Posts Tagged ‘United States’


by Oliver Schmid

 

What is outsourcing and why might outsourcing be good?

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  • Do you make your own shoes?
  • Do you deliver your own mail?
  • Do you sew your own cloth?
  • Do built your own car?
  • Do you build your own house … by your own hands?
  • Do you have the skills to be your own physician and make your own medication?
  • Do you grow your own food and raise your own life stock?
  • Do you take care of your own trash removal?
  • Do you …. (fill in anything you do not yourself) … ?

If you answered ‘YES” to any of the questions above you are outsourcing.

Anytime a service is provided for something you don’t want to do yourself, anytime somebody else does something for you, you don’t want or can’t do you are outsourcing something. Have you ever thought about this when you are complaining about that too many things and too much work or services are outsourced?

Outsourcing has been around as long as mankind. Anytime somebody realized that they have a special skill for something and focus on this skill and providing these skills to others in exchange for services, goods or money it is outsourced.

Why are we doing this? Because we always were aware of the fact that certain people have special skills one might not posses themselves and in return this person might have a skill somebody else does not have.

Outsourcing is nothing that was invented yesterday. What is new, is that we have realized people in other areas or countries have the same skills but perform these skills for a fraction of the cost. Before complaining about outsourcing think about whether the task on hand that is outsourced would be something you wanted to do yourself and had the skills to do yourself.

Think about if each of us had to grow their own food, build their own homes, remove their own trash, … you continue the list … would we still be able to fly to the moon, invent all the technological gadgets we have today that make our lives so much easier and more comfortable. Be honest to yourself. Most likely not.

By giving work and services away too others we  freed ourselves to learn other things, specialize and improve on skills we have as well as developing new skills.

Reflect on your daily tasks, your job, your kids, your family. Aren’t you performing outsourced services for them because you know how to do a particular process or task.

Over the years I have learned and realized that most of the tasks or work we outsource to other countries are things we really don’t want to do ourselves. I have worked for instance with domestic call centers just to learn that the people working there are not really happy in their job. They don’t want to listen to other people complaining. They don’t want solve other peoples problems. Eventually these people leave their jobs because they get burned out or fed up with what they are doing. Churn in US call centers is many times higher than compared to Indian or Philippine call centers. The reasons here for will be subject of another follow-up blog, since the subject is so complex in itself.

We only outsource work we don’t want to do ourselves or are not willing to pay for if it would be done in our own country (onshore outsourcing).

Without getting deeper into why we are outsourcing and all the plausible and less plausible reasons, ask yourself when hearing about outsourcing or complaining about outsourcing:

  • “Would you be willing to it yourself?”
  • “Do you have the skills?”
  • “Would you want to perform the same work for the same amount of pay?”
  • “Would you be willing to pay for the service if it would be done by what you expect a fair wage if you would do the same work? “

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… Watch for Gaps in English and IP Protection | Nearshore Americas | Latin America Outsourcing Analysis and Expert Commentary.

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I visited Peru on occasion and it is a great country with friendly people, but with a very shaky and unreliable infrastructure. English skills are almost non existent and certain important business skills are lacking. I would be very hesitant to outsource critical business processes to Peru. It is true that the income level is extremely low but this also reflects in the education. The majority of the people living in Peru cannot afford a decent education.
As I said, I love Peru and its people and its a great country to visit and I encourage everybody to see Peru and enjoy its culture.

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by Oliver Schmid


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Over the last 15 years I have participated and managed various different outsourcing initiatives. With the first undertaking, in 1995, I was involved in was the onshore or domestic outsourcing of a technical support group to a “local” call center. Eventually the whole project failed after approximately 18 month. This failure was not due to a lack of training, but rather due to churn at the outsourcing provider. They had such a high turnover of call center staff that the outsourcer was not able keeping up with training and retaining the know-how at the call center.

Subsequent studies and interviews with other organizations and 3rd party outsourcing providers I conducted, eventually uncovered that this was a common issue within the US call center industry. Being a call center agent that works in a support role can be a very demanding and stressful profession and there are not many people that can or want to be the ones dealing with other peoples problems, frustrations and complaints. It takes a special person to do that and still be able to remain calm but assertive.

Eventually the call center was pulled back in-house and we built a complete call center from scratch. Meaning we put the technology behind to support the call center agents, like a telephone system (AVAYA DEFINITY) that supported important call center functions, like:

  • call center monitoring application (BCMSVU) through wall boards and computer integrated telephony (CIT) as well as call center statistics.
  • Integrated Voice Recognition (IVR) application (PROLOGIX)

We implemented technology that provided call center agents the ability to log and research tickets, escalate calls to a higher level as well as recording calls for training purposes.

But the most important aspect has been that we hired people that fit the profile of a successful call center agent. People that did not mind dealing with other peoples problems. People that did not get upset about being yelled at or >on occasion<  being cursed at for no obvious reason, except the callers frustration that may or may not have been caused by the call center agent. It was important to support the call center agents in their task and function. The agents were given the ability to take frequent unscheduled breaks, especially after a extremely stressful call. All agents had the ability to conference in a supervisor if required, either through caller demand or if the agent thought it would be wise for conflict resolution. Call Center Agents were encouraged to talk to their supervisors and managers at any time if they needed to vent after a call or were in need of advise how to handle certain situations.

The call center eventually became very successful and was in operation for over 4 years with almost no turnover.

Eventually the organization increased its sales volume, which within a period of 2 years more than tripled, that the current call center setting just could not handle the onslaught of support calls anymore without increasing call hours and the number of agents. The budget in place did not support this.  Agents started to get burned out and leave, which in the long run led to not only a loss (call abandoned rate) of over 70% of all support calls but also tarnished the brand reputation.

Once more we looked into outsourcing opportunities. Briefly we evaluated nearshore call centers but came to the conclusion that this would not have been feasible since there would have been no cost savings and careful evaluation of these domestic call centers eventually revealed that they still had a fairly high turnover, which would have meant frequent loss of know-how and retraining (added cost).

We started to look into offshore outsourcing and what is the first country everybody thinks when talking about offshore outsourcing. Correct – India. We talked to call centers in India, talked to their clients and evaluated the supporting infrastructure (national telephone infrastructure in particular) in India. We also talked to some of our customers and their opinion if they would have to talk to a person in India and we discovered a resentment from our customers. This resentment mainly originated from the fact that they had to talk to a person with, as they perceived, limited language skills. Often these perception was based on a heavy Indian accent, even if the person had adequate verbal and grammatical language skills.

The fact is that most Indian people grow up speaking Hindi (or any dialect of it), while English is the secondary language and even with the most advanced training it is almost impossible for most of the population not to have an accent.

We then started to look into the Philippines as possible call center location. We performed the Philippine call center evaluation with the same scrutiny as we did with the Indian call centers and we learned that the English language co-exists with Tagalog or Filipino as official language and that English was already taught in kinder-garden. Filipino is an official language of education, but less important than English. It is the major language of the broadcast media and cinema, but less important than English as a language of publication (except in some domains, like comic books, which are meant to speak directly to the Filipino psyche) and less important for academic-scientific-technological discourse. (1).

Eventually, it was decided to outsource the call center to the Philippines. The corporate head quarter of this call center was  in the US (NJ). In a matter of fact this call center organization even operated its own LEC (LEBBSI a FCC 214 licensed carrier)(2), with its own fiber optics lines from the US (CA) to the Philippines. It allowed for 24/7 call center coverage while the call abandoned rate almost overnight dropped from 70% to less than 1%. Startup cost for the Philippine call center was higher than with an onshore call center, since we had to fly equipment and trainers to the Philippines for the initial training.

Many organizations make the mistake to walk away from their responsibilities once the initial outsourcing process has been completed and leave their outsourcing provider up to themselves. This often can have catastrophic results and may lead to a complete failure of the outsourcing initiative.

During my time of researching various outsourcing organizations and talking to not only their management boards but also to their floor supervisor and even some agents, I had learned how important an open line between the organization that is outsourcing  and its provider can be. After the initial phase we had a structured approach on dealing with the call center and issues that did arise. We had established frequent scheduled conference calls to deal with issues while still providing floor supervisors to call our internal resources direct if required. We established an escalation procedures which all agents and in-house staff was aware of. We provided frequent product training via video conferencing for new employees or if existing agents were not completely familiar with the product and its functionality. We had a complete line of our most sold products on the floor at the call center. This way agents could actually follow the customer and explain more accurate and provide better support.

Over time, as we learned and became familiar with the call center and as they became more familiar with our product the call center became more autonome  and more efficient. Over time we introduced more of our more complex products to the call center.

We provided the call center agents with incentives, like t-shirts, marketing gadgets like pens, note pads, etc. and we even provided for the occasional lunch or other social gathering, which became a huge success. We even learned that call center agents from other groups were eager to join our groups.

In a matter of fact we worked with 2 support groups. The first group was a group that provided very basic trouble shooting support based on a Top 10 trouble shooting list as well as up an cross selling, where the second group handled more complex problems that were escalated by the first group. When the second group was unable to help the call eventually came back to us for follow-up support.

This call center has been in place now since fall of 2003 and has been and continues to be very successful. Initially we were able to provide the increased (24/7 and almost no lost calls) support at the same cost as when we operated an in-house 25 agent call center.

This story demonstrates that outsourcing can be successful if done right.


Oliver Schmid  led and participated in other successful outsourcing initiatives, like:

  • Warehousing and Logistics to 3PL providers
  • Data Center monitoring and support
  • Data Center redundancy & sustainability
  • ERP Implementation Project Management and Coordination

Sources:

(1)  Wikipedia: Languages of the Philippines

(2) Cyber City Teleservices


I just came across this great video talking about how outsourcing can make sense for your small business.

Dr Marc Kossmann and Charlie Seymour Jr explain how outsourcing can help you running your business better and more successful by allowing you to concentrate what you are doing best.

I am in no way affiliated with them but it makes really sense to me.



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Even the article ”

“Top 10 Risks of Offshore Outsourcing”

by ZDNET.COM is already 7 years old, it still contains valuable advice about offshore outsourcing. Many business are doing any of it and are wondering why their offshore outsourcing projects are failing or do not show the expected result or success.

Today while companies are struggling to reinvent themselves it is even more critical to have a structured outsourcing plan in place. A plan that everybody from the top down agrees upon and is able to follow. Not all organizations have the resources and/or skills and experience to do it right the first time around. In today’s economy it is critical that all aspects are considered and only a person with the respective experience can help to make an outsourcing task or project successful. Talk to somebody who has the experience and has this done already  multiple times successfully.


Oliver Schmid has extensive experience in offshore outsourcing to the Philippines, onshore outsourcing to Canada and domestic Outsourcing of matrix oriented call centers.  He is also versified in outsourcing of data center operations and data center monitoring and support. In addition Oliver Schmid participated in various 3PL and Supply Chain outsourcing initiatives.

The Face of Supply Chain Outsourcing!

Supply Chain outsourcing has changed significantly over the last decade.


Supply Chain Outsourcing to a Third Party Logistics Provider or 3PL started out as having a product stored at an outside warehousing facility and then have the 3PL move the product from one facility to another based on instructions provided with each transaction order.

Today’s 3PL providers offer a range of additional services that range from

  • Physical logistics operations, like shipping and receiving.
  • Provide warehousing.
  • Manage complex operational handling, that may include repackaging, product maintenance, product consolidation
  • Administration.
  • Information Management Systems that integrate into and from a client’s backend ERP System, and automate the flow of transaction data, therefore minimizing human intervention and reducing data errors.
  • Providing customer broker services.
  • International freight forwarding, which may include the creation of all required customs forms and complying with all customs regulations (import & export) as well as providing so-called “Free-Trade-Zones”.

The type and number of services provided by the 3PL are defined during the engagement and contract phase, which also includes Service Level Agreements. These add-on services can quickly multiply and must be considered carefully.

Most important in any new 3PL relationship is not to go overboard and assigning to many services to the 3PL or not enough. Both scenarios can have not only a negative impact on your business but also on the business relationship between a 3PL and its client and, “Very Bad”, the client’s customer.

Why wouldn’t you give away as many business processes as possible right away to the new 3PL? Can it not just be in my interest to reduce my internal processes and labor in order to justify the outsourcing cost?

The danger here is, since it is a new partnership the 3PL is not to familiar with the clients operational processes, its customers and its products. Giving to much control and decision making to a new 3PL will cause friction in the day-to-day business operations between the 3PL and its client due to misunderstandings, lack of familiarity of business processes, and other requirements that were communicated either insufficiently or not at all.
At the same time will the 3PL client’s staff not be familiar with the 3PL’s operations and its issues and challenges. For this reason the client needs to monitor the 3PL’s operations and be able to assist and intervene right away until both sides are satisfied with the final outcome of the processes assigned and its expected results.

Keeping to much control inhouse at the client will have similar effects.
To much back-and-forth communication is required which can lead to misunderstandings and untimely business process fulfillment.
It can lead to friction between both parties due to misunderstood instructions and can be seen easily by the 3PL as being micro-managed.
It can lead to delays in any physical operations as it may pertain to shipping and receiving products into and from the 3PL location or processing and submitting the required paperwork or electronic equivalent transactions.
It is imperative to define responsibilities clearly. It is to nobodies favor to have contract and service level agreements that leaves the agreement up to interpretation by either party.

Any relationship with a new 3PL should be setup in stages with clearly defined time-lines in order for all parties to understand the expectations and responsibilities now and in the future.
Not doing so may lead to increased cost and delay in business processes implementation as well as it can put unnecessary strain on the business partnership.

Having a clearly defined Supply Chain Outsourcing Plan, will be a win-win situation for all parties involved, starting at the manufacturing operation, over warehousing and distribution to the final customers. It can lead for all parties to a reduction in cost and increase profits, since each party can concentrate on their core business processes.


Oliver Schmid has extensive experience in offshore outsourcing to the Philippines, onshore outsourcing to Canada and domestic Outsourcing of matrix oriented call centers.  He is also versified in outsourcing of data center operations and data center monitoring and support. In addition Oliver Schmid participated in various 3PL and Supply Chain outsourcing initiatives.


Disclaimers:

This post was originally posted on the LinkedIn Group “Outsourcing to Ukraine” by Alena Shechkova at the Ainstainer Group and has been republished on this Blog with her consent.

This article is a shortened article of Jérôme Barthélemy “The seven deadly sins of outsourcing

The Seven Deadly Sins of Outsourcing

While outsourcing is a powerful tool to cut costs, improve performance, and refocus on the core business, outsourcing initiatives often fall short of management’s expectations. Outsourcing failures are rarely reported because firms are reluctant to publicize them. However, contrasting them with more successful outsourcing efforts can yield useful “best practices”. Through a survey of nearly a hundred outsourcing efforts in Europe and the United States Jérôme Barthélemy in his article “The seven deadly sins of outsourcing” underlined most failed outsourcing efforts. Here they are:

  1. OUTSOURCING ACTIVITIES THAT SHOULD NOT BE OUTSOURCED. Determining which activities can be best performed by outside vendors requires a good understanding of where the firm’s competitive advantage comes from. Resources and capabilities that are valuable, rare, difficult to imitate, and difficult to substitute for lead to superior performance. Activities that are based on such resources and capabilities (i.e., core activities) should not be outsourced because firms risk losing competitive advantage and becoming “hollow corporations”.
  2. SELECTING THE WRONG VENDOR. Selecting a good vendor is crucial for successful outsourcing. The literature has identified numerous criteria for successful provider choice. A useful distinction can be made between hard and soft qualifications. The first are tangible and can be easily verified by due diligence. Hard qualifications refer to the ability of vendors to provide low-cost and state-of the-art solutions. Important criteria also include business experience and financial strength. Soft qualifications are attitudinal. They may be non-verifiable and may change depending on circumstances. Important soft criteria also include a good cultural fit, a commitment to continuous improvement, flexibility, and a commitment to develop long-term relationships.
  3. WRITING A POOR CONTRACT. Since the 1980s, vendor partnerships have emerged as a model of purchasing excellence. Partnerships replace market competition by close and trust-based relationships with a few selected vendors. The notion that outsourcing vendors are partners and that contracts play a minor role was popularized by a landmark IT outsourcing deal. However, there are pitfalls in partnership management. A good contract is essential to outsourcing success because the contract helps establish a balance of power between the client and the vendor. Spending too little time negotiating the contract and pretending that the partnership relationship with the vendor will take care of everything is a mistake. Drafting a good contract is always important because it allows partners to set expectations and to commit themselves to short-term goals
  4. OVERLOOKING PERSONNEL ISSUES. The efficient management of personnel issues is crucial because employees generally view outsourcing as an underestimation of their skills. This may result in a massive exodus even before an actual outsourcing decision has been made. Firms that contemplate outsourcing must face two interrelated personnel issues. First, key employees must be retained and motivated. A second personnel issue is that the commitment of employees transferred to the vendor must also be secured.
  5. LOSING CONTROL OVER THE OUTSOURCED ACTIVITY. When the performance quality of an activity is low, managers are often tempted to outsource it. If poor performance is attributable to factors such as insufficient scale economies or a lack of expertise, outsourcing makes sense. If poor performance is attributable to poor management, outsourcing is not necessarily the right solution. When an activity is outsourced, it is crucial to retain a small group of managers to handle the vendor. These managers must be able to develop the strategy of the outsourced activity and keep it in alignment with the overall corporate strategy. While vendor management skills are very important, they must also be complemented with technical skills. If no one in the company is able to assess technological developments, outsourcing is bound to fail.
  6. OVERLOOKING THE HIDDEN COSTS OF OUTSOURCING. Outsourcing clients are generally confident that they can assess whether or not outsourcing results in cost savings. However. They are often overlook costs that can seriously threaten the viability of outsourcing efforts. Transaction cost economics (TCE) suggests two main types of outsourcing hidden costs. First, outsourcing vendor search and contracting costs. Search costs are the costs of gathering information to identify and assess suitable vendors. Contracting costs are the costs of negotiating and writing the outsourced contract. Second, outsourcing management costs: monitoring the agreement to ensure that vendors fulfill their contractual obligations, bargaining with vendors and sanctioning them when they do not perform according to the contract when unforeseen circumstances arise.
  7. FAILING TO PLAN AN EXIT STRATEGY. Many managers are reluctant to anticipate the end of an outsourcing contract. Therefore, they often fail to plan an exit strategy (i.e., vendor switch or reintegration of an outsourced activity. Actually, outsourcing relationships can be viewed on a continuum. At one end are large-term relationships where investments specific to the relationships have been made by one or both partners. At the other end are market relationships where the client has a choice of many vendors and the ability to switch vendors with little cost and inconveniences. In this case, there is no real advantage in recontracting with the same vendor.

Oliver Schmid has extensive experience in offshore outsourcing to the Philippines, onshore outsourcing to Canada and domestic Outsourcing of matrix oriented call centers. He is also versified in outsourcing of data center operations and data center monitoring and support. In addition Oliver Schmid participated in various 3PL and Supply Chain outsourcing initiatives.