BPO sector needs new technology to stay ahead – expert

While the emergence of automation and AI is considered by many as a threat, particularly on job creation, industry officials see it as an opportunity for the Philippines to further strengthen its position as a global leader. AP/Alex Cossio

BPO sector needs new technology to stay ahead – expert
Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star) - March 22, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine business process outsourcing (BPO) sector needs to capitalize on emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to stay ahead as global competition tightens with more countries developing their own BPO industries, an industry executive said.

While the emergence of automation and AI is considered by many as a threat, particularly on job creation, industry officials see it as an opportunity for the Philippines to further strengthen its position as a global leader.

“The Philippines possesses a talented workforce with high English language proficiency. This has helped drive the BPO sector’s growth up until now. However, other nations in Asia, including Malaysia and Vietnam, are also developing their own BPO industries, with Vietnam’s BPO industry achieving an annual growth of more than 20 percent in the past decade. Additionally, client demands are growing, and there is a need to provide higher-value, more complex services,” Everise chief executive officer Sudhir Agarwal told The STAR.

“Technology will allow the Filipino sector to do this. AI, automation and other innovations will take away many of the repetitive, rules-based tasks that are currently carried out by BPO employees, and allow them to concentrate on higher-value jobs that involve customer engagement. Not only that, AI will be able to deliver a higher level of analysis for clients, and will be able to merge and connect all customer services channels from online to text to voice. This will result in better service and ultimately future-proof the Filipino BPO sector for years to come,” Agarwal added.

Contrary to the belief that the rise of new technological innovations will lead to massive job losses in the industry, Agarwal said technology would not only augment BPO employees, but would also usher in demand for higher-value jobs, moving the sector and its millions of employees up the value chain.

“Traditionally, BPO firms focus more on using human manpower on an offshore basis, to carry out tasks and responsibilities, using the same processes and same systems that were previously used.  Adoption of technology by incorporating cloud computing, business analytics software, social media platforms and process automation software enables businesses to lower their costs and become more effective and efficient. This will result in a competitive advantage as compared to neighboring countries,” he said.

“Importantly, though, technology will take over many of the repetitive, mundane tasks that humans were ultimately not designed to do, such as box ticking and the documentation that takes place after each call. This will leave the employee to concentrate on what really matters – customer engagement. Ultimately, customers want to speak to a human when they have a question and so there will always be a need for skilled employees, technology will make this easier and enable employees to provide a higher level of customer service,” Agarwal added.

Everise, a Singapore-based company owned by Sunrise BPO Pte. Ltd. and the Everstone Group, last month entered into a partnership with Microsoft to develop and roll out an AI platform to disrupt the contact center and BPO industry.

The omni-channel customer service solutions will target voice, video and text interactions, and deliver an unprecedented intelligent, customer-centric experience by leveraging the power of AI.

BUSINESS PROCESS OUTSOURCING
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