Want the ugly truth ? Big outsourcers will not deal with the support needs of the smaller business. They can't.
History has dictated that they need to sell high volumes of "butts on seats" (as it's often referred to). Why ? Because they have a tremendous cost-base that inherently drives the behaviours of the shareholders, execs and subsequently sales teams. The cost comes from years of capital investment in infrastructure, in real-estate, in layer upon layer of management. As these businesses grow, so does the internal fat, clogging the arteries, slowing the opportunity to innovate.
At the same time, the big brands they look to serve, often use a multi-vendor strategy. These companies have the need to drive down cost, and therefore using 3, 4, 5 different BPOs will allow them to face one off against the other. Savvy procurement teams often state that "we don't want all our eggs in one basket", yet really mean "we can use your price to beat up the next guy". And you can't blame them. It's their job, and they do it well. This squeezes margins, but the BPO needs the seats in order to justify the cost-base. We have spoken to BPO sales teams and they are often targeted purely on revenue and seat-growth, this is the primary metric, even if it's at the expense of the customer, quality or long-term relationship.
Think about this particular point for a minute. BPOs are measuring their success by a brand's customer experience failure. Each and every call they get from customers with problems lead to growth and success. It's certainly not exclusively the case, but more often than not, BPOs unconsciously crave their customers' failure.
So how does a BPO that is under pressure to perform react ?
- Offshoring: Move the calls to a lower cost part of the world.
- Lower cost channels: do it by email, do it by chat.
- Consolidation: sites, lose people, cull investments, tighten the corporate belts.
- Game the KPIs: deliver the bare-bones minimum performance to pass the metrics test.
The challenge with these options is that they all inevitably lead to a short term gain. They fix the problem right now, but once they've gone to the cheapest location for educated people (and so have the competitors), where do they go next ? Fix this month's KPIs by making your staffs' lives hell (leading to increased attrition). Cram more people into a site, leading to poor working conditions and - you guessed it - increased attrition.
So they have to innovate, right ? They have to invest in next-generation technologies such as chatbots, AI, robotic process automation, advanced analytics. But CAN they invest ? With the weight of quarterly performance targets on their backs, often the innovation budgets are quick to get slashed.
In real terms, there is only one choice. They offer the most vanilla service possible, something that is easily repeatable, something that just gets them over the SLA thresholds that their customers hold them to, and no more. They cannot afford to offer extra value, even if they wanted to.
The knock-on effects ?
- Large BPOs can technically deal with smaller customers, but it's just not worth their time, effort or money to do so.
- They do not innovate as much as they would like (or need to).
- They typically do not offer real value to their client base, other than what amounts to a human resource management process.
- They cannot easily offer anything other than a vanilla service, so things like a white-glove "concierge" style service offering, or a service that is tightly integrated with a product management organization, are left to more specialist niche players.
There absolutely is a place for these big BPOs. There are businesses that outsource thousands of seats on a regular basis. There are whole country-based economies that have been built off the growth of this sector. However, the big guys are great for the big guys. If you are smaller, or simply want something other than vanilla, then look into the world of boutique, specialist suppliers who are far more aligned with your objectives.