Outsourcing: An Outsource Provider’s Perspective
By Roy Figueroa
Director for Operations, hammerjack
When people think outsourcing, they usually think savings. However, you should expect a lot more than just savings. When done right, you can expect increased productivity, higher quality, and even improved customer experience.
When done right...
I am a Filipino national and have been working in the outsourcing industry for the last 12 years. I have played a key role in many offshoring projects to the Philippines for companies, large and small. I have witnessed seamless lift-and-shifts and outsourcing horror stories, learning a great deal from the latter. I have managed teams that provided outsourced solutions to organizations needing support for their accounting, sales, collections, tech, customer service, and back-office needs. So, yep, I have been around. And like a customer dialing a customer service number for the 168th time in 3 days, I’ve learned how to navigate the confusing IVR maze of outsourcing.
What are the usual outsourcing pitfalls?
There are hundreds of things that can go wrong when outsourcing. But in the interest of keeping your attention, I’ll keep this short and focus only on the most common I’ve seen so far. All revolve around cultural awareness and are, luckily for you, easy to avoid.
1. We love processes
You might be thinking, “how can this be bad?” Well, it’s really not. But processes for the Business Process Outsourcing industry is like calcium for our skeletal system. The deficiency in calcium could mean the failure of the skeletal system. Too much calcium could mean an extra tooth or a longer nose…you get the picture.
The lack of processes or details within a process can leave your organization exposed to the risk of not achieving its objectives. Vague or missing parts within a process e.g. no defined escalation points, can encourage workarounds which do not always deliver your desired outcomes, e.g. staff passing on the issue to the whoever is available.
Too many processes or details within a process, on the other hand, encourages over reliance on instructions and can negate your workforce’s skills and experience. You don’t want your people to become like robots who aren’t able to move unless your programming is perfect.
Truth is, finding the right amount of process or details within a process is tricky. To avoid this pitfall, focus on the objectives of your processes and make sure every person who has a part to play understand what you are trying to achieve. The excesses and deficiencies of the process will be corrected along the way.
Note: The absence of processes, and any interest to establish processes, within your organization means that business process outsourcing is not for you as there basically is nothing to outsource. It’s as simple as that.
2. Every Tom, Dick and Harry in your organization may be viewed as a “boss”
Probably because of the Philippines’ history of being colonized by the Spaniards, the Americans, the Japanese, and then again by the Americans for close to 400 years combined, a lot of us are respectful to the point of being subservient to foreigners, especially Westerners. Why is this a problem? Because it is unlikely that Tom, Dick and Harry are all decision-makers within your organization. They might even be working in fairly junior positions sent with a specific purpose to train or act as a subject matter expert. If they have direct contact with your offshore team, they can create confusion just by providing an opinion on a matter.
Clear communication pathways and a rigid change management process, especially for bigger organizations, can help you avoid this. In simple terms, define who is a “boss” and who is not. Setting expectations with Tom, Dick and Harry before they set-off for the sunny islands of the Philippines is also important in keeping them grounded and focused on the task at hand.
3. Don’t ask us if we have questions to check if we understood. Ask us questions.
You have to understand that as a people, we are very shy. The thought of raising our hand while within a group to broadcast that we didn’t understand something that you said can be very stressful. We always hope that a brave soul is among us to take one for the team.
Not seeing this pitfall can mean waiting for customer complaints or costly processing errors to happen before you spot simple cases of process misinterpretations.
Avoid it by asking specific questions during meetings or process roll outs to check for understanding. Quality audits or random knowledge checks after a process change communication can also help.
4. English is English wherever you go
It is not.
Accepting that how you talk to an Aussie in English can be misinterpreted by a Filipino even if you’re using English as well is necessary. Most Filipinos in the BPO industry are college graduates and went through school with English as the primary medium of instruction. So we’re not new to English. However, there are peculiarities in vocabulary and spelling, and glaring differences in pronunciation, that will cause misinterpretations.
To avoid this from happening, best to have written communications reviewed first by a local manager or team leader before sending to a larger group.
For face-to-face meetings, you can involve a local manager or give the responsibility to cascade to him altogether provided that you’re confident he gets it and can communicate both content and intent.
We’re outsourcing experts and have helped hundreds of Aussie businesses achieve their outsourcing/offshoring objectives by leveraging our rich experiences in the BPO industries of the Philippines and Australia. We are a key Microsoft partner and our technological capabilities, along with our deep understanding of Australian business needs, have enabled us to provide solutions that are innovative and cost effective.
If you aren’t sure about outsourcing or are just interested to know more, feel free to reach out or, alternatively, meet with our Australia-based team. We love talking about outsourcing.