Always evaluate the communication abilities of your offshore outsourcing vendor along with technical and operational competencies.
So you've decided to outsource certain functions to India as part of a corporate revenue and growth strategy and are scouting around for a outsourcing partner. Bear in mind that while judging the technical and operational competencies of potential vendors, you need to simultaneously test their communication abilities too. An outsourcing deal is a long-term relationship and anything short of open and honest communication can wreck the partnership.
(a) Correctness - in terms of the how the work is to be done,
(b) Completeness - of all work done, and
(c) Commitment to deadlines. While Indian technical competencies are rarely ever in doubt, a huge chunk of the Indian BPO workforce has a long way to go in the communication skills department.
Most companies train their employees in these areas but a customer needs to know if honest communication is ingrained in the vendor's work culture.
To help you decide whether your vendor can successfully bridge the cultural divide, here is a step-by-step guide to things you can do and look out for during the negotiation phase to avoid problems later on. At the outset, there are the absolute basics that potential BPO vendors must do.
1. Establish credentials: Your vendor should be able to prove his company's credentials in terms of past work done - provide you work samples if needed - as well as the firm's ability to conform to your requirements. The vendor must be well-versed with the kind of compliance standards your process demands and clearly understand its importance.
2.Business proposal: The proposal a vendor submits must be detailed, transparent and must emphasize HOW the job will be done. Often, less experienced companies will tell you WHAT they can or will do but become vague when asked to explain in a step-by-step manner HOW this will be done. If they cannot explain a predictable and repeatable process, they have not understood you as a client and are not worth doing business with.
3. The proposal must also contain:
4. Security/Compliance standards: The proposal must state in detail the compliance/security requirements for the task and also how the company will ensure that its workforce understands and implements these.
5. Training for staff: The vendor must clearly state the exact nature of the domain knowledge and communication training planned for its staff. This is a must in the Indian context because many fresh graduates often don't know how to use their knowledge in practical applications. Sometimes, even people with a few years of experience think what they know is enough to do the job. Worse, they don't understand or know how to deal with the work culture of Europe/America. A potentially destructive combination, but it does exist. So look into the vendor's technical and soft skills training programs and insist on specific training if necessary.
6. Technical communication infrastructure: This is no longer a problem since good Indian BPO providers possess or have easy access to world-class computing, networking and security-related technical infrastructure. Communication via email, instant messenger and teleconferencing is the norm. Bandwidth and connectivity are no longer an issue. So beware of vendors who say that they can 'make do' with anything less than what you want.
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So far, so good. Now comes the tough part: quantifying the human aspect of things in an agreement. It's practically impossible. But you can pre-empt that with a few simple DOs and DON'Ts to ensure that your outsourcing plan isn't destroyed by a vendor who can't bridge the culture/communication chasm.
1. The first step: Most negotiations start off with letters of inquiry. How long did it take the vendor to answer to your email? How comprehensive was the reply? Was it personalized or did it seem like a one-size-fits-all kind of response? If you're satisfied, ask to interact with not just the business development team but with some operations people as well. Check their responses along the same parameters. If a company refuses to let you interact with any operations people, you'll know something is not right.
2. Let's get talking: Beware of vendors who don't want to actually talk to you and prefer to do everything via email at the negotiation stage. Even if the vendor can't meet you personally, they should be willing to hold conference calls where individuals/teams from both parties can hold open discussions. Verbal interaction will allow you to judge a host of things from basic language and communication skills to attitude and work culture. Spend a little time to get to know these people and what makes them tick. Then you'll know whether or not you want to do business with them.
3. Language and communication skills: Yes, English is a kind of second language in India but the spoken English skills of younger professionals leave much to be desired. Yet forget the 'brand' of English they speak and focus on whether a vendor's team can make themselves clearly understood without trouble. Look out for the following:
4. The internal workings of the company: Ask about how the company is structured and how they work. How are the employees treated? Do they have a vision, a mission statement, a consciously-defined work culture? When a company is up front with its own workers, it is unlikely to hide much from its customers.
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5. Offices outside India: Many smaller players don't have offices outside India but that doesn't mean they're not good. However, if a company does have offices abroad, it is an indication of its success and the fact that it has exposure to foreign work cultures. To an extent, this contributes to bridging the culture gap.
We hope this article provided you with valuable information, which will help you to make more informed outsourcing decisions. Please get in touch with us at Outsource2india if you are interested in outsourcing to India, or even if you would just like to find out more.
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