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Meet David Shapiro – Enabling Business Continuity Despite Pandemic Challenges with Premier BPO

Today we have selected David Shapiro to take his interview. He is the Chief Operating Officer at Premier BPO.

First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?

Frankly, we are doing better than expected and better than most in the BPO workspace. While no one could have predicted the pandemic and the lockdowns that came with it, one of  Premier BPO’s value propositions was a secure WFH technology and processes already set up, which allowed us to transition without missing a beat. DinCloud’s Hosted Virtual Desktops already powered our systems through a proactive partnership we had established in early 2019. Thus, we possessed the capability to battle the effects of any global scenarios that may cause disruption and call for Work from Home Scenarios.

Thankfully, all our teams comfortably moved to remote working, though some of us are returning to the workplace with all safety measures in place. So right now, we are both remote and on-premise functional, keeping in mind regulations and laws of our individual geographies.

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company?

I’ve been in the BPO and outsourcing space for over 30 years. One of my “claims to fame” is that I was an early pioneer in offshoring to the Philippines. In 1999, a company I ran was only the third outsourcer to be in Manilla. We were instrumental in validating the Philippines as an outsourcing destination and helped to grow the industry there. I have run organizations worldwide, and in early 2020, I re-joined Premier BPO as COO. Premier BPO was founded as a specialty BPO organization geared to providing innovative and custom solutions to mid-size organizations utilizing offshore labor arbitrage and creative technology.

How does your company innovate?

Premier BPO’s philosophy is to learn from and build upon conventional methodologies to improve what has been done in the past and create new solutions for 21st-century technology needs.

Traditional approaches have to be reevaluated sometimes to build new opportunities unless you want to go obsolete. Innovation is moving technologically; we already possess that capability through virtual infrastructure and recreating existing ideas through continuous process improvement.  Only then can you yield creative results for your clients, your company, and your personnel.

For example, we have just come up with an innovation that we believe will be revolutionary to the BPO Home Agent workspace. Our latest AI solution, V.I.E.W, allows our managers to view agent activity in real-time. The AI takes a snapshot of the person on the system through the webcam as soon as they log in and every five minutes for facial recognition. This ensures only the designated person is on the system and automatically flags multiple presences for security purposes.

V.I.E.W is a differentiator in the marketplace for Premier BPO and has helped us realize the potential for automation internally. Internal innovation requires collaborative brainstorming among diverse teams, and we keep our people motivated to bring in new ideas and contribute with their unique strengths for a collective purpose.

How the Coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

Although Covid-19 caused many traditional business fronts to close, we remained unaffected. Already actively utilizing cloud technology in the workplace, our changeover was flawless, and our workforce was ready for full functionality the next day. One such example is that pre-pandemic, any typhoon in the Philippines would have caused a roadblock to all those trying to get to work due to the flooding, even after they were safe. With WFH, we managed to stay up and running during Typhoon Goni, 95% on the first day, 99% on the second, and had 100% functionality by day three. The pandemic has taught us that Work from Home is a viable option for companies (which is here to stay in many scenarios). It provides more flexibility for creative scheduling, split shifts, and logging on in emergencies.

Despite the pandemic restrictions, we grew steadily as outsourcing slowly emerged as the Business Continuity solution that every company should have had all along. Many organizations suddenly needed cost-effective, high-quality alternate teams to battle the economic downfall that the pandemic brought worldwide. I am pleased to say, Premier BPO not only flourished itself, but we also helped our clients to not only survive but grow.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

With physical workspaces closed for the safety of our teams, we are missing out on the office celebrations like wins, birthdays, and pizza parties. This is tougher when remote, but we can’t forget how important it is. Even if virtual, even if we have to send care packages to our people at home, we have to keep doing such interactive social activities. Keeping in mind the human side, these events boost morale and make everyone feel involved and connected.

From a work standpoint, we realized more about having redundancy with security and staying ahead of the curve. Initially, with the increased workload, some of our members had to take on multiple roles to keep up with the flow. Still, gradually we distributed responsibilities evenly as we expanded and recruited more. Some of our existing clients were undergoing a business slow down, but we could endure the tough times with our co-sourcing philosophy, sharing both risk and reward. And now, we are beginning a new era of remote work with V.I.E.W in play.

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

Data security is a major concern for everyone with WFH teams active across the globe. How can you ensure that the right person is sitting at their system during working hours? We were using dinCloud’s hosted virtual desktops for remote system safety, enabling cloud working and security. For keystroke capture and monitoring device activity, we have applied Teramind. From the managerial standpoint, we are proud to say that we have implemented V.I.E.W (Visual Identification of Employee Workspace), completing the third layer of impenetrable security for home agents. A constant overview of virtual teams must keep everyone constructive, vigilant, and following PCI rules. That is exactly what our AI-powered solution V.I.E.W provides; facial recognition of employees through webcam snapshots compared to internal databases.

We have used Lean Six Sigma methodologies like Pareto Analysis for Continuous Process Improvement to tailor our innovation to the particular client case requirement. Categorically, for companies that require statistics, we also use AGILE Development and rigorous QC procedures for process optimizations every step of the way, especially for all Back-Office operations. I am proud to say that we have successfully implemented less than 2% errors in our client programs using the same techniques. Crisis or not, these are and will be part and parcel of Premier BPO’s brand of service.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Theoretically, anyone who calls themselves a BPO is a competitor; we think we are unique because we have the best of both worlds. Some excellent companies are geared for enterprise-level seats (1000 or so) and some mom-and-pop-type boutique businesses (around 1 to 10 seats). We are different from the rest, as we focus on the mid-size programs in the marketplace (50 – 250 seats) but have the capability, experience, and technology of the large, enterprise BPOs.

We plan to sustain our growth momentum by adding more innovation and technology and expanding our global footprint. We were recently named a key player among top global BPO leaders like WNS Holdings, Everest Group, Infosys, Invensis, and Accenture within the F&A sector. Looking forward, I would say we are on the right track. We want to continue to evolve as a mid-sized player, bringing forth more unique solutions like V.I.E.W.

As a company, we project strong customer-centric values, and that is what will matter most in the future as well. What separates Premier BPO from others is our willingness to go the extra mile while completely immersing ourselves within our client’s brand image.

Your final thoughts

It is imperative to change with the changing times, whether in personal or professional life. As the industry evolves and more automation comes into play, we will continue to evolve as a company and stay engaged while offering our clients technological and human solutions. Our focus for our clients is always Customer-centric service. Premier BPO’s corporate values and ethics play a key role in how we deliver Customer Care.

I am thankful to the hardworking Premier BPO team, who have stood unwaveringly through thick and thin in the past years. I think the pandemic brought us a greater understanding of work-life balance. We have all learned the greater value of family, health, empathy, teamwork, and most of all, perseverance.

Although some conventional methodologies are changing, the proven experience cannot be undervalued. We have to take one with the other, both modernization and time-tested best practices. Creating a fusion of both, we can effectively excel despite any upcoming crisis while keeping our feet rooted firmly to the ground.

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