BPO 2.0 is alive at TELUS International in Bulgaria

On a recent trip to my native Bulgaria, my colleague Elitsa Bakalova and I visited one of TELUS International’s local sites. Country Managing Director Kristina Ivanova and Director of Operations Gergana Ralchovska hosted us in the recently opened TELUS Tower in downtown Sofia. With over 3,000 staff members in Bulgaria split between three offices, TELUS International has grown roots in the community not only to expand its recruitment reach but also to build local trust one event at a time, which is reflected in its extensive corporate social responsibility program.

During the tour of the facility, featuring staff who speak a total of 40 languages to serve many global, regional and local clients, the common themes of innovation, inclusion and collaboration were well displayed. As a vendor that faces the ever-evolving dynamics of the BPO industry, mainly impacted by the advent of chatbots and automation, TELUS International is well prepared for potential headwinds. From offering non-traditional BPO services, including content moderation and content management, to reskilling staff and employee engagement programs, TELUS International in Bulgaria is able to maintain an attrition rate in the teens, well below the industry average of approximately 30%.

In a rapidly evolving market such as Bulgaria, where the IT services sector presents the vast majority of career opportunities for young people, TELUS International’s approach to developing soft skills – a key attribute for working in the BPO industry – differentiates it from its direct and indirect competition. For example, TELUS International offers pre-recruitment assessments, on-site psychologists and ongoing empathy training for employees. Both Ivanova and Ralchovska indicated that the profile of current recruits has changed significantly from five years ago, when speaking one or more foreign languages was enough to get a job offer. Today, both TELUS International’s and recruits’ expectations have evolved to reflect a preference to work for a purpose-driven and customer-focused organization.

Automation means new KPIs

As culture evolves, so do KPIs. With the advent of automation, adopting new KPIs that reflect the shift from human-supported tasks to human-chatbot higher-value services is one way for many organizations including TELUS International to measure utilization and performance. TELUS International’s examples of digitization of client accounts include one client for which 1 million requests were automatically handled by a bot, saving 20,500 productive hours over 90 days, which were later billed to the client for other add-on work.

In TBR’s special report In an emerging world managed by bots, TELUS International’s culture tells us why humans still matter published in March, we wrote, “Moving forward, we expect TELUS International to continue executing on its standardized approach to customers’ digital enablement and to carefully select and manage its client base, including pursuing opportunities with enterprises that are also involved with approving TELUS International employee recruitment and training. As the BPO market evolves, the emergence of new pricing models, including outcome-, subscription- and license-based pricing, will compel the company to take on additional risk and re-tune stakeholders’ expectations around its P&L profile. As a result, TELUS International will need to continue its transformation into an increasingly automation-enabled organization with agent capabilities.”

As TELUS International in Bulgaria serves as one center of the company’s evolving framework, moving from BPO to application services exclusively is highly unlikely, but striking the right balance by blending elements of SaaS and BPaaS will certainly be at the forefront of Ivanova’s, Ralchovska’s and the global leadership team’s agenda in the next three to five years, especially as there is a heightened customer expectations for services vendors to deliver human-centric brand promises.

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