans. In the not too distant future, continued technological innovation will give rise to roles like robot supervisors or managers who oversee teams comprised of human and robot workers.
6. Empathy and Emotions Will Rule
Catering to consumer demands for a human touch and connection in every engagement will thrust customer empathy, emotion analytics and detection tools to the fore.
Emotions remain the main influencer in the consumer decision-making process. Organizations will need to advance their focus on data-driven customer intelligence and apply these insights to craft emotive, memorable experiences that delight.
As such, contact center operators and frontline BPO providers will need to enable robotic workers to provide great customer intelligence to human agents as more consumers demand empathetic listening, dialogue and engagement. Greater numbers of human agents will also be trained to evoke and master empathy.
7. Growth of Cloud Transformed Contact Centers
Cloud migration underpins the digital transformation underway across industry verticals.
The transition to the cloud was another established changeover before the pandemic, but the pace and scale of cloud adoption has accelerated.
Extended and recurrent lockdowns have also forced more small and mid-size organizations to shift their contact center operations into the cloud to maintain operations and business continuity.
Businesses of all sizes will continue to embrace Contact-Center-as-a-Service (CCaaS) or hosted contact center solutions to take advantage of the cost-performance benefits and the ability to tap into distributed workforces and access a national or globalized talent pool. This was also a key prediction made by Ryan Strategic Advisory.
Pay-as-you-go, pay-per-agent and flexible cloud contact center subscription models will also witness growth as the pandemic’s economic consequences bite on revenues and business growth.
8. Multi Sourcing and Multi Shoring
Rebalancing BPO delivery models is another changeover to monitor. Expect a shift away from traditional offshoring and outsourcing to one location – or the top/leading offshore destinations. Many clients will look to multi-shore singular projects and campaigns to more than one country or location based on the region’s value propositions, core talent pools and capabilities.
In addition, there will be a concurrent (slow and gradual) shift away from outsourcing to one service provider. Clients will prefer multi-sourcing and/or co-sourcing a project or function to different BPO/BPS service providers to spread risk and take advantage of different skill sets, technological capabilities or time zones.
Furthermore, we are likely going to see the launch of virtual and sourcing-on-demand platforms in the business process outsourcing and services industry.
Spreading risk and decentralizing critical work such as CX functions and services to different locations will continue to be a major focal point as organizations seek to dilute geographical concentration risk. This strategy will ensure that organizations are better prepared to ensure business continuity during national disasters or future pandemics.
According to insights from Ryan Strategic Advisory, BPO service delivery will expand into new, emerging parts of the world, at the expense of the tried-and-true overseas destinations.
“This trend is also likely to favor nearshore locations in Europe and the Americas, with executives in key demand markets almost certain to prefer growing their CX footprints in sites closer to home,” states this 2021 prediction blog post by Ryan Strategic Advisory.
9. Bye Bye 9 to 5, Hello Gig Workers
Gig worker platforms such as Fiverr and Upwork are expected to grow at an accelerated pace in next two to five years specifically for freelance-to-consumer and freelance-to-business services.
This will spill over into the CX space with further growth in platforms such as Solv. The platform leverages flexible crowdsourcing to offer truly global 24/7 coverage to address the always-on needs of modern consumers who demand responses in real-time, at their convenience. Solv connects companies to a global talent pool of researchers, tech fans and customer advocates who have a passion for brands.
The proliferation of cloud-based systems, including hosted contact centers, will generate more possibilities for anywhere, anytime working. More people will gravitate towards working in project-based jobs, possibly on multiple projects simultaneously, rather than holding down one position.
New generations of workers will likely shift to more outcomes-based work where they are paid for what they produce and not just for being present at work.
GigCX: Customer Service In The Twenty First Century is one of the first books to really explore the growth of the Gig CX phenomenon. The gig economy attracts differing reactions (and often critics), but within the CX community there is an opportunity to improve the way that traditional contact centers operate as well as using the gig approach to create opportunities for fans of the brands being supported. Kindle and Paperback versions available here.
10. The Rise of the Trust Economy
The Trust Economy will also build greater momentum following years of misinformation, orchestrated disinformation campaigns and conspiracy theories. As the world looks to recreate unity and community, trust will become an invaluable commodity.
Exponential growth in e-commerce and the platform and gig economies has also driven a ‘codification of reputation’. This is shifting trust from physical representations to virtual measures based on online ratings, recommendations, followers and endorsements.
In this way, “digital technology is transforming trust and creating social and business innovation,” explains Philipp Kristian Diekhöner, TEDx storyteller, global speaker and author of The Trust Economy and RESET: Reimagining our world and creating a different future (expected publication in Q2 2021)
Diekhöner explains that some of today’s most largest, most impactful and highest-valued startups succeed because they “bring together large communities of people – on both the demand and supply side – by providing a digital exchange platform that users can trust.”
Creating this trust will become vital for businesses to facilitate an exchange of value in the post-pandemic economy.