Investment in Customer Experience has direct impact on Market Positioning and Profitability: Silah CEO

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Feras Ahmed
Mr. Feras Ahmed, CEO - Silah Gulf

The COVID-19 pandemic is acting as a catalyst for the rapid transformation of the traditional BPO model. It is shining a light on how flexible outsourcing partners have been with their clients when conditions change rapidly and how far along the digital journey they have ventured.

Where an outsourcing partner lacks preparedness and flexibility clients may choose to end the relationship and perhaps take work back in-house. Equally, there will be cases where providers are lauded for their practical approach. How outsourcing partners respond beyond the immediate crisis will determine the winners and losers in the future, and whether the industry as a whole thrives or not.

How outsourcing partners have stepped up to find innovative and pragmatic solutions and how clients have flexed their responses, set new priorities, and accepted risks that would have been unthinkable before COVID-19 will be remembered long after the crisis has come under control.

UK-based consultancy, Ryan Strategy Advisory, recently released a whitepaper presenting the dynamic role of the GCC region, and with special reference to the Kingdom of Bahrain, in driving the growth of global BPOs.

Prepared in conjunction with Bahrain-based business process outsourcing company, Silah Gulf, the whitepaper highlights the strengths of regional players and the attractive propositions they offer for global clients.

We spoke to Mr. Feras Ahmed, CEO of Bahrain-based premium, multi-award-winning customer experience solutions provider Silah Gulf about the flexibility and innovation that was required to drive the BPO industry during the pandemic.

What is the market size and industry trends in the BPO sector in the GCC today? Any forecasts for the growth of the sector in the decade ahead?

The BPO Industry is a $2 billion market in the GCC with a forecasted 20-30% CAGR over the next decade. Features like improved operational efficiency, flexibility, and enhanced customer services have been the main drivers of growth. Customer Experience management held the largest share of around 30% across the global market due to the increased requirement for expertise in customer query handling generated across platforms such as emails, chats, and social media. The finance & accounting segment is also projected to expand at a significant growth rate due to the expansion of banking facilities and the strict regulatory needs of the banking sector.

What sort of challenges were you faced with during the pandemic and how did Silah Gulf overcome it?

The BPO sector is heavily dependent on people as a people-centric industry. Consequently, this was the element that was directly impacted by COVID, leading to a high degree of absenteeism due to sickness, testing, quarantine, family care, etc. We met the challenge head-on, immediately rolling out the work from the home model using Silah’s state-of-the-art technology platforms that enabled the transition seamlessly. Today up to 70% of our staff are WFH and managing it without disruption to the business.

What are some of the challenges that customer experience management faces today and how do BPOs address them?

BPOs world over have been directly impacted by the general economic climate, reduced budgets and expenditure, translating unfortunately into less investment in CX. We encourage clients to invest in CX as it has a direct impact on their market positioning and profitability.

What makes the GCC the perfect location for strengthening customer experience, and why would a client in another market look at this region as a delivery point location?

The GCC is a mature market with very high per capita expenditure. Expectations are very high and so is competition. CX is a key differentiator, for brand and customers expect no less. The GCC population is generally very warm and welcoming, and this reflects on the ability to please customers.

Add to that, the central location and accessibility of the Middle East, the multilingual, multi-cultural population and the net result is a location, and by that, I mean Bahrain as well as most of the GCC, that is appreciated for its energy and diversity by visiting contact center professionals. Bahrain’s age demographic is relatively young. In fact, roughly one-third of the population is under the age of 25. This is crucial for contact center operations, as it ensures a talent pool that is large enough to satisfy growing labor needs. Additionally, affordability and favorable cost structure make Bahrain especially attractive.

How do you see your partnerships with the telecom companies of the GCC developing? What added support can you together offer in the GCC markets?

The telecoms industry is a very dynamic and rapidly evolving one. Telecos are under immense pressure to continuously develop and differentiate themselves by providing value-added services. Connectivity and pricing are key, but the key differentiator is CX. We know this from our own experience. Silah has over a decade of expertise servicing telecoms clients and we provide a range of services from inbound to telesales to omnichannel delivery as well as retentions and collections.

How are your customers approaching BPOs today? Do you see any marked differences since the days before the pandemic and the economic downturn?

There are few examples for the scale and speed of change that the COVID-19 pandemic has created in businesses across the world. The BPOs that have proved their resilience during the pandemic, enjoyed unprecedented growth. Having a reliable and robust partner was key for service continuity during the pandemic where people turned to the voice and digital channels for service rather than physical visits. This has put tremendous pressure on outsources due to the excessive volumes. At the end of the day, what we know is that business flexibility, agility and out-of-the-box thinking are required to help organizations respond effectively to even unprecedented challenges like the pandemic.

“The reality of customer experience delivery going forward is one that favors providers that are willing to differentiate their offerings.” What are these differentiators that companies are looking for and what does Silah Gulf have to offer that others don’t?

Silah is a company with its roots in the GCC, but also enjoys international exposure and expertise, hence, we understand the requirements of our clients in the region and are a part of the local culture. This enables us to provide exceptional customer experiences. What most of our customers realized was that there was no guidebook to handle the situation they were in. Constant innovation, flexibility and diversification of strategy was needed. We were able to provide this through good governance, constant review of strategy and an ability to rise to daily changing scenarios.

Related: KFH-Bahrain, Eagle Hills Diyar unite to provide financial services to customers