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Outsource

8
min read
October 10, 2019

Business Process Outsourcing: Building a better business with BPO

Geoff Whiting

Geoff Whiting

A contributor to Invisible, Geoff is experienced and writes on enterprise tech, B2B SaaS, supply chain, and e-commerce best practices
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Business process outsourcing is a proven way to help your business grow, but many companies are hesitant because of the“outsourcing” term. At Invisible, the mission is to make BPO cool again, and that starts with showing business owners just how the practice can save them time while making it easier to scale their business.

The same technology that’s fueled the gig economy and telecommuting boom is what’s powering BPO. Highly skilled individuals around the globe are ready and waiting to deliver high-quality results. Plus, they can get the job done usually at a substantially reduced cost compared to in-house team, with fewer HR requirements too. Why wouldn’t you say yes to that?

Think of it as Outsourcing 2.0 and get ready for it to make your day, and your bottom line, a little bit better.

What is business process outsourcing?


For companies like yours, business process outsourcing is the outsourcing of a specific element of work, or even an entire process, to a third-party service provider. BPO is not limited to any certain types of work or activities, though most companies use it to supplement their main sales and service objectives.

Depending on your size and workforce knowledge, you might be considering using BPO for payroll and accounting, HR and onboarding, insurance-related tasks, or even with help in different parts of your sales activities.

Typically, you’re going to see two large flavors of BPO:

  1. Back-office: Services related to internal activities, which could include billing, purchasing, HR and benefits, or even database management.
  2. Front-office: These are customer-facing options that might include qualifying leads in your sales pipeline, providing customer support, and managing the logistics of your order fulfillment and returns processes.

The available services in these buckets depend on the BPO provider you’re working with, and their costs or requirements for each can vary significantly. The best place for you to start when considering BPO is to determine what functionality you might need the most support with and where it fits within your overall business.

Allow BPO to play to your strengths by taking over processes that eat up too much time or require expertise your team doesn’t have.

What might be most important, however, is ensuring that you choose a service that gives you real humans to interact with, instead of always trying to rely on outdated bots to manage the complex nature of your business.

How does BPO work for a business?

It’s actually quite simple to understand how does BPO work in a business setting.

You determine the business processes where you’re struggling or need help with, especially those taking up time and preventing you from closing deals and delighting customers. From there, you create a quick list of what it takes to do these processes. In many cases, it is a mix of technology and specific knowledge.

Then, you start looking for BPO providers who specialize in both the areas you need support and the language(s) you and your customers use. Sometimes, the conversation can devolve into a focus on offshoring versus nearshoring (when the provider is in a neighboring country, like Mexico or Canada for a U.S. company) versus onshoring in your own country.

In all fairness, much of that is irrelevant. Don’t default to those ideas when you’re concerned about quality. Instead, ask BPO providers how things work and how you can ensure that they meet the metrics you require. This conversation will help you dive into how BPO fits within your workflow.

BPO is just one way to connect with global customers and partners.

The exact mechanics will differ as you need to hand-off and receive information at different places related to the process, but you do get to set the goals and requirements that your partner must meet.

A reliable company will explain the process and give you specific agents or leads to interact with throughout your working relationship Plus, they’ll provide a comprehensive list of what they provide and what they require to do so. In BPO, quality is based on reputation and company strength, not location.

What are the benefits of business process outsourcing?

When looking at the big picture for BPO, the benefits it provides often focus on efficiency and time management. You’re gaining a more efficient process or elements of a process while also freeing up your team to spend more time on what you value as most important.

Let’s look at a four of these key benefits:

1. Overall cost reduction

Depending on where you outsource too, there’s potential savings related to workforce costs. It is often more affordable to have a very skilled professional from a BPO provider perform complex tasks than to hire them on full-time and provide the related bonuses and benefits. You’re also often able to afford training and associated educational costs when you hire the right provider.

Outsourcing can also help you control costs better by limiting time spent on certain cost activities, so you only pay as you need specific help. 

Some companies see cost reductions in the software related to the task they outsource. A BPO firm can use a single license for managing things like a CRM, even if multiple people are working on it for you at various times. In some instances, the provider may pay for bulk licenses of common programs, passing the savings on to you.

2. Focusing on core activities

On the top of the efficiency benefits is the ability for your team to focus on where you shine. Outsourcing allows you to remove all those spaces that take up way too much time and effort to get right, especially when you don’t have proper training or experience.

It’s the reason that millions of companies and nonprofits around the globe hire a part-time bookkeeper. They can’t afford and don’t need a full-time accountant but having executives do it on their own eats up time and creates the potential for significant liabilities. An interesting development with the growth of BPO is the expansion of this kind of outsourcing in realms like HR.

Having a professional monitor payroll and vacation time and other benefits makes it a lot easier to run your business and prioritize service or sales. 

You can re-energize your team by removing unrelated or mundane tasks of their list. Consider using BPO for managing your CRM and related data entry. Your high-performing sales team gets to just focus on making meaningful connections and closing the deal, relying on the data from the CRM but not having to spend hours scraping LinkedIn to collect and verify it.

This is one of the most popular outsourcing options because it can enhance the competitive nature of your business. Your team (and your outsource partners) focuses on where they specialize, creating the best experience for your customers.

3. Improved capabilities for non-core functions

The flipside of focusing on core activities is that your non-core functions are improved too. A payroll specialist that you outsource too is more likely to get everything right than a new executive — meaning you could be looking at less risk and liability on top of generalize savings. Your outsourced HR team can better keep you in compliance with the latest regulations because they’re doing that work for multiple companies and have the time to stay up to date.

BPO can help customers see you as an always-open business.

As a bonus, you often will get access to the latest technology in these areas. Your BPO partner may charge you a small fee for some of this, but it means you don’t have to research and test what’s right, just trust your partner to deliver.

4. Market expansion support

Many companies are starting to outsource the service and support part of their sales process to BPO providers. This can be a compelling option because they typically can ensure 24/7 support with the latest information. You get to set the rules and then these teams can follow them whenever the customer needs help.

At the same time, you’ve also got an expert who is ready to provide support in a new region. When you choose a BPO partner, you can ask what languages and locations their teams support. If you grow into one of those markets, your customer service element is already poised to help. There’s no need for you to try and hire local, seek out new language experts, or build up a team in your organization.

You ask, and the BPO provider is already there to say “yes.”

What types of services does a BPO company provide?

Realizing the savings and improvements can sound great in the abstract, but most of us need a clearer understanding of how things work before we’re ready to take that leap. To give you an idea of business outsourcing services and trends, we’ll look at four of the biggest players in the space.

When you read about sales, HR, operations, and insurance, think about how they apply to you, your customers, and how you want your company to grow in the next few years.

Sales process outsourcing

No one is going to land all of your sales for you — not that over-priced Instagram influencer or an outsourced partner. However, what a BPO service provider can do is set your team up with the best possible leads and information to make closing as easy as possible.

Here, BPO is all about acquiring customers by filling the sales funnel.

The main focus here is growing your list of prospects. BPO sales providers will have a specific list of marketing tech platforms they use to scour the internet for your leads. Lots of these involve scraping LinkedIn and company websites then using ingenuity and groundwork to verify as much of this information as possible.

You set the lead and company requirements so your BPO specialist can even start the outreach. By using company emails and LinkedIn accounts that you provide, the lead will never know that your incredibly efficient sales process is coming from outside your company. This makes the handoff to your sales team (once a meeting is on the calendar) invisible to the customer.

Plus, when your BPO partner has sales specialists on hand, they can flag exceptions to send right to your team so you get a prized lead and can address their unique needs. It’s all about helping you focus on revenue and using every day to grow.

Everyone feels ‘just down the hall’ when BPO is done right.

Human Resources BPO

The average interview process for a single position takes roughly three weeks at most mid-sized U.S. companies. Most companies have one to two weeks on either side of the interview process for collecting resumes, narrowing targets, and making an offer.

And that’s if you have a dedicated HR professional on staff.

If you’re hiring via executives or leaders within a non-HR department, it takes longer and you’re less likely to find the most qualified candidates.

BPO aims to solve that issue by giving every company a dedicated HR team who can quickly link up with top talent and get them interested in your company and openings. All you have to do to get the ball rolling is set up the job title and its needs, then your BPO services can create job postings, build lists of candidates, and sort everyone based on your criteria.

As the process starts, you can immediately say which candidates you like, and the outsourced HR team will immediately start adjusting. That means you’ll quickly get a list of high-quality candidates ready to interview — references and educational claims already checked if you want.

Interestingly, a BPO service provider will often take the same approach to candidates as they do to sales leads. There’s a lot of technology and improvements going into refining the search, meaning you get the best of a wealth of knowledge when you choose a firm that has a proven track record of doing both.

Outsourcing operations and operations management

While we first focused on general areas of activity in your business, it’s also possible to outsource very specific operations. This can be as granular as creating to-do lists and booking travel, or as complex as generating basic legal agreements, managing specific databases or spreadsheets, and generating in-depth competitor research.

Nearly every people, office, and growth function can be outsourced, at least in part. Again, you never want to stop performing core business activities, but you can use BPO to take away as much of the other noise as possible.

For general process outsourcing, the mix is entirely up to you. Think of the things that get in your way each day. Are you checking email too often to make sure meetings are on your calendar? Are you constantly booking hotels and travel arrangements whenever you have a spare moment instead of when you’d save the most?

Have you pulled out a chunk of hair trying to do a mail merge without having your database or your email template erupt into chaos?

Wherever you struggle can end up being a smart place to consider business process outsourcing services.

 

Insurance-focused BPO

It’s time to get a little more specific for Invisible, so we’re looking at the insurance space. It is a highly complex and regulated area where you need reliable quality to safeguard your business. You can’t just outsource to anyone without creating a major risk.

Invisible works with a property insurer in Florida who has roughly 100,000 clients and more than 100 employees. Nearly every aspect of their business gets a little help from Invisible BPO.

Agents are supporting claims, applications processing, adjustments and more, delivering hundreds of hours of help each month. When an underwriter needs a hand ensuring there’s no backlog, Invisible can step up and process applications as well as smooth out processes themselves in order to help things move smoothly.

There’s no reason for someone to get underwater, which delays insurance processes and can cost the company significantly. Invisible can help with the management of smaller processes and data cleanup, among many other activities, so the insurer’s staff focuses on making the right decisions more quickly and efficiently.

Or, as they recently told us: "You've changed the culture here. We can focus on what's important to us and the elements of our job we like."

In cases like this, where on-site expertise is required for some elements but not all functionality, a BPO provider like Invisible can be a clear substitute for more expensive labor, which is also more difficult and expensive to hire and maintain. 

It’s all about being a strategic partner to you and ensuring that your business sets the agenda and the goals. A solid BPO company is there to provide support and may even suggest ways processes can be improved, but they’ll always let you steer the ship.

Location doesn’t need to be a limit anymore.

Start smart with reliable processes and partners

BPO holds significant promise for organizations of all shapes and sizes, but giving up any control can feel a little uncomfortable. That’s why most companies start with small tasks that are data- and time-intensive.

You can feel out how the process works and if you have a good partner by the way they communicate throughout the process and how well they adapt to your feedback. Ask them for assistance getting started and how you can expand your services. You’ll quickly find that your partner is either ready to help you scale or is treating you like a commodity and providing bland, or even shoddy work.

The goal of BPO is freeing you up to go after high-value targets. Worrying about data entry from low-quality outsourcing doesn’t do that. It won’t give you the time back that you’re hoping for, and it can introduce greater headaches.

So, the best piece of BPO advice anyone can give you is to ask for help and see how a potential partner responds.

The first goal of Invisible is to listen to business owners and leaders like you. We hear what you need and develop a plan that’ll specifically support it, without having you do any of the heavy lifting. It’s why we’re creating resources like this and other blogs, plus plenty more educational materials designed to making BPO simple and effective.

Take a moment and think of the most important question for your business, and what you need to answer it. At Invisible, we’ll give you our take and let you know how qualified, tech-powered, and affordable workers can meet your needs and get you back on track for your growth strategy.

While you’re thinking of the important questions to ask us, we have one for you. What would do with an extra two hours each day to run your business?

Let’s find out.

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