The end of any year usually draws a flurry of predictions, be it in sports, politics, the economy or even professional wrestling. In this case, CX is no exception. Given that 2020 was unprecedented, it is only right that those close to front-line outsourcing offer their thoughts on 2021. Without further delay, Ryan Strategic Advisory provides its view on what third-party CX management should be watching for in the year ahead.
- 2021 will be the year of mid-sized BPO providers – anecdotal evidence indicates that enterprise CX buyers increasingly favor outsourcers in this category for front-line support. A primary reason behind this trend relates to the higher level of touchpoint that these mid-sized third-party firms can bring to a partnership. Equally, concerns abound among enterprise clients about the process-heavy nature of larger BPOs. So, in 2021 watch out for mid-sized operators to seize opportunities that in the past would have gone to global players.
- Virtual working to find its delivery equilibrium – work-from-home CX delivery may be the biggest BPO story of 2020, but in 2021 watch for providers to calibrate this business model alongside traditional operations. At the start of the pandemic, analysts mused about the entire contact center ecosystem shifting toward home-based agents at the expense of bricks-and-mortar operations. Over time though, there were signs that the virtual business model faced growing human resource pressures. Plus, many latecomers to virtual delivery have encountered significant challenges related to technology and compliance. With many outsourcers heavily invested in commercial real estate, there will be significant pressure to get back into facilities in a post-vaccine scenario. Assuming that the majority of the workforce is immunized in 2021, there will be a rebalancing between the number of agents that BPOs deploy from home and those in bricks-and-mortar facilities (and, while an exact number has yet to be determined, it may not be as pronounced toward virtual working as some think).
- Offshore delivery will undergo a major rebalance in 2021 – this will result from enterprises and their BPO partners placing increased focus on business continuity. In fact, over the past few months, there has been considerable discussion among outsourcing stakeholders over the need to move capacity away from traditional offshore locations toward an expanded series of foreign delivery points. As a result, expect expansion in new, emerging parts of the world, at the expense of the tried-and-true overseas destinations. This trend is also likely to favor nearshore locations in Europe and the Americas, with executives in key demand markets almost certain to prefer growing their CX footprints in sites closer to home.
- In 2021, watch for more consolidation – this will take a number of forms. On the one hand, shareholders of work-at-home providers could hit the jackpot in 2021 as larger operators seek to acquire virtual operators to gain their expertise, best-practices and technology. Equally, BPOs looking to augment their digital offerings are likely to try and acquire advanced technology firms that are developing cutting-edge solutions around knowledge management, artificial intelligence, smart automation and analytics. And no one should discount the potential for a megadeal. The current environment is very fluid, and it would no surprise to see a scale-based play by a large BPO in order to solidify its market position.
- Cloud contact center providers truly make headway in 2021 – With so many outsourcers and technology vendors coming to market with solutions that enable a virtual workforce, the cloud business model is ripe for success. Note that there are different variations of how this offering can work, but to date the enthusiasm for this technology has been strong. In 2021, as work-from-home becomes a standard part of CX delivery, these solutions will be integral and in heavy demand.