Let me preface everything in this post with one very important point: there will always be a place for traditional BPO.

Even with the current crisis, contact centers are unlikely to go extinct, but there are several new realities that brick and mortar BPOs and their customers now have to face as the future of the industry comes into question.

First and foremost, customer buying patterns have become extremely unpredictable in the wake of COVID-19, leading brands into a state of panic. These brands are struggling to provide great CX right now because, in many cases, their CX providers are facing serious problems of their own.

The BPO industry is coming up against severe operational and geographical challenges. For example, on April 23rd Jamaica’s government closed down the entire BPO industry for 14 days after more than half of the island’s COVID-19 cases were found to originate from within one company’s offices. The decision forced all companies in the country to shutter their brick and mortar operations, which could potentially have severe repercussions on the overall industry’s reputation for years to come. Around the same time, the Philippines faced a similar challenge, as “enhanced community quarantine” rules effectively caused the suspension of work for the majority of BPO operators.

As both countries faced this unprecedented challenge they had to adapt at the last minute, cobbling together a work-at-home setup and sending thousands of agents’ home, or worse, laying them off. For the fortunate, newly deployed work-at-home agents, the ongoing challenge is one of adaptation. Many live in large family units, meaning that quiet spaces can be difficult to find, or they run the risk of disturbing others when working nights. Likewise, residential grade high-internet and uninterrupted electricity pose real challenges, where day-to-day events such as rain showers sometimes cause interruptions in service.

Amid this reality, brands that have relied on the strength of their BPO partners have no choice but to accept a degraded level of CX support resulting from a race to adapt and sheer capacity limitations.

The takeaway from these unfortunate case studies, and the COVID-19 crisis in general, is that we never know what could impact service delivery at any time, especially when it comes to physical contact centers. With that in mind, CX providers can only guarantee continued service delivery with a robust work-at-home infrastructure in place, which most are not yet ready to provide.

Some experts speculate that businesses will be recovering from this outbreak for at least another two years, suggesting a long period of adaptation for most industries, including BPO. The question is, what impact will this adaptation have on customers and CX? How long should brands wait for their CX providers to align with the new normal?

While you ponder those questions, here’s that good news promised in the headline: there are already robust and reliable partners available to handle your CX needs while simultaneously diversifying your risk—namely, pure-play work-at-home service providers.

Now and into the future, diversifying your provider portfolio is the best way to balance your CX delivery and mitigate risk. Yes, I may be pushing the age-old adage, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, but it’s simply the best way to deal with the situation we’re now facing. Why rely on a single service provider, a single point of failure, in a world where unpredictable disasters happen regularly?

Right now, as we’ve seen in Jamaica and the Philippines, brick and mortar operations can shut down at any time, so the only way to avoid the fallout of that is to implement a work-at-home component. Even if it’s just temporary, brands can alleviate the pressure on their existing providers by shifting work to a pure-play WAH provider, freeing up any existing partners to solve their own issues much faster.

As we all look ahead to an uncertain future, there’s one thing we can say for certain: dedicated work-at-home partners have the capabilities to provide elevated customer experiences through Q3, Q4, and even the next few years, allowing brands to focus on their own challenges without any disruption to CX delivery.

Like I said at the beginning, physical contact centers will be here to stay long after COVID-19 has been put behind us, but they’re no longer the only option. As such, risk diversification should always take precedence for brands that want their CX delivery to weather any storm.