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IPA’S need to map out a post Covid 19 BPO Strategy

Since the onset of COVID-19, front-office BPO providers have had to rethink how they do business. And fast. In short order, executive teams have made decisions that take into account operational restrictions mandated by local authorities, alongside the evolving needs of their clients.  Now, as developed and developing economies begin returning to business-as-usual, investment promotion agencies (IPAs) will need to consider how to incorporate the needs of the ‘new normal’ in attracting customer service providers.  Simply trotting out the tried and tested strategies of the past will not suffice in H2 2020 and beyond.

Thinking about luring new BPO investment into a jurisdiction, a number of approaches have been used, and many of these have been successful historically.  Among the most prominent are tax abatements and direct subsidies to the outsourcing player.  More recently, efforts at helping new BPO investors manage recruitment and training have also proven popular with new entrants (not to mention effective). However, moving into the second half of this year investment promotion professionals should consider what their targets will be looking for as the reality of customer experience delivery changes. A key facet of this discussion must be the shift toward work-at-home delivery.

To be clear, the recent Dunkirk-like move of the contact center workforce from facilities into a virtualized world was spectacular.  And, while debate persists on the proportion to which contact center agents will remain at home permanently, it is clear that any location looking to bring in new outsourcing investors must be ready to accommodate a larger number of people working virtually.  Thus, making certain that there is robust network connectivity in place for not only businesses but as well residences has never been more important.  Admittedly, ensuring this level of technology sophistication will be more straightforward in some locations than others.  But a strong network will be table stakes to win any new BPO investment.

So too will be a practical approach to real estate development.  At least for the foreseeable future, contact center operators that choose to return a portion of their agent force to bricks-and-mortar operations will need to adhere to social distancing norms.  By helping prospective BPO investors source appropriate commercial property that permits greater amounts of space between employees is a logical step.

Real estate developers will also need to ensure that existing construction is properly retro-fitted and that new sites have the right health compliance measures in place.  Providing support to outsourcers’ ongoing operations in procuring health and sanitary products should also be considered.  After all, the BPO space has tight margins at the best of times; reducing at least part of the burden in this regard will help shore up profitability without raising prices for enterprise clients.

Transport policy also needs to be considered in a post-COVID19 world. With many members of the BPO labor force likely choosing to return to their place of work, finding a way of easing the financial burden on outsourcers’ private fleets by providing financial assistance to retrofit vehicles with social-distancing configurations is crucial. Equally, making sure that buses and metros have the appropriate provisions in place to reduce contact between passengers will also be essential and something that can be lobbied by progressive IPAs.

But the key point is that IPAs must start their revised BPO attraction planning immediately.  Outsourcing operators will be looking for originality and practicality in the coming months.  Thinking outside the box has never been more important among the offshore economic development community.

These are other issues related to luring new front-office BPO investment will be discussed in an upcoming webinar for IPAs. Registration is limited and can be made here.

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