Damned by the pandemic-induced economic shutdown, the BPO industry, the pride of the services sector, faced major disruptions and a full-plate of unprecedented operational challenges. Yet many like DialDesk have bounced back, banking on a cautious yet maverick transformational approach.
With remote working the only option visible in the near future, Deepak Kashyap, Co-founder & CEO, DialDesk, a leading customer experience (CX) enabler firm, explains the challenges faced and overcome, and how the company is shaping up for a future where remote working might become the norm for the BPO industry.
Q: How did the behaviour of customers change when they called for support during the lockdown?
This is interesting. I know that tough times don’t last, but tough people do put on a lighter side. I realized that some of our customers were inclined to contest us when we asked them to co-operate and help in running the operations from a work from home environment.
We had some heart-stopping moments convincing them to agree with us to start work from home operations, even though we had sent the proposal and the project plan to them well before the lockdown was announced. This was implemented eventually, though a tad late.
We also reached out to them to clear the pending invoices, something also not initially greeted with a welcoming smile from some of them. The rest of the clients understood the challenge and went a step ahead by clearing the pending invoices immediately and also agreeing to the billing patters for the next couple of months.
Watch : DialDesk CEO Deepak Kashyap talks about Customer Experience
Having said this, the pandemic has been tough on all businesses, and therefore we also do understand their reluctance/delay in making our payments. While we never stopped paying salaries to our employees, it was a huge challenge to manage it with dwindling cash flow, but we managed somehow and steered out of the crunch times.
On the upside, we managed to bag a huge project during this time from one of the leading document fraud check companies in the world. We are proud of the fact that we not only implemented the work, from day one, using home solutions but did it at lightning speed and managed to impress our clients immensely.
To sum up, the reaction from our customers has been mixed but mostly good, eclipsing the less than wonderful experiences with some of them.Deepak Kashyap, Co-founder, DialDesk
Q: What kind of challenges is the BPO industry facing during the pandemic?
The COVID-19 Pandemic has significantly disrupted the BPO industry. The business houses which needed services from the BPO industry to support their retail operations do not need it whilst the entire retail market/ distribution channel is totally shut. This led to the loss of business for such BPO companies, which were supporting these kinds of business verticals. For the above reason, the telemarketing business was entirely halted. Many of our customers not only asked to suspend business but also enforced a “Force Majeure “clause inflicting heavy losses on us.
Initially, work-from-home for BPO companies was not as easy as it was perceived. These companies are caught between mobility curbs and client protocol that disallows work-from-home. Client protocol that disallows transfer to work-from-home mode (Banking in particular, or any other process where data sensitivity is very high) coupled with the inability of employees to commute with the office is leading to large scale stoppages. The voice-based process is most impacted.
Even when work-from-home could be enabled, the connectivity was a huge challenge, as a huge number of users were trying to access systems remotely. Bandwidth / Severs were not designed for such a scenario. This led to an enhancement of capacity, resulting in additional Capex and Opex.
Exemptions for “Work from Office” were given to support some clients whose services were declared essential; however, it became a challenge to follow the SOP as employees would not turn up for work with the fear of COVID in mind, maintaining self-distancing, or taking hygiene precautions. The families of the ones reporting to work are extremely worried and sometimes call the team managers and team leaders out of fear for the well-being of their wards.
All said and done, BPO companies are currently operating on immediate short-term goals to stay afloat, keeping the lights on for important enterprise clients, and with medium-term focus on surviving the next few weeks, probably months, with the right emergency provisions in place to keep staff healthy and a financial fall-back to keep the wheels on track as they experience these painful emotions.
Q: What are your views on the paradigm shift for BPOs from physical hardware to now remote operation setups? Can the industry sustain this change in the long term?
About two years back, I started contemplating how can BPOs have work from home culture. The reasons for thinking along these lines were very simple. Firstly, it reduces the overall opex as we would then not need to manage a huge infrastructure like large operational floors, etc. Secondly, the benefits reaped from these cost cuttings could be passed on to hire even better resources with higher salaries, and, in return, offering even better services, which would cement our credibility in the BPO sector.
I strongly believe that working remotely has not only become a “nice-to-have”, but “must-have” capability; and while adjustments are still being made, especially for those teams who are accustomed to working together in the same physical location, it really is possible to get more work done and even higher quality levels when the same team is distributed, and working from home.
The success lies in the tools being used, and in the progressive management styles that modern organizations have been deploying for years. Those who have invested in secure, scalable and accessible-from-anywhere online collaboration and productivity platforms are finding it easier to naturally keep work flowing, and are able to seamlessly pivot to virtual meetings and calls as a natural extension of working in “the office.”
In ordinary times, individuals who work from home may enjoy more freedom over their time and location, and additional productivity and economic benefits such as not having to spend time and money commuting.
Yes, there are also drawbacks:
- The difficulty of managing connectivity and ensuring the appropriate internet bandwidth.
- The tracking and monitoring of people working from home cannot be managed in the most efficient manner. The working hours/productivity could go down.
- The relationship between the team and team managers could slide as there are no longer the physical interactions from when they were all operating out from a single location.
- Data theft is a critical aspect one should pay intense attention to. There is a need to ensure the best tools, like a Mobile device management system, are put into action to negate such issues. This obviously comes at a cost. The HR system would have to be digitalized and automated so that the hiring and on-boarding are all done digitally with the least manual intervention.
I believe, through a cautious and calculated game plan, and a reasonable investment done wisely on technology, the industry can easily continue with the work from home policy. A word of advice would be to shed most of the non-productive work, which was done manually, and move it to a robust automated system like CRM’s, EKYC, etc.
Through a cautious and calculated game plan, and investing wisely on technology, the BPO industry can easily continue with the work from home policy.Deepak Kashyap, Co-founder, DialDesk
Q: As a veteran entrepreneur in the industry, what is your advice to young ones in the early stages of their start-up journeys at this point in time?
My immediate advice to them would be that if they want to be in business:
#1 They should be doing it out of passion or Junoon for the work they want to do. How I define passion is “What you do in lieu of the infinite pain you can take” because you want to achieve something in your life.
#2 They should clearly know the type of orbit of achievement their business is in currently. How I define different orbits of business is: Struggle|Survival|Stability|Scalability. The art is to have a strategy to quickly move away from each level to the next. Most of the entrepreneurs are in either of these 4 levels. The entrepreneurs who want to break away from these 4 orbits and create a successful, thriving, and competitor-threat-proof company would straightaway focus on Customer Experience. In fact, I believe that “CX is the new Rx for your business”.
#3 Also, never ever stop the process of learning and believe in “Gain by Giving”.