Business process outsourcing (BPO) is the umbrella term that involves both front-office and back-office services subcontracted by companies to a third party. Front office services involve call centers that process outgoing calls for sales and marketing and incoming calls for customer service support. This also includes processing customer queries and other requirements sent via emails, online chats on company websites, various social media platforms, and any other channel. Back-office services include finance, bookkeeping, accounting, payroll, benefits and compensation, recruitment, training, and information technology (IT).
Companies outsource business processes to streamline their focus on their primary business and core competencies while increasing efficiency in other tasks. It is also more cost-effective for them to pay for BPO services than hire and maintain entire teams in-house to do such services. These will entail more costs in salaries and benefits for additional manpower, the overhead expenses related to the facilities to house them, and other operating costs. IT infrastructure will also be needed, and these require continuous upgrades to keep up with technological developments and meet constantly changing and growing market demands. In outsourcing, the service provider takes care of all of these. Some services, like customer support, are even offered day and night throughout the year.
Financial Growth of the BPO Industry
According to Grand View Research, the value of the business process outsourcing market globally in 2020 was $232.32 billion. It increased to $245.91 billion in 2021 and is expected to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5 percent up to 2028.
In 2020, the telecommunication and IT of the BPO industry had the highest share of revenue at more than 34 percent. It is predicted to have a substantial CAGR. The customer service segment had a 31 percent share of the revenue. It is also predicted to have the highest CAGR moving forward. The accounting and finance segment is predicted to show considerable growth. The segment doing human resources services is predicted to maintain its CAGR.
Types of BPO Setups
Most BPO companies set up their centers in countries with low costs for rental and other overhead expenses and low salaries for a large pool of talents. Statista reports that as of 2021, the top country for BPO centers is India, followed by China, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Brazil and Vietnam are tied for fifth place.
Most BPO centers are on-site, with employees going to physical offices where all types of equipment are housed. They use systems such as the Xorcom private branch exchange (PBX) that go through physical phone lines. Employees work on different shifts around the clock. Companies usually provide free coffee and snack. Many have nap areas and gyms on-site, as well.
Some BPOs have virtual call centers instead. There is no physical office, and employees work remotely. They use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) that does not require any hardware apart from an internet-connected computer and headsets. It runs on an app that can access the server online.
During the pandemic, many BPOs shifted to virtual operations. With the rollout of vaccines in many countries, some BPOs moved to hybrid operations. Employees can choose to go back to work at the office or continue to work from home.
Current Trends for BPOs
The prediction is that more BPOs will go virtual and hire more remote workers going forward. This will lower their overhead costs for physical infrastructure. Agents also prefer working remotely, saving time and money by not having to commute. Commuting at ungodly hours for graveyard shifts can also be risky. Happier agents will result in a lower employee turnover rate, resulting in company savings on recruitment and training.
With the pandemic making video chatting popular even for people who were not previously using it, video chats will also become part of call center services. One-way video chats will enable customers to see the agent, providing a more personal touch. The agent will not be able to see the customer, putting the customer at ease.
Automated customer self-service functions for general information or frequently asked questions will free up time for agents to focus on more complex issues with other customers. Such automation can be done across channels such as the use of artificial intelligence (AI) on phone calls and chatbots.
AI analytics will further improve the analysis of data from customer interactions. Trends can be displayed on dashboards in real-time for companies to use in their business decisions.
Businesses Will Continue to Need BPOs
As more complex technological developments arise and the business environment becomes more challenging, companies will be relying more and more on BPOs for support. This will enable them to maintain and even improve their agility in meeting changes. This is also beneficial for the countries where BPO centers are located as they bring high volumes of jobs and boost growing economies.