Derek and Arnold discussed the past, present and future of the outsourcing industry within the contact centers and customer support area.
- Arnold and Derek looked at the outsourcing contact centers and where it all really began for outsourcing. This started about 20-25 years ago predominantly in the Philippines and India.
- Contact Channels in the past: normally involves phones and emails
Contact Channels in the present: emails, social media, mobile apps, web chats, IVRs
- Experience of outsourcing (past): technology made it worse before due to slow internet connection, there were multichannel issues.
Experience of outsourcing (present/future): more enhanced, improved technology everything is logged in so it favors the consumer more.
- Services offered (past): customer service via email and phone
Services offered (present/future): expanded functions like back offices jobs, inbound and outbound sales and technical support.
- Involvement of the customer experience (past): very simple. A simple question would require a simple answer.
Involvement of the customer experience (present/future): more proactive functions. More sophisticated services.
- Interaction and engagement (past): it boils down to a specific manual, little to none interaction, one size fits all solution.
Interaction and engagement (present/future): more personalized,
- Customer expectations (past): people are used to queries not being resolved in the same day.
Customer expectations (present/future): everything is fast-paced and consumers make use of social media nowadays to resolve their concerns. As a result, there is greater expectation regarding the turnaround time.
- Skillset (past): one is to one ratio; one person will handle one task and the other will handle another task.
Skillset (present/future): employees are more knowledgeable and trained.
- Derek believes that the Philippines is the heart of outsourcing because of the cultural alignment and their incredible grasp of the English language.
- The outsourcing industry in the Philippines has grown and matured tremendously over the years.
- The roles of employees have expanded over the years, from purely customer service to back-office, sales, and technical support.
Hi and welcome to another episode of the Outsource Accelerator podcast. My name is Derek Gallimore. And today I’m happily joined again by Arnold San Miguel, this is episode number 46. And we talk about the past present and future of the outsourcing industry within the contact centers and customer support area. So, this is where outsourcing first started 20-25 years ago.
So, we track that progression and we track it in reference to eight major aspects within this industry and compare how they were to how they are now and where they’re going to in the future. So, I hope you enjoy this if you want any show notes then go to our website outsourceaccelerator.com/46.
Derek: Today I’m joined by Arnold again. Hi, Arnold
Arnold: Hi Derek.
Derek: So today we’re gonna look at the outsourcing contact centers where it all really began for outsourcing and this started about 20-25 years ago predominantly in the Philippines and also India. And without being too biased. The Philippines was really the heart of the contact center world because of their grasp of English and the sort of easier cultural alignment. So, there is a long history in outsourcing the customer service element. It was one of the first elements of outsourcing to happen. And then of course since then the functions of outsourcing and the skill sets within outsourcing has broadened to almost any professional role.
There is how many Arnold there’s about 10 different sectors that we can look at all within the customer support contact center and BPO kind of functions. We’re gonna compare how they were in the past and now how this is evolving how it is currently and how it needs to become in the future to keep pace with today’s ever-changing landscape and the demands of the consumer.
First of all, and Arnold is gonna provide the past.
First, we look at the contact channels okay, how people actually connect with the represented company. So, what does that look like in the past, Arnold?
Arnold: Yeah in the past when we talk about contact channels it normally involves phones, emails or short message services which is most of them are up until now we’re still being used. But it all started with phones.
Derek: Cool. And you know it’s funny you say that this is the past thinking like it’s 1900s but it’s you know email service is still very current. But it’s amazing how fast technology is changing and how fast we are evolving. So, the current and future that these contacts centers and BPO is having to deal with is so many more approaches and so many more options for contact.
The examples of this are social media and you know just whatever tweeting or posting. And then there’s a messaging within those. There’s mobile apps and mobile platforms, there’s web chats and which is the sort of embedded ones on the website. And then of course there’s the IVRs which are the more automated voice and phone. So, you see there’s a whole slew of technologies and a whole number of platforms that people can now contact and communicate through that the outsourcing and contact centers have to keep pace with it.
Okay, so the next one is the experience of outsourcing these things and the impact that it has on the end user. So, the consumer the customer or possibly even the complaining person. So, what was the experience like previously.
Arnold: Yeah, in terms of experience, technology makes it worse before. And that’s really because of the slow connections. And some of the other areas that doesn’t really have any connection in the first place. So, it gives off a bad experience to them. The other one would be like a multichannel issue wherein they have or access different tools or systems but they are not interconnected. So, that poses a challenge in terms of finding the right information or giving out the right assistance to the customer.
Derek: Yeah. So, you know if we kind of cut to the chase a little bit there was always the complaint that if you realize you were being handled by a call center in India or Philippines there was an immediate annoyance there because things just wouldn’t be handled so well. But the technology really is improving things now so it’s actually enhancing the experience because of technology there’s only channel access. You know if you want to talk someone you can if you want to text someone you can if you want to email someone you can. And of course, that increases the convenience and also everything is logged. And so really it does favor the consumer a lot more now.
Number three is the services offered. And this refers to the services that contact centers and BPO can do. So, what was it in the past.
Arnold: Yeah as it all started with customer service. So, it mainly revolves around that using you know phones and emails to cater to the clients.
Derek: And now again like everything the roles have expanded so there is still customer service and that is central to a lot of this stuff. But there’s also a lot of back office functions so it becomes more end to end. There’s inbound and outbound sales. So, it’s not just waiting for the phone to ring. It’s actually you know the outsourcers can reach out and engage proactively. And then of course it’s not just customer service saying you know sorry about your complaint but now there can be a lot of technical support that can help fix your computer. They can do anything on a sort of very highly technical level. So, it’s really upscaled a huge amount.
And then the next one is number four the involvement of the customer experience okay. So, the level of involvement that the outsourcers were with the customer journey with the business and the depth that they go to. So, what did it look like previously?
Arnold: Yeah, previously it was very simple in nature like if a guest or a client would ask something very specific then a simple answer would be given to them without any additional or supporting you know answer.
Derek: Yeah that’s true. And then now in the future we have very proactive functions. Okay. Before it was just passing on a message or easy support but now the outsourcing partners can be key drivers within your business. They cannot only offer a bit of support but they can proactively sell they could resolve issues they could offer technical support and then also they might even be able to upsell the consumer.
So, a huge amount of development in terms of the sophistication of the services offered, we have what is as one two three four five six. We have interaction and engagement.
Arnold: Yeah, in terms of engagement It all boils down to like a specific manual that people normally refer to when they want to provide a customer service to their client which sort of like it’s a one size fits all manual that people are required to come up with whenever they operate a business.
Derek: Great and then because of the sophistication of the industry now it’s been going 20-25 years. Everything can be bespoke and personalized and that reflects in the stages that we’ve said earlier. These customer support agents can help with greater depth greater technicality on any issue. So, there’s a lot of full services a lot of personalization of services and start to end processes.
And then number seven is customer expectations. What was it in the past, Arnold?
Arnold: Yeah, before, people are used to whenever, when they make an inquiry that they have to wait a day or two for that query to be answered and the same goes with you know the old email services that are already out of phase. They are already familiar that there is a waiting time before anything gets done.
Derek: Yeah and again you know this is only going back a few years but imagine if there wasn’t even email. Imagine if you were relying on faxes or snail mail just incredible. So, the net the current and the future is that everyone is expecting immediate responses, immediate answers and even immediate solutions to their issues. So, you know it’s really a profound change where someone you know sends out a tweet and they want an immediate response so the industry has had to respond to this. And even you know companies have had to respond to this because this is the new expectation of consumers. So, the company responds and then these call centers and outsourcing agents are also responding. Meaning that solutions and answers are becoming more and more immediate.
Right. And then the penultimate change or comparison is the agent empowerment. How did it begin?
Arnold: Yeah in terms of agent empowerment, before people can really say there was little to none in terms of empowerment because people normally refers or relies with the manual that was provided with them. So, it has to be an answer and that comes out from that manual which is very non- empowering.
Derek: Yeah. And then again as the industry matures and evolves and we have better agents and better training then there’s more empowerment of the individual agents. Okay. They’re able to make decisions they are able to have little autonomy and able to have direct customer impact. So, this is you know as we see a maturation within the industry the call centers of yesteryear were more like kind of automatons. And that’s why I think it created quite a lot of frustration within the consumers. But now people are more autonomous and they can actually help.
The last one is the agent skill sets which we just touched on a little bit previously but what was it previously?
Arnold: Yeah in terms of agent skill sets people would normally find a person that is in charge of handling one type of enquiry at a time. So that person is assigned to phones only and then the second person would be handled to answer all emails. So, it’s a bit one to one ratio.
Derek: Cool. And then the future is that as we touched on previously but the agents have more and more knowledge. Okay. They are more intimately involved and connected with the company that they represent. So, it’s not just like a phone messaging service. They actually pretty much partner and work within the company that they are associated to. So, they have as much knowledge as the company themselves. And they can be upskilled to handle more and more complex issues facing that company and the customer or consumer of that company.
So that’s it. Situations dealing with contact centers and outsourcing. It’s a little bit dry but I think it’s really exciting just to consider how far this has come in such a short time both in terms of innovation but also having to keep up with consumer demands and technological enablement. So super exciting.
So, thanks for joining me, Arnold and we look forward to seeing you next time.
Arnold: Thanks, Derek.
Okay. Hope you enjoyed that. And this is episode 46 if you want any of the show notes go to outsourceaccelerator.com/podcast/episode46. And if you want to ask has anything, anything at all. Send us an e-mail to [email protected]. See you next time.