The global impact of COVID-19 completely altered the way companies viewed the necessity of working from the office. In a 2020 Gartner survey, 82% of company leaders planned to allow employees to work-from-home (WFH).
In the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, the rapid pace of emergency measures taken by governments around the world caught many companies off-guard. Restrictions on travel, social proximity, and economic activity were implemented for vast parts of 2020, causing significant disruption for companies who did not have
the infrastructure in place to prepare.
While many companies are trying or currently transitioning to a WFH model, the performance and quality of their services often suffers due to “quick fix” business strategies that are not sustainable in the long term.
For companies with goals of maintaining remote teams well into the future, the following four pillars are the essential building blocks of a successful WFH operation.
Pillar #1: It starts with a future proof talent strategy
The biggest asset of any BPO company is its people. Successful WFH teams are always built on an effective talent management strategy combined with an appealing work culture.
More than ever, companies are now able to fully pivot to digital recruitment strategies – engaging with social media platforms and online job portals to gain access to a deeper and more diverse pool of talent. In Malaysia, BPO companies use popular social media platforms LinkedIn and Facebook to recruit, in addition to job portals such as Jobstreet, Recooty, and Monster.
Quantity is not everything, though. Leading multinational BPO companies require a specific set of agent capabilities for their clients, resulting in more stringent screening practices during the hiring process.
For example, Scicom’s Global Connect service deploys comprehensive assessments to narrow the agent candidate pool – ensuring that the agents recruited are highly capable and exhibit optimal levels of interpersonal and multi-lingual language proficiency skills required by clients.
Unhindered by movement restriction orders, Global Connect attracted over one thousand recruits in 2020. The ability to recruit high quality talent, combined with a variety of industry standard remote working SOPs make Scicom’s agent recruits well-suited to a WFH environment.
“While fostering a positive and supportive work atmosphere where employees feel a sense of belonging and ownership is a key differentiator in normal times, it is THE differentiator of a successful work from home strategy.” – Benny Philip, COO, Scicom.
Pillar #2: Make virtual training seamless
One common disruption to seamless staff onboarding is the delay caused by the extra time needed to train agents. WFH infrastructure should be designed with e-learning being the primary form of remote instruction. Through video conferencing platforms like Skype, Zoom, and Teams, companies should be able to deliver internal and client training modules virtually.
At Scicom, the transition from face-to-face training to the WFH model was especially seamless due to proactive measures taken to pivot towards virtual training strategies prior to the COVID pandemic. These included the converting of in-person training modules to online formats, and the integration of technology into existing training modules.
As a testament to the seamlessness of the WFH transition, Scicom’s BPO operations maintained the same average training completion timelines and KPIs after the switch to a WFH model, highlighting the importance of being technologically ready for future disruptions.
Pillar #3: Enhance remote management capabilities
Managing a remote workforce begins at the emotional level. By having team leaders create a professional and pleasant virtual work environment, team members are likelier to feel a sense of connection with colleagues and a sense of enthusiasm to accomplish shared and personal work-related goals. Management should also be acutely aware of the morale of their team members and build support structures to address any issues in an appropriate and constructive manner.
But what happens if one of your agents doesn’t come online one busy Monday morning? Not all BPO processes may have been designed to support an off-site work environment. Managing a remote workforce has its own sets of challenges. The ability to monitor each agent at their home office requires a robust CRM platform and data monitoring system.
An optimal WFH operation needs to have effective real-time floor management processes and SOPs specific to the WFH model to ensure that any potential disruptive scenario is handled effectively. An important indicator of whether agents are being managed effectively in a WFH model is the level of customer service exhibited – a metric which is best measured by the Service Capability & Performance (SCP) global benchmark.
Despite a switch to a WFH model, Scicom has been able to achieve year-after-year increases in its SCP audit scores – reaching a whopping total of 160 compared to a global average of 125. It is also among the Global Outsourcing 100 as ranked by IAOP. These achievements are a result of implementation of industry best practices with a constant aim to improve the overall quality of service to both clients and customers.
Pillar #4: Keep all data secure
With cybersecurity one of the looming issues even in 2021, it’s no surprise that outsourcing vendors need to invest heavily in equipping their IT assets with information security management tools and protocols that keep sensitive and personal data safe. Outsourcers relying on a majority WFH agent base will want to be reassured each agent is working on a secure device and that operations as a whole remain in compliance with the important regulations like GDPR, PCI DSS, and HIPAA.
Some of the most common cyber threats to BPO operations are malware and viruses entering the main servers where sensitive data is kept. The necessary defence is a multi-layered security system which includes: secure voice delivery with VOIP, VPNs, Firewalls, and Intruder Protection Systems to ensure safer access to networks. In addition, an ISO27001 compliant environment keeps unauthorized files from being accessed, and IT Departments would also proactively monitor data using SIEM devices and carry out VAPT testing on a regular basis.
Ensuring each agent has a secure device to work on requires preparation and investment. During the switch to a WFH model, Scicom transitioned 95% of its employees off-site. Key security measures such as the use of dual factor authentication during login, and conversion suites with Secure Remote Worker continue to enhance security and help prevent data leakage at all touchpoints.
Deploying a comprehensive information security strategy earned Scicom a certification in ISO/IEC 27001:2013, a global benchmark on information security management systems based on a rigorous set of criteria. Achieving best practice certifications such as ISO27001 are the easiest way to identify that a company is serious about protecting its client’s and customer’s data.
Thriving in the new normal
With these four pillars, BPO companies will be able to thrive with the majority of their staff WFH and be more equipped to weather the storm of the Covid pandemic. The shift to a WFH model can be initially daunting, but also presents a challenge requiring innovation, investment, and a continuous review of SOPs. With focused planning and preparation, companies can make a seamless switch to a WFH model with no decrease in capability or disruption in service.