What is a BPO?

Most of the people I have interviewed come to join my organization from the same Industry. They have a very good knowledge of what a BPO looks like and what happens in a BPO.
But I do come across a lot of people who do not know what a BPO is and has vague answers to questions like “What do you know about a BPO?”
There are yet others who have worked in a BPO for some time and answer this question as “A BPO is a Call center”. To an extent this is right. But not completely. If this is not right fully, then what is the difference between a call center and a BPO?
The answers to these questions can be found here.
A BPO as its expansion says is ‘Business Process Outsourcing’. The meaning of the BPO lies in the term ‘OUTSOURCING’. Outsourcing would in a sense mean asking somebody else to do a job I am supposed to do. In other words, certain organizations who believe that there are certain activities that can be done more efficiently and cost-effectively, by handing it over to specialized people do so and in doing it they save on unnecessary costs otherwise involved in hiring and training and such other activities.
From the above definition we understand that a BPO would be an organization who sources the above said kind of activities (which would henceforth be called as processes) from organizations and has a group of specialized staff to do it.
Now what we need to understand is the kind of processes that are or, can be outsourced. Processes that would normally involve huge costs of running and which requires specialized skills or, attributes and that in which the outsourcing organization does not need to get directly involved into would be the front runners amongst the processes to be outsourced. There is a wide spectrum of such processes a few of which would be:

  • After sales Customer Service
  • Pre sales customer service
  • Telemarketing and sales
  • Tech-support customer service
  • Customer and market research
  • Back-office data entry activities
  • Transaction processing – This is again a very broad classification and could involve ticketing, accounting services etc.

If all of these constitute BPO then what is a Call center. To understand the definition of a Call center let us again discuss the types of BPO.
The classification that we discussed above is on the kind of processes that can be outsourced. A yet another way of classifying would be even broader.

  • Voice processes – All processes that would involve a person using his/her voice and language skills would come under voice processes.
  • Non-voice processes – Processes that would not involve voice skills.

These processes can again be classified into Outbound and Inbound processes. We would not go into the details as of now.
Call centers, hence are BPO’s that handle voice based processes. In other words, call centers are just a part of BPO and the term BPO has a wider arena to cover.
This I believe would serve as a good starting point for people who would want to understand what happens in a BPO.