Shared from the 9/14/2018 Financial Review eEdition

Offshoring success through partnerships

Relationship management


Business process outsourcing is entering a new era, as offshoring providers go far beyond cost savings to partner with clients and add real value.

Today’s top providers offer services ranging from traditional contact centre and back office functions to process improvement, automation and intelligence, including robotic process automation and voice biometrics.

Australian company Acquire BPO aims to be at the forefront of this industry transformation. Founded in 2006, it now has more than 7000 staff in 12 locations in Australia, the US, the Philippines and the Dominican Republic.

Its offering includes customer service, sales, marketing, retention campaigns, technical support and software development for public and private organisations around the world.

Acquire BPO’s chief commercial officer, Kathryn Marshall, says: ‘‘The focus of global offshoring has moved from labour arbitrage to a business-value proposition. People used to offshore mainly to save costs, but now they want a partner who can do more than just provide skills and headcount. They want to leverage our expertise to help their business.’’

Acquire BPO generally calculates that a client can save 60 per cent through outsourcing. ‘‘If you invest 20 per cent of that back into business improvement, you’re still ahead.’’

Marshall says efficiency and a better customer experience are the goals, but there is no ‘‘one size fits all’’ solution.

Every business has different tools and systems, so Acquire BPO takes an individual approach to each client’s needs, she says. For example, it may work with a client ‘‘to learn about where their calls go and map the customer journey’’. ‘‘Once we have that information, we can say, ‘put in a chat bot or upskill your agents, and you’ll get better first call resolution’.’’

The personal attention continues when clients make the leap offshore. ‘‘When you sign with us, you get a client relationship manager [CRM] and a project manager who are your advocates in translating your brand to the Manila team,’’ Marshall says. ‘‘Our project managers sit with your subject matter experts and work out how the process is done onshore now, then take your training materials and develop them into the form that can be used to build the team offshore. ‘‘We don’t just take something that’s done onshore and plonk it down offshore. We ask, ‘will that work in the Philippines?’ You have to understand the cultural differences.’’

Cultural differences cut both ways. For Australian clients, Marshall says, Acquire BPO’s local roots offer an advantage over major global players, which are based mainly in the US and Europe. ‘‘We have client relationship managers in Sydney and Melbourne who spend a lot of time in their clients’ offices,’’ she says. ‘‘On the other hand, our US clients will have US-based client relationship managers and project managers.’’ Acquire BPO offers many ‘‘Gartner #1 rated technology tools’’ that clients can purchase on a licence basis. New tools include Interactive Voice Response systems that can read a combination of touch, tone and voice. ‘‘Now we can also tap in voice biometrics, so you don’t have to go through the whole identity verification process.’’ But while automation is powering the new wave, chat bots are not about to elbow out humans any time soon. Marshall says: ‘‘To get the right blend, you need to understand the end user and get the perfect balance between man and machine, so the customer gets the information as efficiently as they can and also has a pleasant experience,’’ she says. Indeed, people are still vital to functions such as image processing, ‘‘when a camera on a toll road can’t read a number plate correctly and you need a human to interpret the photo’’. Marshall says Acquire BPO is unique in having cohesive onshore sales and client services teams that drive growth for accounts and are accountable for the entire client lifecycle. ‘‘We have a strong governance framework driving how and how often we communicate with our clients,’’ she says.

‘‘Our CRMs are mandated to focus on client advocacy and contract management, so regular business reviews are mandatory.

‘‘With our top 50 clients, our CRMs do monthly, quarterly and annual business reviews, focusing on performance targets, operational matters and any staffing issues, plus general processes, initiatives, insights, and program optimisation.’’

At the annual review, she says, the CRMs do a whole review, asking: ‘‘What value has Acquire provided and how can we improve that? It’s not just about the successes – it’s also about how we learn from anything that went wrong.’’

Marshall says Acquire BPO is compliant with the highest standards to ensure clients are protected, including certification to the PCI Security Standards Council. Other compliances include System and Organisation Controls (SOC 2), Customer Operations Performance Centre (COPC) and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Project Managers also hold Prince 2 certifications. As well, she says, health organisations must be compliant with the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency (AHPRA) ‘‘and we assist in ensuring that we are compliant with these outsourcing standards.’’

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