By | Trevor Michael
The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions all around the world.
From maintaining social distancing to producing work-from-home guidelines, various sectors today have proactively made steps to enact flexible working practices and adapt to the current circumstances. Schools are utilizing online learning, hospitals are encouraging teleconsultations, and companies are allowing employees to work at home to avoid the spread of the infectious disease.
Fortunately, most business process outsourcing (BPO) services have acclimatized to the uncertainty and economic tensions brought about by the pandemic. The call center industry has proven its flexibility when it comes to managing life-changing crises. Indeed, for companies that provide back-office services, solving these issues can be difficult to handle, but not impossible.
The challenge is to maintain a successful outsourcing relationship with your clients or providers while keeping your operations running as smoothly as possible. Most of the issues you will face as you manage your outsourcing services can range from internal problems to external problems.
It is important to understand that outsourcing tasks such as payroll, accounting, HR functions, marketing, and many others are all cogs that keep a well-oiled machine functioning. It is also important to maintain these different departments efficiently.
Challenges You Will Face When Outsourcing Your Services
However, the problems do not end as soon as the pandemic ends. Employees can also experience tension and conflict due to cultural differences, language barriers, and more. In this article, we list down the major challenges faced by the BPO industry and the corresponding solutions to overcome them.
- Infectious diseases and outbreaks: Most of us were ill-prepared for the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, but as soon as strategies were drawn up to safeguard employees against it, companies were able to continue operations. However, it was truly anxiety-inducing to move around areas where you can catch a potentially infectious disease.
Millions of people around the world were taken by surprise. As of writing, at least 34 million have recovered from COVID-19 out of 53 million recorded cases. Since it’s a respiratory infection, COVID-19 attacks the immune system and caused respiratory illness. Hence, the protection and safety of employees became the number one priority of outsourcing companies.
The solution: To combat the threat of COVID-19, companies decided to work under a skeletal workforce. This ensured that the chances of contracting COVID-19 decreased.
Companies also used a work-from-home setup, where employees did not have to commute to the office to get work done. In the office, employees who were asked to come were required to wear facemasks and face shields and had to maintain proper social distancing. Some companies also offered temporary accommodations and shuttle services.
- Lack of required infrastructure for work-from-home setups: The problem with work-from-home, however, is that not everybody owns the sufficient equipment to clock in and communicate with customers. There is also the issue of erratic internet connection and the constant power outages.
The solution: Companies provided employees with their own desktop or laptop computers and internet allowance to cope with the technical requirements of their respective job posts.
- Communication mishaps: 2020 has become the year of Zoom meetings. Since most employees worked from home, the main tool for communication became video conferencing apps such as Zoom, Skype, Lark, or Google Hangouts.
However, coupled with an erratic internet connection, such teleconferencing meetings can go awry. Sometimes employees are speaking without noticing that they are on mute, or their internet connection breaks up.
Likewise, there is also the issue of keeping the supervisor or manager in the loop during important tasks. Maybe they were not CC-ed in an important email, or their requests were not attended to earlier.
The solution: Orient employees to always keep their managers or supervisors in the loop, ask questions if they are unsure, and never assume. Always stay connected during a crisis.
- Cultural differences: Most of the time, if your workforce is comprised of people from all walks of life, some employees could feel awkward in adjusting to corporate culture. Employees could have different religions, languages, and philosophies. There might also be differences in how the outsourcing company and the client deal with authority, organizational structure, and style.
The solution: The best way to handle this is to keep in mind the context of each culture. American and Australian cultures focus on achieving goals and increasing production, which can make them appear aggressive. On the other hand, Asian cultures value clarity in communication and politeness. They also tend to be feudal when it comes to hierarchal structures.
Make time for culture sensitivity training to understand the client’s values, cultures, and norms.
- Changes in management: There is a fear that when a department is outsourced, the existing internal employees may be replaced. This means that current employees may look elsewhere for employment.
The solution: A comprehensive management plan should be developed and sent to stakeholders to communicate how the outsourcing process will affect them. Allow employees to have the platform to air out their concerns.
- Geographical locations and time zones: Much like cultural differences, geographical differences can greatly affect production. For instance, if the account handles emergency services from Paris, London, Manila, and Singapore to Philadelphia, it is important to be mindful of the time.
The solution: Find a middle ground and make sure that employees consent to working at the shift that’s scheduled for them. It may be difficult at first to adjust to a 12-hour difference, but it takes discipline and routine to go global.
- Intellectual property issues: Lastly, one of the major issues when outsourcing services is the ownership of trade secrets, business plans, and financial knowledge. There is always the risk of the outsourcing partner being hacked. It is also a challenge to secure confidential information from a client.
The solution: Develop stringent protocols and safeguards when it comes to outsourcing. Adopt a strategy regarding information security risk management. Orient employees about the proper conduct regarding data privacy, and install physical safeguards that protect data in your infrastructures.
Be Prepared in the Face of Crisis
Overall, the BPO industry is wrought with challenges that can test the company’s resilience and strategies. Always prioritize security and safety. Take care of your relationship with clients while ensuring that employees are properly equipped even amidst a crisis. That way, your company can endure whatever problems may arise.