With interest rate spikes, rising inflation, and ongoing supply chain disruptions, this has been a difficult year for many businesses. Many have invested time and effort into finding novel ways to cut costs, optimize operations, and stay competitive during economic uncertainty.
Business process outsourcing (BPO) has always been a field ripe with innovation as service providers continue to find and leverage more cost-effective and efficient ways to handle various business functions for their clients.
This article lays out ten business process outsourcing trends that will continue to prevail into 2024 that we think you should know about—particularly if you are on the lookout for a new outsourcing partner.
What Are the Top Business Process Outsourcing Trends?
Understanding the difference between a trend and a fad is crucial, particularly for businesses looking to adopt strategic initiatives.
A trend tends to have a long-term impact. It represents a significant shift in the way companies operate. These changes generally come from:
- Technological advancements
- Shifts in consumer behavior
- Innovative ways of approaching a problem
Trends provide growth, efficiency, and enhancement opportunities in a competitive market. Following a trend can lead businesses to embark on more thoughtful and effective strategies.
On the other hand, a fad is a short-term phenomenon. Usually driven by emotional excitement rather than logical or thoughtful decisions, a fad often fades quickly once the initial buzz wears off.
Here are 10 BPO trends that we have been seeing and that are expected to continue shaping the outsourcing industry in the years to come:
1. Artificial intelligence and machine learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have significantly disrupted various industries, and the BPO sector is no exception. With the promise of smart automation, enhanced accuracy, and predictive insights, these technologies are quickly becoming integral to process efficiency and customer service.
One of the most significant ways AI has reshaped outsourcing is through customer service bots. Without the need for human intervention, these AI-powered tools can handle routine customer inquiries and repetitive tasks, such as:
- Service details
- Simple troubleshooting
Businesses benefit from reduced waiting times, fewer errors, and availability around the clock, providing a better customer experience overall—freeing up their customer service agents to focus on matters that AI can’t address.
In addition, AI and ML algorithms can be used for predictive analytics, which helps businesses anticipate market trends, consumer behaviors, and potential roadblocks. With these insights, companies can make smarter decisions and develop proactive strategies.
2. Remote work
The proliferation of remote work is another trend reshaping the BPO landscape. With the global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 firmly entrenching flexible work environments, remote work has become a norm rather than an exception.
In the outsourcing industry, this has presented tremendous advantages. BPO providers can build teams of remote workers from around the globe, accessing a vast talent pool.
This trend has democratized employment opportunities, removing geographical boundaries and allowing businesses to hire the best candidate for the job, regardless of location.
Remote work offers significant cost savings, too. Companies no longer have to spend heavily on infrastructure, utilities, or travel allowances. Those savings can be invested in other aspects of the business, creating more efficient use of resources.
3. Virtual customer experience
By 2024, more than 20% of retail sales will happen online. The rise of digital consumers who prefer online platforms for purchasing and inquiries has accelerated the need for companies to enhance their virtual customer experience.
As noted above, outsourced AI platforms can improve customer interactions by powering chatbots and virtual assistants that respond instantly to questions, ensuring customer expectations are met, and they are not kept waiting.
This not only results in enhanced customer satisfaction but also optimizes the business’s conversion rates and customer retention.
4. Data privacy and security
Data has become a vital asset for businesses in a digitized world. Just as its value has increased, so has the necessity for stringent measures to protect it.
As companies outsource their processes, an enormous amount of data is transferred and shared. With this comes a heightened risk for data breaches and cyberattacks, making data privacy and security more critical than ever.
According to IBM, the average cost of a data breach reached $4.45 million in 2023, a 15% increase over the last three years.
IT outsourcing has been vital as specialized BPO providers have the resources and expertise to implement robust security measures. These can range from encryption and firewall systems to antivirus software and secure access control.
Automation and AI, according to that same report, will save organizations an average of $1.76 million compared to those who operate with only traditional security systems.
Companies not only prioritize security for the sake of safeguarding company and customer data but also to ensure compliance with stricter regulations worldwide.
In the EU, for instance, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) mandates businesses to follow strict data handling and protection protocols. Non-compliance could result in heavy fines.
Sustainability remains a key focus for businesses globally. Increasing consumer awareness of climate change and environmental degradation has made sustainability not only an important ethical commitment for businesses but also a way to gain a competitive edge.
More businesses are integrating sustainable practices into their operations. In BPO, this means partnering with third-party providers committed to reducing their environmental impact.
This could involve measures like:
- Digitizing paper-heavy processes
- Reducing energy consumption with efficient facilities
- Having strict waste management protocols
Some BPO providers offset their carbon footprint or invest in renewable energy sources. The environmental benefits of these actions are clear, but they also offer branding advantages.
Companies outsourcing to such service providers can bolster their corporate social responsibility profiles and attract environmentally-conscious customers.
6. Specialized services
BPO is no longer just about offloading routine, non-core tasks. Over the years, the industry has evolved to offer highly specialized services to businesses. From software development to sales strategy formulation, companies are entrusting complex, high-value tasks to external professionals.
This shift reflects a growing appreciation that companies may not always have the necessary skills in-house to effectively handle specialized tasks. Outsourcing these to trained professionals can result in higher quality outcomes and improved operational efficiency.
The software development landscape in Mexico and other nearshore markets in Latin America, for instance, has seen a boom as more companies award projects to specialized programming teams or hire from a fast-growing talent pool.
Similarly, sales and business development roles are being outsourced to access niche experts who can help build solid pipelines or innovate with new marketing techniques.
7. Cloud computing
Cloud computing has significantly transformed the BPO sector, enabling businesses to benefit from more efficient, scalable, and cost-effective operations.
With powerful capabilities like sharing and storing vast amounts of data, running applications, and managing processes over the internet, cloud computing has become a mainstay in the digital operations of many companies.
Cloud-based solutions offer greater flexibility since businesses can upscale or downscale their operations based on demand. This eliminates the need for expensive infrastructure investments and lowers operational costs.
Moreover, with everything centralized in the cloud, businesses can streamline their processes, making them more efficient and reducing the chances of data redundancy and inconsistencies.
Remote and distributed workers can access critical data with little risk of security issues. Plus, cloud services offer strong backup and disaster recovery capabilities.
8. Partnerships for strategic growth
Traditionally, businesses outsourced mostly for cost-saving benefits and to focus on core competencies. However, the narrative has evolved into forming strategic partnerships with outsourcing providers to drive growth and foster innovation.
The value of BPO providers has significantly increased as they bring to the table:
- Specialized expertise
- Advanced technology
- Efficient processes
Such partnerships enable businesses to build strategy, develop new products or services, enter new markets, and create innovative solutions. Beyond handling non-core operations, companies work collaboratively with BPO providers to create strategic roadmaps, execute growth initiatives, and navigate market volatility.
For example, a recent trend has been working with an outsourced CFO, where businesses, especially SMEs, partner with external finance experts to manage critical financial strategies.
They leverage their expertise for capital budgeting, risk management, financial analysis, improving compliance, and fostering revenue growth.
Ultimately, this trend of strategic BPO partnerships speaks to a broader shift. As businesses increasingly look to harness the power of digital technologies and global expertise, the emphasis on strategic growth partnerships with outsourcing providers will only grow stronger.
9. HR outsourcing
Human resources are the backbone of any organization. Managing HR processes, though, can be complex, time-consuming, and expensive. As a result, more businesses are turning to external service providers to handle their HR functions.
From recruitment and onboarding to payroll management and benefits administration, HR outsourcing providers offer a wide range of services. But it has become more than just administrative support. Providers often bring expertise and insights into HR best practices and legal compliance.
They help companies navigate the complex terrain of labor laws and regulations in multiple jurisdictions, which is particularly beneficial for businesses operating or looking to expand internationally.
Additionally, HR outsourcing is becoming more technologically advanced. Providers use AI to streamline recruitment processes and predictive analytics to inform talent management strategies. These technological transformations not only make HR more efficient but also more strategic and value-adding.
As businesses increasingly recognize the benefits of outsourcing HR—labor cost savings, improved accuracy, regulatory compliance, and access to specialized expertise—this trend will continue to grow.
Expect to see more innovation and sophistication in the services offered by HR outsourcing providers.
10. Quality in outsourcing
While cost efficiency has been a significant driver for outsourcing, companies are increasingly emphasizing quality. Businesses recognize that outsourcing is not merely an overhead reduction strategy but also a way to deliver high-quality customer service.
Businesses now expect BPO providers to have well-trained and experienced workforce, advanced technologies, and efficient processes that match or exceed their own.
For instance, IT outsourcing requires experts not just in maintaining systems but also in cybersecurity, data analytics, and cloud computing.
Outsourcing providers are stepping up to this demand by investing in employee skill development, cutting-edge technologies, and quality management systems.
Furthermore, companies are increasingly monitoring and measuring the quality of outsourced services using key performance indicators (KPIs), service level agreements (SLAs), and regular performance reviews. This quality-oriented approach enhances customer satisfaction, boosts competitiveness, and fosters long-term success.
As your business navigates economic fluctuations and market transformations, BPO provides a valuable strategy to drive cost efficiency, access specialist skills, and spur innovation.
The current trends above, from AI applications to sustainability, emphasize the shift to strategic, quality-driven outsourcing designed to deliver real competitive advantages.
Given these evolving trends, you must select outsourcing partners wisely. It’s important to work with a provider that is not only able to meet your current needs but can also adapt and stay ahead of emerging key trends.
Near is here to help with your recruiting needs with our end-to-end service. We connect you with pre-vetted talent capable of providing high-quality BPO services across different sectors. Whether you need help with marketing, accounting, software engineering, or customer support, we have an expansive list of Latin American professionals ready to support your team at rates far below US-based professionals.
To get a list of pre-vetted skilled professionals that you can interview for free, fill out our form today.