Opinion

Creativity essential for outsourcers in face of UK consumer slowdown

This article provided by Peter Ryan

One thing that BPO executives understand is that strong economic activity is the catalyst of expanded market share.  After all, when consumers buy more products and services there is a greater need for third parties to ensure top-flight end-user care.  However, the true test for outsourcers comes when there is uncertainty on the horizon and consumers cut back.  This particular trend appears to be hitting the UK, and contact center service providers need to be wary, lest it impact their positioning in that market.  Creative thinking in delivery and value-added service positioning will be essential for innovative players looking to get through the current rough patch in the British economy.

Great Britain’s economic outlook, as reported in The Guardian, should give the UK-focused outsourcing community pause. Driven by rising inflation and concerns about Brexit, the UK has experienced a significant slowdown in retail sales across verticals at a rate not seen since the 2008 / 2009 Global Financial Crisis. Industry watchers will recall during that period there were heady forecasts of huge increases in demand for contact center outsourcing, based on the logic that enterprises would aim to pare down internal operations in order to shore up costs.  Yet just the opposite happened, due to a slowdown in consumer interactions. Essentially, with fewer calls coming in, there was no need to contract out front-office services.  This lesson should be on the minds of outsourcers operating in the currently fragile UK economy.

Obviously, if the spending slowdown among British consumers continues, providers of contact center services need to determine how they can remain relevant to current and existing clients.  Luckily, there are several angles they can explore.

As demand for front-line services softens, outsourcers need to look toward firms that are anxious to shore up business performance by shedding contact center overhead.  This will be especially notable in margin-sensitive sectors, such as retail and travel & hospitality, where the outsourcer can drive value by providing needed agent volumes at a less expensive cost.  However, going beyond tactical capacity additions, there are more value-added solutions that outsourcers can bring to the table in the UK.

A good starting point for providers would be to position themselves to clients across industries as the source of customer experience management strategies designed to hold onto their valued consumers during tough economic times. This would encompass not only supplying the right team of professionals, but also the associated technologies. According to the 2017 Ryan Strategic Advisory Front-Office BPO Omnibus Survey, British enterprises are exceptionally under-equipped in the domain of analytics; this offering could be an excellent point of differentiation for providers.  Equally, outsourcers with strong backgrounds (or partnerships) in automation should leverage these solutions as an advantage in a market that has long been one of the more proactive in the use of customer-facing technologies.

The most important element in this challenging time will be for providers competing in the UK to show their creativity. To simply roll out front-line delivery in a soft market will only guarantee outsourcers with also-ran status.  However, by presenting both traditional and more added-value services, savvy operators can form true long-term partnerships with British clients.

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