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Boldr recently featured in a new episode of the Outsource Accelerator Podcast to delve into the world of ethical outsourcing and explore how business process outsourcing (BPO) companies can grow sustainably while making a positive impact. In this special episode, Derek Gallimore, Outsource Accelerator’s founder, conversed with Mari Parker, Boldr’s President and COO.

How Boldr is redefining outsourcing with impact

In this conversation, Mari Parker shares how Boldr is revolutionizing the outsourcing industry with our impact agenda of prioritizing ethical practices, employee well-being, and community development. Mari honed in on some of the strategies we employ to ensure that our outsourcing services not only meet the highest standards of quality and efficiency but also contribute positively to the social and economic development of the communities we operate in.

Throughout the chat, Mari emphasizes the importance of creating value-driven partnerships, fostering talent development and wellbeing, and maintaining transparency with clients. She highlights how Boldr’s approach to ethical outsourcing has enabled us to build a robust and sustainable business model that benefits all stakeholders involved.

ALSO READ: How to Vet an Ethical Outsourcing Partner 

Tune in to learn more about the innovative ways Boldr is setting new benchmarks in the outsourcing industry. Whether you are a business leader looking to outsource responsibly or an advocate for ethical business practices, this conversation is packed with valuable insights and practical advice for you.

Listen to the full podcast by clicking the player below, or you can follow the full transcript of the conversation. Join us as we explore the transformative potential of ethical outsourcing.

The Outsource Accelerator Podcast with Derek Gallimore

Hosted by outsourcing expert Derek Gallimore, the Outsource Accelerator Podcast is a leading resource for businesses seeking to navigate the world of outsourcing. Each episode delves into comprehensive outsourcing information, featuring expert advice and practical implementation strategies. 

Follow our notes on this conversation for a deeper dive into Episode 491: High Growth Ethical Outsourcing at Scale with Boldr's COO and President, Mari Parker.

Derek Gallimore: Hi, and welcome back to the show. Today I am joined by Mari Parker. She is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Boldr Impact. Boldr does things a little bit differently. They are a B Corp, and they are highly guided by ethical outsourcing.

So Mari, we've had your founder and CEO on the show previously, and you are the president and COO of Boldr. We were just talking before the show, and it's amazing what you have done in the last six years, but also in the last couple of years, and it's good to look back and see the progress you made.

Do you want to give us a quick elevator introduction to Boldr and what you stand for as a company?

Mari Parker: Boldr is the largest global B Corp certified outsourcing company. We help companies, especially in the US and in Europe, build their global teams with a very intentional ethical lens. We exist to help people grow and connect to connected opportunities with talent around the world.

We've really chosen to go deep in certain markets. We're in the Philippines, Mexico, South Africa and Canada right now and looking to expand to maybe one or two more geographies in the next couple of years, but not as intentionally going broad as we're going deep in the market that we're in.

Derek Gallimore asks: Why those countries in particular? Why expand to the Philippines, Mexico, South Africa, and Canada?

Mari Parker:

We were doing really well in the Philippines, and we started there for relatively obvious reasons. Obviously, it's a hub for outsourcing. It's a very well-known industry there. But at the time when the company was founded, David had actually lived there for a while, and he'd started a company there before. So he knows the industry, knows the market, and knows how to navigate setting up infrastructure there.

So we were doing really well in the Philippines, and we found that there were new opportunities that came to us that we would not be able to progress in the relationship because we were only in one location, and clients would see the lack of geographic diversity as a risk. So we recognize that it is important to be in multiple geos. It's fun, to be honest.

There's definitely a personal interest as well. But there is a very real business need to create contingency for our clients and a diversity of products by being in multiple markets. The question of where to go next really was a little bit more heart-led in that Mexico is where David's family is from, our CEO and founder.

His mom was born in Merida, which is the location where we ended up setting up our office. And it happens to be a really beautiful place with incredible talent. And then South Africa is where I was born and raised.

I spent the first 25 years of my life in Johannesburg, South Africa. That's where I'm from. And I was always like I was referred to, like I grew up on the privileged side of a very broken system there, acutely aware of my privilege from a pretty young age.

I've always felt inspired to find ways to give back to the community there with the unemployment crisis that South Africa faces. This was a no-brainer for me. So there was definitely emotion there and also a very sound business case, with the BPO industry there growing significantly. And it's a fantastic spot for supporting clients in Europe.

Also, we had clients say that they wanted domestic outsourcing. I've never quite clicked with the value proposition there.

And I'm not like, I kind of get it, but I've just felt it hasn't been enough of a demand to really pull us into that. And so our way of approaching it was, well, we can set up a team in Canada instead of in the US. And it's not growing at the same rate as the other markets.

There's obviously a very similar price point to employing in the US. But if you do have a client that is interested in domestic outsourcing in the US, then it's a great alternative to provide them.


How does Boldr permeate it’s company's culture at scale?

Derek: You spend a lot of time focusing on the culture, how is it managing 1500 staff, largely remote across four countries?

Mari: When David started his first outsourcing company, he learned a lot from that experience. It was really clear that there's a better way to do this. There's a way to approach outsourcing and the industry without having to marginalize the team member and the community in the transaction. So we've been very intentional about making it clear that our team members and the community are two of the three key stakeholders in our business.

Outsource Accelerator Podcast with Mari Parker Quote

We design the company and our approach around our clients, our team members, and the community. And those are our three key stakeholders that we designed everything around.

If you were to picture this as a flywheel type of situation, the way we're approaching it is that we invest in attracting and retaining the best talent, which would mean that we deliver an incredible service, which means that we continue to grow with our existing clients and our growth; our existing clients bleed into growth as new clients as well, and it allows us to continue to make an impact on the community.

We always start with our team members, understanding the impact that has on our ability to deliver amazing services. Our overall growth in the last couple of years, like more than 60 percent of our growth, has come from existing clients, which to me is a great metric to show that we are delivering good service and we are delivering excellence, and it's working.

I think to establish a culture, you have to start with your values, be clear on what your values are, and be intentional about incorporating your values into everything that you do as a business, into everything you do, and into how you show up as leaders. So we've put a lot of work into that. It started off very simple, and we'd like to work with people who are curious, dynamic, and authentic, and those are our three core values.

Derek Gallimore asks: How do you get the culture going when you have such a disparate workforce?

Mari Parker:

Last year, we took a moment. It felt right at the five-year mark to take a moment and look at those and be like, is this still true, is this still who we are, and is this who we want to be? And what we did last year was add a lot of context and content to what these values mean for us in the business and in the community that we're creating, and we added a couple. We added excellence and empathy there, and so it's this drive in everything you do to be excellent at it and to make sure that when you do something, it's done.

It's not just not fiddling with mediocrity, as much in how we treat our people per se, like we obviously treat our people well, and that's at the heart of what we do. But my challenge to my team is: how do we design everything we do for our clients and our team members in an empathetic way, meaning that you are sure that you understand the underlying need when you design something?

And this was inspired by a book called Applied Empathy by Michael Ventura. And so that inspired us to add empathy to our values list. And it's quite a process, I must say.

It's not like I scribble these down and put them on my intranet, and you're done. Like, it's a whole thing. It's a campaign, and it takes a lot of intentionality to integrate this.

And when you create a policy, does this match our values? When we hire team members, we incorporate this into our hiring process. It's part of our performance appraisal process and is included in our company meetings very intentionally.

And so we make sure that we are living and breathing these values in a way that will organically continue the culture that we have at the company.


The struggles of scaling your culture while growing your outsourcing business

Derek: I get approached by a lot of founders trying to start BPOs, and a lot of them have this concept that we're going to treat staff right. And it's going to be a staff-first organization. And I think that has a lot of assumptions in it.

It's often, and I actually believe the outsourcing industry generally treats its staff well. You can't have 100,000 staff and not be staff-centric. And also, I think it comes from a slight point of naivety in that they haven't actually built companies before; they haven't managed people before.

And so, of course, you have this rosy outlook that we're going to be this cooperative staff, and everyone's going to be happy. But I think when rubber hits the road, it's really, really hard, isn't it, to coordinate so many people across so many different cultures and so many different interest groups and things like that? And what I tend to find as well is that it can sometimes work for a small group of 50 or 100 when it's still a tight community.

But as you expand, it gets harder. But it seems with Boldr, you're now reaching large numbers, and it's feasible. 

Derek Gallimore asks: As you grow and scale, do you think your culture gets somewhat diluted just because of the sheer weight of having to organize so many people and keep them in a straight line?

Mari Parker:

Yeah. Yeah, there's definitely a risk of dilution there. And I think some of it is perception versus reality, which is inevitable.

I'd say this is maybe a heads-up for those startups that are starting with good intentions, because that was us. It's a simple thing, like when you're 50 team members and I know everybody's names, you can see everybody every day in one office, which is very different from being in a remote world and operating on a large scale.

And I remember when we had a moment where we had client contracts coming in requiring, like, an increase in us leveling up our security and our data security approach as a company. And so we had to implement pretty standard things in the industry, but when you're little, before you have a client specifically ask for it, you might not know whatever.

So we got to the point where it's like, “Hey, you can't have your cell phones at the desk.” You're not allowed to have food at your desk.” or whatever it is. And we implement these rules, and all of a sudden you have people stand up, like, This is not the Boldr that I joined. The culture has changed.

And now you're just another BPO. So how do you handle those moments of maturing and growing up with sufficient grace, transparency, and authenticity as a leader to maintain trust with the team and to have those conversations beyond, like, don't shy away from having the conversation of, like, yes, I understand this feels uncomfortable because it is the change, and you're right. It's also a part of growing up, and we're going from a toddler to a kid here, or whatever analogy you want to use here.

But a part of growing up means that there is inevitably more formality that you need to put into the business, and that's going to feel to your team like it's impacting culture. And it's up to you as leaders to stay consistent in your approach, stay authentic and vulnerable, and be really diligent with your communication to make sure that your team understands who you are and what you stand for and that there are certain things that are not going to change to put into context the things that do change as you grow up.


Mari: If you step out of certain bounds, you're not going to fit in, and this is not going to be a conducive relationship, and it's going to be difficult for us to work together. So if you're really opposing the values of the business in a way that's disruptive to business, that's something you're going to have to take care of. But that would be, I think, in any company, regardless of your culture, there's going to be moments where, hey, this is out of line and this is not going to work.

But if you have those individuals that are just there to earn a living, and it's kind of nice that the company is nice, but that's not the reason for them to be there, I think it's okay for there to be a certain cohort in your organization that's in that bucket. I wouldn't obsess over it, and I wouldn't be discriminatory at the risk of being discriminatory in your hiring practices. I think there's space for all of it.

It makes me think of one of the things my dad used to tell me: whenever my sister, my mom, or I would gossip or complain about people or talk about people, my dad would take a moment and be like, Mari, it takes all sorts of people to make the world go around, even people like you and me. And so I think for me personally, it's creating a space of inclusivity, a space where people can find a sense of belonging, and then trusting that the individuals will navigate that opportunity and that access in a way that is thoughtful and intentional. I mean, that's how I would think about that.

Derek Gallimore asks: I think all startups go through this maturation curve—kind of an unguided anarchy at the start, isn't it?

Mari Parker:

Yeah, I think that there's a balancing act there, for sure. And I love that term, unguided anarchy. That made me giggle. Yeah, there's a line there. I don't think every single team member has to have their entire heart and soul in their business, especially when you go to a certain scale. There needs to be space for people to be their best selves.

For me, my responsibility is to provide access to individuals and team members. And it's up to the individual what they do with that. It's a massive honor if you create an opportunity for an individual to be in witness, to stand in witness of them being brave enough to step through the door and do something with that opportunity.

That is incredible. And it's super inspiring. But I think it's important to remember that it's not going to be 100 percent, that you're going to create opportunity for 100 people, and maybe 10 of them will step up, take it, and do something with it.

That still means the effort was worth it. So I think sticking to your values as a leader is important in terms of the community you're trying to create at large. And yes, there are guidelines for that.


Derek Gallimore asks: How do you go with the implementation of culture and embedding culture within such a large group of people across four countries?

Mari Parker:

I wouldn't want to claim myself as an expert here, or I just want to acknowledge that I'm also learning in this process and Boldr is learning. And I'm sure that if our entire team were listening to this, there would be some of them who would be happy to let us know that we still have a ways to go. And I would. I would own that and acknowledge it.

The way that we have approached it though, so I'll speak from the experience of what we've played with and not claim that this is it, but that it worked to some extent. Our retention numbers are pretty impressive, and our team seems happy overall. There's investment in, for me, creating career opportunities for individuals in such a way that this is not just a job for them, but it can be a career for them.

Investing in the personal and professional development of your team and then supporting them and finding a connection between their life purpose, the company's purpose, and the client's purpose that they're working with. Just finding ways that they can find meaning in the work that they do. And if it's not through their day-to-day work, like you mentioned before, there might be people who are maybe dialing it in to a certain extent, and they're like, I don't really care about this client I'm working for.

I don't really love answering tickets from where my shipment is, and I know those are going to all be automated in the future. But at least we have this community impact part of it, which we found that a lot of team members resonate with more than anything else. Knowing that they're working at a company where they personally have the opportunity to nominate a community impact project, lead it, and invest back in their own community themselves through us.

Or just knowing that the company does that and invests back in their own community that they live in has been pretty powerful to help people find a sense of purpose in what they're doing. And then there's an investment in your leaders. So we've gone down a path with the Conscious Leadership Group.


Mari: There's a book called The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, and we've made an effort to have all of our leaders go through certain, at least entry-level, training to understand the concept of conscious leadership and at least understand the first four commitments. And then, over time, we went deeper and deeper with our leadership team. Because I do think it starts with the first-line leaders in your company, they will inevitably have the biggest impact on how your culture is perceived.

And so being intentional about investing in those individuals is super important. One of the other things that we've invested in is Clifton Strength. So, when you step into a leadership position at Boldr, you get to do your strengths profile, and you get to understand your 34 strengths and what's in your top 10. 

And then you go through a coaching exercise, and we've got internal coaches that will take a team member through understanding what their strengths are and how they can lean into their strengths in their team, in their work, and in their lives. And always the intention of just creating space for them to, again, find that connection to purpose and just feel good about the work that they're doing. I think we need to remember that this is supposed to be fun.

The importance of a healthy working environment for outsourcing companies

Derek:  It depends so much on the roles as well. Because often that can impact, there's some really green roles happening in a lot of call centers. And I think if you do have those roles, it's really hard to have a happy, buoyant team doing them. You know what I mean. Does some of that help in terms of the roles that you work with and select?

Mari: I resonate with that deeply. And we have definitely been in a position where we've had clients or pieces of business that are just yucky. And the work that the team does is yucky, and the intentions of the organization are not aligned with our values.

So this is where being a self-funded company really works for you because you feel a little bit more in control of your own destiny with something like that. And we've been intentional. I mean, I'll be honest, there were moments, and I think anybody who starts a BPO should just be aware that you'll get yourself caught in these moments where you're like, I can't let go of this business.

I really need this revenue, but it's not a company that I want to work with in the long run. And we use that as fuel and inspiration to grow to a point where we can divest from it. And the celebration and appreciation we got from our team was inspiring and beautiful when we did it the first time that we stood up and said, Listen, we actually don't want to work with this company anymore.

And we're going to celebrate that this client is no longer in our portfolio because this is not the kind of work that lends to mental health. And so sometimes it's inevitable, and you're like, This is fair company, and it's just the nature of the beast. I think that there's content moderation work out there that's super hard on people.

We touched on it, and we made sure that our team had mental health support and that they had sufficient support structure around them to help navigate that. But it's a difficult thing because, when it comes to content moderation, you can't unsee things, right? If somebody's seen it, then you need to help them process it.

You need to make sure that they're prepared for what they will witness. And how are they going to view humanity after that? So yes, I've seen that.

Derek Gallimore asks: What roles do you typically focus on? Is it a traditional call center role, or are you doing some kind of staff augmentation?

Mari Parker:

I felt that we've been intentional about creating and partnering with companies and businesses where the work is conducive to a healthy work environment for our team members as much as possible. Despite the diversity of roles, I do think that customer support is still the obvious and easy way to gain traction with businesses because it's a very comfortable space for outsourcing and for engaging partners like this. But what we've found is that once we've built a reputation with the companies, and especially if we get to speak to some of the executives, and once the CFO or the COO understands the opportunity that this can unlock, we can actually help them build teams in any of their departments.

And so we've grown in some companies; we have grown in multiple departments, and we've just helped them augment their team with resources or with talent globally. And the unique thing about the way that we've unlocked that is that we have two core products. We have this managed outsourcing, which is traditional. I'm the expert in this, and I can build your customer support team, give you advice on how to set up your customer support team, optimize this for you, and you can hold me to an SLA.

And then we have this global employment of employers of record, where my commitment is to find you the talent, and we have a really white-glove service to make sure that we find the right people for you. But once I've hired them, you manage their performance directly. And that has allowed us to be able to engage with talent across a large variety of roles.

So we are. A lot of our work is in support, and we've branched out into a lot of different areas as well, including technical support and QA, engineering teams, and building like back office teams. So, I often find, oh, my finance team needs support with payables, and we build like payables teams. One of my favorites is that we have a remote robot pilot around the world.

So we have a company that installs and manages the robotic arms and performance centers, and those need to be trained. The AI that manages them needs to be trained. And they also, if they find a pick item that they can't, it doesn't know how to support; it pings a remote pilot in one of our geographies, and they'll take over and pick the item and teach, basically training the robotic arms. So from robot pilots to QA to payables.


Derek: It's impressive, isn't it? And I think there's going to be an increasing number of human-in-the-loop services that humans are overseeing in case the computer needs assistance and needs that confirmation. It's going to be a boom in the industry.

Mari: I agree with that. And I think what's fascinating about it is how, at least for my generation, there were a lot of opinions and judgments of people who would play video games for a lot of their lives. And now it's like, huh, those skills are going to pay off.

Ethical outsourcing and the opportunities it provides in today’s landscape

Derek: Speaking more broadly, I mean, you clearly have a distinct interest in the welfare of staff and their wellbeing, and you're a B Corp, and we're in an industry where generally a lot of people regard outsourcing as being on the unethical spectrum. And in fact, our two companies collaborated with the outsourcing impact report to identify incredible examples of people doing incredible things for communities and to provide a body of evidence against people thinking that outsourcing is generally mistreating people or unethical.

And I think anyone who has spent any time in the industry sees exactly the opposite: that it's an incredible economic boom and opportunity for the communities and the employees and provides good careers and good opportunities.

Outsource Accelerator Podcast with Mari Parker Quote Outsourcing Ethical Report

Derek Gallimore asks: Why do you think there is such a misstep between the people internal to the industry and those external to it in terms of seeing outsourcing as unethical?

Mari Parker:

That is such a good question. I think that's the way that the industry got started, and the people have taken the time to educate themselves, really do the research, and understand the true impact that this work has on communities or that they can have on communities. That's a great question.

I feel like the stigma has stuck due to a lack of education. That would be my opinion on it. And I wanted to pull on something there, Derek, because I know in the 2022 conversation that you had with David, it was this beautiful intention of ours. And I am so incredibly proud and excited to share that, as of the end of 2023, we actually saw this through and implemented a determining and living wage in every one of the countries that we operate in.

So we had to partner. It was a fascinating process where knowing what a living wage is in the U.S. is relatively easy. The information is publicly available. In these other economies, it wasn't. You can't just go and Google it. Nobody's actually completed the research and agreed on a methodology to say that this is it.


The process of transitioning into a 100% living wage-paying company

Through our B Corp connections, we got connected to think tanks and universities, and we supported the research. And so we connected with, I think we worked with, IBON, which was a think tank in the Philippines, agreed on a methodology, and determined what a living wage should be in Manila. And it was based on an individual being able to support a family of, I'm going to lie now, I don't remember the size of the family, but support themselves and their children with housing, education, and basic medical needs.

We determined that, and then we very quickly made a commitment to not have anybody on our team earn below that living wage. So we made that living wage our minimum wage in our company. And it was quite controversial in the moment, but it's an example of the work that can be done to make sure that this industry is making the impact like that you mentioned—not just the access to the careers, but if you're thoughtful and intentional about it, like, are you actually getting people out of poverty cycles?

And are you having that impact on generations to come by creating access to meaningful work and careers and paying a fair wage while you're doing it? And so I don't know why we're stuck with the stigma, but I'm here to fix it.

Derek: It's incredible work. And I think you only need to zoom out and see the incredible economic impact that it's had on the Philippines, India, or Mexico, I assume, as well, but it just creates economic activity in economies where there's a dearth of that and a dearth of opportunity. Certainly there's been manufacturing in these offshore locations, but not staffing or professional services.

And so, it provides an incredible opportunity. And then, like anything, the industry starts out at very basic levels, doing basic functions, but after one or two generations, they're highly sophisticated and doing incredible stuff. And there's deep levels of executive talent that have come up since then. It's very powerful stuff, but it's hard for people to see that. 

The use and effects of AI in the outsourcing industry

Mari: It is quite complex. I think an example that comes to mind is that we have one of our clients, and they've been with us for six years. It's Urban Stems, and they are a flower delivery company, and we have this crazy seasonality for them, obviously on Mother's Day and Valentine's Day.

And it's been a beautiful learning curve with them. So we've walked a long path with them, and I had a super inspiring conversation just a couple of weeks ago with Laura, our point of contact there, and their customer support team. She's one of the trailblazers with Zendesk AI, and she has successfully implemented Zendesk AI to reduce the seasonality of the seasonal team that she needs over these intense periods by at least 30 to 40 percent.

ALSO READ: UrbanStems Turns to Boldr for Practical, Tactical Seasonal Support in Times of Incredible Demand and Uncertainty 

And the numbers that she shares about what she's achieved are really inspiring about how much more efficient we can be by working with AI. What was inspiring to me when you talk about individuals building a career in these industries is that three or four of the team members that helped them set this up are now working in the back end of Zendesk AI and are training the bot and doing the work of training the bot, monitoring what's implemented so that if something doesn't work the way it's supposed to, they can roll it back. 

They all grew up in their customer support team with Boldr, and she could be, she could pull, she could draw a direct line between the value of somebody who has worked in the queue for like a year, at least being in the best possible position to be able to train the AI bots, to monitor them, and to continue to be the human in the loop as they elevate their skill sets and they go from the mundane copy-paste work to the ones that are managing the automation of that work. I think it's a pretty beautiful arc in an individual's career, and it's the future of outsourcing and of customer support, at least.

ALSO READ: Introducing AI to the modern CX team 

Derek: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I see countless examples of people. Obviously, there are endless examples of people who start as agents, then build a career, and then they're, potentially, the CEO or an executive level of a BPO, and build very, very good, respectable, highly paid careers. But there's also the outliers that start as agents and then go and start their own outsourcing firm, and now they have hundreds of staff—well, thousands of staff themselves.

Like, and again, that's the economic machine, isn't it? It's capitalism at its best, where it's not just servitude and serfdom; it's actually kind of lifting up every player within the economy. 

Derek Gallimore asks:  What are you seeing in terms of AI for the outsourcing industry, and how are you going with it? Are you seeing any roles completely wiped out, or are you just increasing efficiency with tools? 

Mari Parker:

For the moment, it's increasing efficiencies. I do believe the future of it is that it is going to displace entry-level positions, which actually leaves a company like us with an important question to answer, like, What's going to happen to entry? What is the first job at a company going to look like in the future if a lot of this gets automated?

And how do you make sure that the community is ready for that? Right. And I don't know what role we have to play in that, but I think we would like to play a role because we are in the world of impact sourcing and we are in the world of bringing digital skills to economies that don't.

Especially in the regional areas of the markets that we're in, we're likely to invest in bringing digital skills to those markets. And if those are the jobs that are going to get automated in the future, there's a fundamental question that we're sitting with there: what happens there, and what is the impact we continue to have for those communities if there continues to be an opportunity there?

I feel like, from what I've seen, there's a lot of hype here, and it is inspiring. It's exciting. It's a little bit scary as a BPO, but scary not in a doom and gloom way, but there's an opportunity for us to pivot again.


Mari: It's something full. We don't get to choose our destiny, and it can go in multiple directions. So I am confident that there will always be humans in the loop in this process and that there'll always be a need for finding talent in these markets.

And so fundamentally, the business model isn't threatened, but that it's going to change, that the type of work that's being done is going to change, and that the way that we approach that work is going to change. And so for us, it's getting our team ready to do exactly what I described with this client, being ready to move from being the individual that answers all the tickets to being in a position to train the technology, to manage the technology, and to be that layer of oversight that in this moment is still necessary. I believe that it's going to be necessary for a while.

Outsource Accelerator Podcast with Boldr's President Mari Parker Quote

I'm assuming that there's a future. I could picture that there's a future where it's fully automated, humans are our role, and it shifts over time. But I think what's important to hear is that, as incredible as the results are that this individual had with Zendesk AI, that took, I think, six months of preparation.

And that was a significant time and energy investment with engineers from Zendesk working with them, with them having, I think, a few people dedicated to getting this set up for success. So when you hear things like, Oh, it's just plug and play, you can just flick a switch and it's magically going to take work away or automate work. I think people need to be wary of those situations and just recognize that there is still a lot of work that goes into setting these things up for success, but the opportunity is a hundred percent there and is going to disrupt our industry.

And I am hoping and trusting that it's going to disrupt it for the better and that it's going to create more meaningful work for individuals as this evolves.

Derek: I get the sense that outsourcing call centers used to be a technological backwater, and now it really seems to be right at the forefront. To be in this industry, you've got to be capable of navigating all these tools and harnessing all of the power, and everyone expects you to be omnichannel in everything. And I'm sure it wasn't. I don't know if every industry feels like that, whether every industry is saying, Gosh, there's a lot of technology that we're having to keep up with, but it certainly seems to be the case in outsourcing, in offshoring.

Mari: Yeah, I agree. And it's a lot to keep up with, and it's a lot to navigate and to really understand, like, what is for realsies here? Like, what is real, and what is smoke and mirrors?

It's a lot to wade through to figure out what's going to work because there are so many opportunistic startups out there, and I think we need to be careful to wade through them. I trust the big guys to figure this out. I know that Zendesk is doing a great job, and if I look at the progress that they've made and the progress they still have to make, it really puts into question for me some of the startups, that is, the claims that they're making seem a little bit naive in this moment.

I do believe that what they're saying is going to be true and that it's going to happen quickly, but we're not quite there yet. Not quite.

Derek: I agree. There's a lot of noise, and I don't think it serves you to be too early an adopter; just kind of hang back a little bit and wait for these tools to be proven. I don't know if you remember the whole buzz around chatbots; it was pre-AI, but you could program them, and there was such a buzz maybe seven years ago, but they were useless.

They were basically like IVRs. You just have to program them with set answers, and they were just absolutely useless, but obviously AI is going to be a lot different. The LLMs are going to be a lot different, but there are these hype cycles, and often they don't necessarily live up to what they promise.

Mari Parker: I think a part of that hype is that there's not a reality check of the work that goes into setting these up for success, and something that I'm really excited about is that we just hired; this is the first time in our history to date where we were in a position to actually hire one of our clients. We had a team member or a client who was very effective at implementing the chatbots and the automation at their organization over time, and they've joined us as part of our leading our implementation team and helping us set up some professional services around being able to support clients with that. And what I love about working with this gentleman, Chad, is that he is very real about the work that it takes to set those things up for success because they're not really overselling the potential of them; they're just underselling the work that goes into making them reach their full potential. How do you create or set up this automation so that it actually works?

Having a thorough knowledge database that actually represents every product update and is up-to-date, accurate, and clean is not a small piece of work. So yeah, I hear you. There's the hype, and then there's just the negligence of understanding the work that goes into it, and I'm excited for us to be in a position to help some of these clients and support teams through that.

Derek: Scary times, fascinating times, exciting times, Mari. Well, congratulations anyway, incredible growth, and give my best to David, and congratulations for reaching such growth, and it's a big team now, and you've done that with a solid eye on your own cultural and ethical stance, which is really, really refreshing for the industry and any industry to be honest, so congratulations.


If you are scaling your business and are interested in knowing more about the different outsourcing and employer of record services that Boldr can provide for your company, connect with us.

And if you want to explore further into this podcast, visit the homepage of The Outsource Accelerator Podcast with Derek Gallimore.