You may have stumbled on a number of articles that explain the benefits of outsourcing. There’s a lot of truth to them: outsourcing has a lot of perks for businesses that have gaps in processes, or for startups that can’t fund whole departments. There are plenty of companies out there that can meet your business needs and deliver consistent excellence.
The problem is the overwhelming number of outsourcing companies in the world. Over 500,000 jobs have been outsourced since 2000. All of these jobs have to go somewhere. Even though most of these companies are most likely to exceed your expectations, there are still a number of issues and compatibility considerations that you may want to patch with your company first before choosing a vendor. You don’t want to have regrets later on, right?
Below are some of the common elements you and your outsourcing vendor have to align in before making anything final. There are also more compelling components, which we’ll discuss in the next installment, but the following are the first few ones to consider when choosing a vendor:
1. Track performance and field expertise
One of the most important elements to measure before entering into a partnership is knowing how well you can reach your goals together. Therefore, one of the first things to look at when assessing vendors is how their expertise shows in their work. But how does one go about this? Surely, if one were to ask providers how good they were, they’d put their best foot forward and give all sorts of business pitches and flowery words.
“Peter, when they said performance track record, they didn’t mean the annual company marathon.”
The first thing you should look at is how long they have been rendering the service you’re considering. It’s one thing for them to have all of these experts on the team, but what we should be looking at is how long they have been in active service. The longer they’ve been active, the more likely that they have smoothened out their internal processes and other company operations. Company stability should be one of your priorities; everyone hates fly-by-night companies.
Second, you have to look at their field expertise. In their years of service, what kind of work have they produced? A portfolio is a good way to check this. Look at the clients they’ve handled: did those businesses share your goals or business requirements? It’s not just about quantity—most business process outsourcing companies will use that as a selling point—it’s also about the nature of their experience.
Lastly, background checking is also important. No, you don’t have to check which end-to-end processes they handled. You just have to look at how they were able to delight their customers. You can do this by looking at the company testimonials on their website, and calling them, or any department concerned, and asking for their feedback. Was the vendor able to add value to their businesses? Were there things to improve upon? By learning how other clients were delighted, you can prepare your own expectations from this company.
2. Communication skills
The art of communication has accelerated in today’s world. There are now more ways to express yourself using multiple media, and more people are now willing to listen. That, however, doesn’t mean that the content of communication per se has improved; that still depends on whom you’re talking to.
If you’re looking to outsource, you’re most likely looking at other countries and multiple, most likely Asian, companies. The first thing you’ll realize that’s different when the first phone call comes in is communication differences. Beyond grammar and syntax, their culture usually dictates how they speak and exchange ideas with you.
Imagine this scenario on a company-wide announcement.
Communication is key. According to one global survey on outsourcing, the eighth most common challenge companies have with their outsourcing partners is communication barriers. Some of them have difficulty rolling out new processes because certain vendors are not fluent in English or whatever language the client speaks in. Miscommunication—in things like programming, branding messages, and so on—can make project rollouts take almost twice as long to complete.
Poor communication also entails problematic relay of initiatives.If the communication between the team leaders and the client becomes too frequent, this disrupts businesses for both sides. When looking for a vendor, make sure that there is an alignment to their language and communication methods to save time, money, and effort when outsourcing.
3. Infrastructure and Certifications
Most processes you’re going to outsource will be transmitted digitally, and most tools that monitor your processes and goals are also synchronized online. The more sensitive the process and data you’re going to send, the more you should look out for IT infrastructure and other certifications that can manage risks for both you and your chosen vendor.
One of the most esteemed certifications is the ISO/IEC 27001. Though it’s not obligatory, you can be sure that companies certified by this body are serious about protecting your data physically and digitally. There are plenty of other certifications that are equally legitimate as the ISO/IEC. Take note, though, that certified companies may price higher for outsourcing. Assess first which processes you’re willing to outsource before you look for certain certifications so you can adjust your budget accordingly.
Like our data, what little hair we have left must be protected.
These are the most common elements to consider when you’re faced with choosing from a list of outsourcing vendors. Make sure that they can walk the walk, and that they can talk the talk at the same time. Stay tuned for the second installment where we’ll cover three more elements, so make sure you read it before you sign any contracts!
If you still have a few burning questions about outsourcing, you may want a noncommittal consultation. Try it out!
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