Hyper AI to wellness helpdesk: BPM firms adapt to coronavirus crisis

The industry has moved fast to ensure work from home for 90 per cent of its over 4-million strong employee base.
Apart from work from home, business process management (BPM) companies have taken a host of measures to ensure employee engagement and client productivity. This has meant changing things not just in India, but a host of other geographies that they are present in.

Information Technology and IT-enabled services were classified as essential services by the Indian government soon after the lockdown was announced to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The industry has moved fast to ensure work from home for 90 per cent of its over 4-million strong employee base.

“In Europe, we are converting voice contracts into instant messaging. In LATAM (Latin America), we have created a new channel for health care providers, enabling them to assist customers in questions related to the virus through chat bots, instant messaging, and video calls,” said Bhupender Singh, president of Group Transformation at Teleperformance. He added over 55 per cent of the firm’s  global workforce is now working from home. It has operations in 80 countries.

Similarly for Startek, which faced an issue with people movement in the Philippines. “In the Philippines, we had to provide accommodation and other logistics facilities on the campus. In Malaysia,  subject to social distancing guidelines, essential services have been allowed to operate under close government supervision,” said Rajiv Ahuja, president, Startek.

To drive greater productivity for clients, BPM companies have had to look at driving and deploying digital solutions rapidly. “With a global workforce in 13 countries, our focus now is to digitise customer interaction channels. This includes hyper adoption of AI-based technologies, such as virtual self-help, chat bots, and cognitive AI, which will further ease overstressed contact centre channels,” he said.

The biggest challenge for the industry has been with regard to voice calls, which make up about 40 per cent of the processes BPM firms service, according to Sanchit Vir Gogia, founder and CEO at Greyhound Research.  “BPM firms are also working out how to redefine their contracts for work from home constructs. They’re re-educating their own people about working from home,” he said.

One example of this is Genpact. In addition to providing information to employees about health-related issues surrounding Covid-19, it has taken a host of measures to ensure their well-being in different ways.  “We are providing parenting webinars to employees with external experts on how to help interact with children and keep them engaged during troubled times... In India we also have a Wellness HelpDesk with trained psychologists to address emotional needs of employees. We have a 24X7 helpline for our employees in India, to provide emotional support and well-being,” said a company spokesperson.

It also has an internal engagement programme to highlight positive sentiment, and provides links to material that helps employees work from home or provide fun ways to keep up with remote teams, as well as provide access to resources that help with parenting tips and mental well-being.

“Adapting our processes for coaching, feedback, and training have been critical — ensuring we continue to strive for best practice whatever the location. Our technology has to be more robust than ever during this time. Cybersecurity is a large consideration for all businesses, for instance,” said Teleperformance’s Singh.

The company has also set up a global Covid-19 task force of top 100 leaders, to share best practices on prevention and awareness. A crisis committee also meets daily and issues daily status updates. It also issued a health and safety policy on Covid-19, based on its experience in its China operation. The findings and solutions were made mandatory globally, across its 460 centres.

While there may be initial hiccups in driving some of these initiatives, the use of technology and fast adaptation of remote working have their benefits. "Overall, this time is like a speed breaker for the BPM industry, but in the long term, it will help them come out stronger with delivery from remote locations made possible," said Greyhound's Gogia.


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