South Africa’s BPO Sector: Life After Lockdown

In the last few weeks, the COVID-19 outbreak has completely dominated digital headlines and conversation alike. Businesses have had to quickly find ways to operate in remote spaces and under lockdown. How will the world look afterwards?

We know that this virus is going to have a huge effect on our economy, despite debt relief funds supplied by the government to businesses to help mitigate the pressure. Having the hindsight that we do now, we know that preparedness is crucial to survival.

Here are just three lockdown learnings we’re taking with us into the future

Revised WFH policies

Contact centres have long had work-at-home agents, or WAHAs. However, these were previously a select few and only considered as a specific “flexibility option”. Due to the outbreak, BPO businesses have had to quickly enable agents to work from home for their own safety. Allowing more (or all) agents to work from home would have the following positive impacts:

  • Instil confidence in investors. Companies would have the peace of mind knowing that work could continue despite national emergencies that restrict the movement of citizens.
  • Cut costs. Smaller buildings for less staff would equate to cheaper rent and other expenses, such as organising transport for employees.
  • Promote flexibility. More and more people entering the workforce are seeking flexible options. Supplying this could increase staff retention.

According to Bhupender Singh, President of Group Transformation at Teleperformance, the BPO giant has been piloting a WFH model with two Indian companies, once of which is ecommerce. “Around sales there is a need for more agents, but it does not make sense to invest in capacity that won’t get used after that period ends. Work-from-home agents help in dealing with the capacity needs.”

Better leadership

Leaders have had to drastically rise to the challenges COVID-19 presents. Before, leaders had been operating in a steady state, and had to frantically scramble and run around once the outbreak presented itself. Now, however, leaders have better emergency policies in place and can better adapt their leadership styles to cope with uncertainty.

Agile technology

Technology has always evolved according to the needs of humans. We’ve improved costs and efficiency with technology in the past, and will do so again in the future. The need for reduced costs and increased capability in our technology has only become greater thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. We need better platforms not only for our agents, but our other departments like management and IT.

We cannot say that these are positive outcomes of the pandemic – not when lives have been lost. However, we can say that this has taught businesses how to be prepared and resilient.

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