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Turning the traditional BPO model on its head

Guy Strafford
Jul 29, 2011 5:51:00 PM

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Guy-New

A lesson in customer experience and the rise of near-shoring.


One of our clients has recently pulled their AP help desk from India and moved it to Cwmbran, Wales in light of diminishing customer experience.

The AP operation was initially split into two distinct operations:

  • Customer contact
  • Processing

These two operations were not only operationally split, but also physically split (geographically) across two delivery centers. Quite often, the customer contact team were unaware of the technicalities and day-to-day activities of the processing team and vice versa – which meant each of the teams’ ability to respond on the other’s behalf was significantly reduced. In order to overcome this information gap, detailed templates and customer paths were developed to enable the customer contact team to handle the calls and emails coming in.

The result, more often than not, was:

  • Customers been fed answers that did not answer their questions
  • Service was often considered robotic
  • Customers and suppliers boycotting the service completely

The lack of autonomy in handling customer enquiries ultimately resulted in the entire operation being re-engineered and the decision was made to move the entire operation from India to the UK.

The shift to the UK was done in segments, ensuring the team based in Wales were not overloaded initially before moving across more activities one at a time. The re-engineering began in March 2011, and within one month of setup the response was very positive, with a senior manager commenting:

“"I am really pleased that our team are performing so well and that the business has noticed a step change in the service they receive.  We will be working closely over the coming weeks to start to identify process improvements and enhance the overall AP information we are receiving”."

Over the past 4 months we have seen:

  • Overall response time increasing dramatically with calls being handled much more naturally (i.e. no longer template driven answers)
  • A much more human service – less robotic
  • Those who previously boycotted the service are now much happier and increasingly using the service.

Customer experience as a competitive advantage

In fitting with the above story, Lloyds, Santander and United Utilities have all moved large portions (or in Santander’s case, all) of their call center operations away from India and back to the UK with the primary driver being customer service levels.

According to a recent FT article Santander “"suffered the ignominy of being branded Britain’'s most complained-about bank”." During a time where consumer confidence is at an all time low (yet customer demands, needs and expectations seem to continually increase) customer service can be a very important factor in whether customers chose to stay or move to the nearest low cost option.

The traditional BPO '‘lift-and-shift to low labour cost countries'’ methodology is entering a new era, in which a greater focus is being placed on effectiveness rather than purely efficiency (doing things better not faster). Ensuring a consistently high level of customer service may cost slightly more to keep the customer happy, but it’s a lot more cost effective than attracting a new customer in place of each one you have just lost due to a poor customer experience.

In addition to the above, what other functions do you think organisations will look to bring near or on-shore over the next 12 months (and why)?

Guy Strafford

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