How BPOs Can Survive the AI Revolution

How BPOs Can Survive the AI Revolution

They go by many names: call centers, contact centers, or business process outsourcers (BPOs). Regardless of the moniker, these businesses are an integral part of the modern enterprise landscape. 

They provide the manpower to handle frontline customer support, incremental revenue programs, and lead generation efforts that help their clients — large, sometimes multinational organizations — free up in-house resources to focus on more long-term, higher-value strategic activities. 

Yet in an era when every organization is looking to streamline, simplify, and optimize their operations to be more efficient and profitable, BPOs have come under threat from a new generation of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbots and customer engagement tools. 

To many BPO leaders, these solutions could mean the end of their businesses, potentially replacing their qualified and well-trained human customer support and engagement teams with machines that will handle customer interactions — faster, in greater volume, and at a lower cost. 

But there’s a silver lining for BPOs worried about their future: they can adopt simpler, but still powerful, automation and chat technologies that blend seamlessly with their existing human-powered teams. The result is a human-machine hybrid organization capable of withstanding rapid and widespread change while positioning the BPO as an indispensable corporate partner now and for years to come.

Holding out hope

More companies are turning to AI-powered platforms to address the dizzying speed of industry changes and constantly shifting customer preferences. New challenges demand new approaches, and AI can fill that role well by achieving economies of scale and enabling 24/7 availability without adding resources to the payroll. 

But there are also downsides to AI. For one, the cost can be prohibitive — both for enterprises looking to implement AI solutions on their own as well as BPOs trying to keep up with the latest technology trends. 

Second, AI requires extensive technical knowledge and skill, exposing a drastic shortage of available talent across many organizations. Adding talent with the right skills only inflates costs, and even with a knowledgeable team on hand, the time it takes to develop and program AI platforms can significantly delay time to value.

Then there’s the fact that many customers are still looking for a human touch. The vast majority of customers recently surveyed prefer to talk to a human (86%), and are less likely to use a brand if it doesn’t have human representatives available (71%). And while bots occupy an ever-growing place in sales and customer service, they’re only as useful as what they’re programmed to do. Bots can’t address the more complex, nuanced, and personalized interactions that customers expect, and can even drive customers away. 

Still, this doesn’t have to be a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. The business landscape is already oriented toward AI and automation, to be sure. But there are interim solutions that allow BPOs to optimize customer interactions and increase client profitability without the need for hefty AI investments that can be more work than they’re worth. 

A better option: humans and chatbots together

As a BPO leader, you’re much better off answering today’s challenges and securing a competitive advantage by starting out with simpler technologies that can eventually pave the way for future AI initiatives. 

By integrating smart, easily configurable chatbots into your existing live chat solutions and automating a variety of processes, you can unburden your customer service and engagement teams of common, repetitive interactions and use the bots to quickly point customer and prospect communications to the right agent. 

These tools can also help collect important customer information to help improve conversions and create more upsell and cross-sell opportunities. In effect, your teams are freed up to engage in the quality human interactions that customers want while also providing the value your corporate clients expect.

Simpler, customizable chatbots can be deployed in a matter of weeks instead of months without extensive coding or cost, and without the specialized skills that may not be immediately available to you. With faster deployment of chatbot technology, you can get a leg up on your competitors while also gaining foundational experience with automation that can evolve into more robust AI-powered tools down the road.  

Smart bots and custom automation solutions eliminate the barriers to entry that keep many BPOs away from advanced or emerging technology. When incorporated into your existing live chat systems and processes, your teams can deliver cost-effective service at scale through a hybrid human-chatbot environment that enables the best of both worlds: personalized, human interaction plus the speed and intelligence of chat technology. 

 

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