Once an agreement has been executed with an outsourcing partner, the key to the success of that relationship is viewing each other as equals. If the relationship has been planned properly, expectations are already in place on both sides, and there has been “buy-in” from both parties, the relationship should be pursued in the spirit of mutual success. The company that creates a genuine spirit of cooperation with the provider is one that will typically achieve tremendous success with their program. Rather than finger pointing in cases of failure, a culture of problem solving is created and one in which providing the end customer a solution trumps squabbling. The best outsourcers are those who proactively identify problems and work with the client company to provide long term solutions and continuing improvement to processes. The most successful outsourcing clients are those who create relationships at all levels of the organization, not just top down or client/server relationships.
INVESTMENT, NOT COST
One of the biggest mistakes companies make when embarking on an outsourcing relationship is to put too much emphasis on cost savings. Creating a strong partnership with an outsourcer is an investment. Providing them with product samples, training/mentoring and solid remote and local support is critical to not only the long-term success of the relationship, but how quickly it can be implemented. Outsourced technical support has failed in some cases because the client company chose to send old and outdated equipment for training and the production floor. At an industry conference I heard a story about half the equipment failing upon delivery, resulting in a negative impression on the part of the staff, and poor support of the end users calling into the call center. When the partner is treated as a part of the team, it creates better morale, encourages efficiency and creates a team better prepared to assist the customer.
TRANSPARENCY NOT SECRECY
Keeping secrets from your outsourcing partner is a recipe for failure. One well known computer company had a known bug in shipping product. Rather than inform the outsourcing partner and involve them in creating a solution, the client company kept the issue a secret and denied the existence of the problem. This continued for some time until end user dissatisfaction and returns created blowback to the manufacturer and cost them millions in sales and returns. By working with the partner, the company would have likely solved the problem much quicker by getting more specific feedback during customer support calls. The result of this lack of transparency frustrated customers and agents who knew something was wrong, but were not being given the tools to do their jobs effectively.
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TEAMWORK AND HEALTHY COMPETITION
In most cases unless a company is completely new, an outsourcing relationship will mean coexisting with two teams, the client and the outsourcer, or in some cases several teams. Initially this may create some tension and “unhealthy,” competition, especially if the home team knows or suspects that they will be replaced by a “cheaper” nearshore team. Each company has their own method of dealing with their replacement strategy, but creating healthy competition among the different teams is a great way to create excellence in service. Making sure that comparable incentives are offered (not necessarily the same, but comparable), is an effective way of doing this. Each group should also be responsible for creating their own goals that fit within the group metrics. Accomplishments and goals should be shared across working groups. Successful multi-location teams also provide opportunities for employees to travel to the different locations and work together. The key is creating an environment of One Team/One Mission, without eliminating the distinct characteristics and culture of each team.
CONTINUOUS EVALUATION AND ADJUSTMENT
The final element in creating excellence in an outsourcing relationship is to include everyone in continuous evaluation and improvement. Your outsourcing partner can be one of your most valuable assets. They are on the front lines of unfiltered feedback from your customers. Providing an outlet for them to offer feedback and suggestions is part of a proactive way of improving process, training and even product. Successful teams will often have Quality Assurance groups that span different locations. These groups are responsible for ensuring the multidirectional flow of information and for consistency in processes. The difference between a problem being identified and resolved quickly is often about how quickly the problem is communicated to someone authorized fix it or make adjustments in product or process.
Treat your outsourcer as a partner and your program and customers will benefit immensely.