Call Centre Jobs “Will Not Exist”

Conboy M100x100
By: Martin Conboy, Publisher of The Sauce
a bi-weekly online publication for executives in the BPO and Shared Services space, and Editorial Advisory Board Member of The-Outsourcing.com.

Robot Process Automation (RPA) is the next wave of innovation and is dramatically changing the way business and BPO service providers deal with their customers. This is not some futuristic concept its here and now! (Check out the video link at the end of this story.)

The marginal cost of additional software robots is minimal if not zero. It aims to reduce costs, improve efficiency and productivity by removing repetitive and manually intensive tasks. Thus for services with varying or seasonal demand, robotic automation can be an efficient and rapid means of scaling an operation, at a fixed and consistently uniform level of service and quality. For businesses that have routine customer transactions RPA will be part of an integrated marketing approach, that brings together customer service, sales, marketing and consumer insights. It will also allow organisations to respond quickly to new markets and regulatory demands.

Photo courtesy of Vladru/shutterstock.com

Photo courtesy of Vladru/shutterstock.com

RPA will have a significant impact on the outsourcing and BPO industries in the next few years as BPO providers and their customers look at further ways to reduce costs and improve profitability and move with customer expectations.

Recently, Fairfax Media in Australia wrote a story about Telstra (Australia’s biggest Telco) CEO David Thodey saying that call centre jobs across a range of sectors will not exist in five years because of the surge in internet and smartphone applications.

Mr. Thodey told ABC Radio’s Jon Faine in Melbourne that he understood the “enormous costs” to local communities caused by taking away call centre jobs.

“More and more you’ll use an application on your phone and you’ll use the web to interact with us so the future of call centre jobs is less in the future,” he said. “In reality Jon [Faine] these jobs (call centres) will not exist in five years.”

“We need to be more innovative, we need to create businesses in software, in innovation, in all those areas and some of the other types of jobs we’ve had in the past just won’t be there,” he said.

Telstra has also sent a large number of local jobs overseas with 671 positions sent into Asia in July. But Mr. Thodey said these positions were important to serve the company’s new customers in the Asian region. “We’ve got to become an Australian company doing business in Asia,” he said. “Many of our customers over the next five to ten years will be Asian-based not just Australian. The offshoring is a temporary step in some sense for us as well.”

To this comment, Jon Faine responded: “But you’re so awash with cash you’re giving it back to shareholders in a share buyback so if you wanted to keep more jobs here and squeeze the profit margins to be less you could, couldn’t you?”

David Thodey’s reply signaled a larger strategic perspective: “Well yes we could but it wouldn’t really achieve our long-term objective of building this capability offshore. Also in reality Jon these jobs will not exist in five years. If you think about how you interact with the bank today you don’t go into the bank branch that often. And that’s going to be the truth about many of the traditional service related jobs – it’s going to be more and more digitally done.”

Frank Casale, founder of the U.S. based Institute for Robotic Process Automation (IRPA), alerts outsourcing buyers and sellers to “brace for impact” as process automation creates the next wave of innovation and dramatically changes business and the global economy. “Robotic process automation will force IT and business executives to completely rethink the way they plan, source and budget for their most critical projects,” says Casale.

Millions of people are working in back office functions for the BPO industry, repeating the same processes and procedures daily or being asked to respond quickly with resources and process to support ever-changing business demands.

Like their manufacturing counterparts, software robots (Apps) operate at a fraction of a cost of a human, and can work 24/7/365 without any breaks or complaints. A robotic FTE costs on average a third of what its costs to hire an off-shored FTE. That is why industry analysts such as Datamark and Ovum are predicting how this technology will completely transform BPO.

This means organisations can build virtual back offices staffed with robotic FTEs that can handle millions of back office tasks faster, cheaper and more efficiently than humans can. They don’t have to be perfect; they just have to be better than humans.

That said machine intelligence would never be able to fully replace the intelligence, judgment and communication skills of a human. The likely role of humans in these service market workforces of the future will be in high-level roles that require complex and subjective decision-making. For example, tech support and personalised administration support or value-added activities that require complex analysis by skilled and highly trained personnel.

For a thought provoking view check out this video: Humans Need Not Apply.  It lays out the case for why almost half of those currently in the work force could struggle to find work once automation takes over in the near future.

About the Author: Martin Conboy is well recognized as one of the leading voices and knowledge leaders of the outsourcing industry and its role in facilitating BPO success throughout the Asia Pacific. Martin has over 16 years’ experience at a senior level in the market research industry and has spent the last 21 years analyzing and publicly commenting on the Call Centre and Outsourcing sectors across the Asia Pacific. He is a strong advocate for the BPO-ICT / Shared Services sector.

Martin is a Director of www.theoutsourcing-guide.com and coauthor of the first eBook about outsourcing “What is this thing called Outsourcing?”

GSC 3S Awards 2014-2015 Announced

Established in 1998, the GSC 3S Awards are the preeminent awards in the area of sustainable and socially responsible sourcing. The 3S Awards honor individuals and organizations that have demonstrated exceptional social and economic leadership in innovating, improving and implementing 3S practices. The awards will be presented in June 2015 at a gala hosted in New York City.

The 3S Awards are offered in the following categories:

  • 3S Community Engagement Award: This award is focused on organizations that influence and make sustainable a single or multiple communities by providing employment, making available building block resources for survival, providing educational tools and resources and enabling communities by availing business opportunities.
  • 3S Employee Engagement Award: The Employee Engagement Award is geared towards businesses/organizations that empower their employees towards 3S actions. This would include but is not limited to engaging employees in sustainable and socially responsible practices through the company/various groups and providing tools for employees (educational/vocational).
  • 3S Empowered Women Award: This award recognizes 3S initiatives taken to empower women that are part of global supply chains or their surrounding communities, as well as honoring women who have made a 3S difference.
  • 3S Impact Sourcing Award: This award recognizes organizations that have established and implemented impact sourcing practices to benefit disadvantaged communities.
  • 3S Out-of-the-Box Award: This award recognizes innovative 3S initiatives across all industries and platforms.
  • 3S People’s Choice Award: This award is based on popular vote by the sourcing community. Videos from all categories will be up for voting and the most popular submission will make the cut for the award.

GSC will begin accepting applications for the 3S Awards on October 1, 2014. Applications will involve submission of an on-line application and a short video (no longer than 3 minutes) highlighting the applicant’s achievements in the offered awards categories.

All applications will be evaluated by independent judges who are experts in the fields of sustainability, social responsibility, and sourcing. The People’s Choice Award is an open online competition subject to one vote per IP address.

Previous 3S Awards winners include Alter Eco, The Catrinka Project, CloudFactory, Digital Divide Data, HarVa, JSW Foundation prAna, Vindhya, VOS, and WeConnect.

Please contact Gary S. Pasricha (gary.pasricha@gscouncil.org), Chairman of the 2014-15 3S Awards, for additional information.  

Vindhya: Implementing Social Sustainability the Right Way

J Gandhi100x100By: Jimmy Gandhi, GSC Board Member and Director of the GSC 3S Boot Camp©

August 6, 2014 was a real eye opener for me. It was the day I visited Vindhya-Infomedia Pvt. Ltd, also simply known as “Vindhya.”

Vindhya is a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) company in Bangalore, India, that employs people who are “differently abled.” Just hearing this term made me look at myself and the whole concept of disability, differently. It made me re-think what is “normal.” Especially after I had the perception changing conversation with Pavithra of Vindhya Infomedia Pvt Ltd. It made me realize that every person has some “disability” or constraint or limitation which they have to learn to deal with. I had some very insightful conversations with the leadership at Vindhya, which is the reason why this organization has been able to make such headway in the field of social sustainability.

Vindhya defines social sustainability of the employee as the employee not becoming redundant because of the limitations or constraints that they have to deal with. In order to implement and incorporate this definition of social sustainability into their organization, the management at Vindhya puts a huge emphasis on evaluating their potential employees and their skill sets and then assigning them jobs based on the limitations that their employees have to work with.

For example, “non-voice processes”, such as digitalization of employee information of large corporations are reserved for the employees who are hearing impaired. Employees who have mobility restrictions are placed on customer service jobs that require employees to talk on the phone and resolve issues with customers.

Photo courtesy of Vindhya-Infomedia Pvt.

Vindhya has 700 such employees who do their job despite various constraints and the most breath-taking fact is that these employees are as productive as employees in other organizations. It goes to show that if someone is given a chance, they can do wonders in the right environment – which is exactly what Vindhya is doing.

In fact, to put it in perspective, 75% of the employees at Vindhya have been rejected at other organizations, due to their limitations. Vindhya is the organization that indeed gives these employees a chance for a better standard of living, while also making a profit, proving beyond a doubt that the 3Ps of sustainability can indeed be achieved.

The Global Sourcing Council, in partnership with Vindhya, is working on establishing a model for other organizations to adopt to work with people with challenges and constraints. Stay tuned for more information on the amazing trends that Vindhya is sure to establish in the coming months and years!

About the Author: Jimmy Gandhi, Ph.D., is the Director of the GSC 3S Boot Camp© that emphasizes that the Global Sourcing Council will continue to incorporate the latest aspects of socially sustainable sourcing into its 3S Boot Camp© program.

Jimmy is a Graduate Instructor of Quality Management, Entrepreneurship and Systems Engineering and Management. He has extensive experience teaching additional courses including supply chain management and sustainability in the global supply chain. He has over 30 publications in various conferences and journals related to the engineering management domain and has received teaching awards from Stevens Institute of Technology and The American Society of Engineering Management.