Opinion

BPO’s muct attack e-commerce CX opportunity

There comes a time in every industry’s existence where it becomes so large and unwieldy that it splits off into subsections.  This is nothing new. It has been seen time and time again in modern commercial life.  In the case of how consumers purchase goods and services, the push away from traditional retailers toward more convenient online mechanisms has been evident for years.  What outsourcers need to realize is the extent to which cultivating this online vertical can grow revenues.  However, going after e-commerce prospects using the tried-and-tested approaches of winning traditional retail clients will not suffice. These two industries are quickly diverging when it comes to their approach to CX management.  Looking at e-commerce as a unique opportunity and marketing to its leaders in such a fashion is the only way forward.

The extent to which retail and e-commerce merchants can invest in their own customer experience operations tells an important story.  The most recent Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey indicates that when it comes to budget flexibility, e-commerce providers are in a pole position.  In fact, among survey respondents in this category, three-in-five stated that they anticipated their own CX investment flexibility will rise in 2021.  Compare this with retail, where the situation is significantly more dire, not only in terms of the health of some of the biggest vendors in the world, which are shuttering some of their most iconic locations. This also applies to their CX operations.  In fact, two-thirds of surveyed-organizations in bricks-and-mortar retail stated that their own customer management budgets will stay flat or decline next year.

Clearly, with more money to spend on people, processes and technology, e-commerce operators may seem like a challenging vertical for front-office BPO providers.  This is notable when compared to store-front retailers, where it would appear that promoting lower costs via third-party contact center delivery to cash-strapped operators could be a winning strategy.  However, there is reason for optimism when going after the growing pool of online vendors, provided the right approach is made.

Any serious contender for outsourced e-commerce business should first examine what this apparently cash flush sector faces in terms of CX challenges.  The 2020 Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey shows clearly that e-commerce players have similar pain points as their contemporaries in other fields, with agent management and security / compliance among the most important.  In this sense, the ability to import best practices from clients in other verticals (albeit somewhat adapted) into the e-commerce space should be straightforward.

But, perhaps it is more salient for outsourcers to look at what e-commerce CX executives seek when it comes to a third-party partner.  According to the 2020 Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey, providers targeting this sector with solutions that also focus on customer care excellence, omni-channel expertise (delivery and long-term strategy for a digitally-driven sector), coupled with provision of alternative working models (notably gig CX) will be well placed to garner attention.

When it comes to willingness to outsource, BPO players need to be conscious that e-commerce CX decision-makers have roughly the same level of favorability toward third-party delivery as the broad cross-industry average.  This means that education around how third-party delivery can enhance the e-commerce end-user experience is crucial, especially in what has become an increasingly competitive commercial space.  To be clear, while demonstrating how costs can be managed when supporting online clients will be important, showing how outsourcing can drive value is paramount.  With more customer experience investment capacity anticipated in online retailer CX departments, focusing on how a BPO partnership can deliver long-term positive consumer loyalty will be more important than a your-mess-for-less approach.

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