An outsourcing strategy can be used to solve business problems ranging from lowering costs and scaling, to expanding geographical or language reach of your team. However being successful at these strategies is not always easy. According to Deloitte, almost one-third of outsourced teams fail to meet expected service levels, and almost one-half have measurable quality problems. These challenges are typically caused because of fundamental differences between starting and leading an outsourced team versus onshore/inhouse team. To be successful, you need to ensure you build a highly engaged team of right-skilled people and are measuring them effectively.
All hiring profiles are not equal. Building a thriving team anywhere requires a set of diverse skill sets. For example, one team member may be better with customers versus another who excels at technology, or one could be a self-starter with management aspirations, and another prefers to be given his or her tasks to complete. This diversity is vital to a constantly growing and self-sustaining team where multiple skills coalesce to function together and solve your business problems. While it is no different for outsourced teams, it’s important to decide on what gap that team will fill.
Typically, that role is smaller in scope, and has a more defined career path/task expansion than an inhouse team. Focused roles could be providing support for a smaller range of products, servicing only a specific type of request, or data entry for one aspect of your business. Job descriptions for outsourced teams need to be specific because business process outsourcing (BPO) companies deal with thousands of businesses with an even larger differentiation in requirements.
For example, your understanding of a ‘Support’ skill set may be clear, but their recruiters will have had that word defined dozens of different ways. To ensure they put forward the right candidates, they need the specifics for the role. It’s also useful to avoid flowery language that doesn’t accurately represent the role. Does your outsourced team ‘need to innovate’, have a ‘go-getter attitude’, or ‘evangelize the brand’? Focus on the exact skills you need. If you want someone who knows a specific technology, name it. If you want someone who can work weird hours, call it out. If the person’s written skills are most important, it has to be clear if possible.
Most BPOs will allow you to meet their proposed candidates. Including yourself in the process allows you to ask further questions to ensure diversity in your team, while only meeting candidates that have the basic skills you require. It is also important to make clear if there are opportunities for career progression or new tasks. This can help the BPO with understanding your business and expectations and it could change the hiring profile you use. Since onshore roles have more variance and career growth, the job description for an outsourced role may be quite different to get the right candidate.
Once your team is in place, there are some key considerations to measuring their success that differ from an inhouse team. Outsourced teams are typically at a disadvantage from their onshore colleagues. This could be in the form of restrictions to systems or data due to laws/standards like SOC2 or GDRP, access to SMEs, technology, role/skill level, job scope, growth opportunities etc. With these considerations, it is important to pick their KPIs and metrics with a different mindset that you would with an inhouse team. This does not mean the team cannot be held to the same service level expectations. It refers to their goals needing to vary, and have to be created with a different mindset.
For example, if your inhouse team handles 100 customer calls a day, your outsourced team might be expected to handle 75 because their technology or skillset may mean each interaction takes longer. Focus on the key pain points you are trying to solve. If you are using the team to make data entry more effective, the team may not be able to enter the data as fast as your inhouse team, but does the added efficiency of cost and time saved outweigh the slightly slower ‘time per widget’? In other words, regardless of a KPI you are used to measuring, is your business better off overall? By adopting this mindset, you may use different metrics to determine success and your reporting on ROI will need to reflect that.
The biggest key to success with an outsourced team is engagement. It is vital the team feels a part of your company, even though they are not. Leaving them out of decisions, changes in processes, meetings, or any other critical communications or functions will further disadvantage the team and have a negative impact on their work. Engagement can take many forms:
- Using video, for example, is a great way to ensure they have ’face-to-face’ time with your team. Send a weekly video message listing out last week’s achievements and the following week’s goals and focuses helps ensure everyone is aligned and up to date. Do an office tour on camera to show them your work space. There is a distinct advantage to having that tangible view into your space. If the team cannot attend your team meeting, record and share them, so they are hearing the questions being asked and getting to know the inhouse team better.
- If your team works during a different set of business hours than you, try scheduled emails when delivering news so they receive this information during their day, as opposed to it being buried in their inboxes overnight. Accommodating timezone makes the team feel more included and increases click throughs.
- Including the team in celebrations for achieving team goals in important. Too often, outsourced teams are forgotten as contributors to the overall company goals and are left out of celebration lunches, gifts, public shoutouts etc.
- If your company has swag, share it with your outsourced team. The value of stickers, shirts and pens goes a long way in showing appreciation for a job well done and will bring pride to working for your organization.
- Onsite visits from their peers, not just management, builds trust and rapport between the teams and can help with smoother interactions and more comfort to ask questions or express concerns.
- Ongoing training is vital. The outsourced team must feel like they have the support and necessary tools to succeed. Sending SMEs onsite is one way, but you can also provide a channel for communication in real time with SMEs, or create processes to ensure they get timely responses to their questions or concerns.
Success with an outsourced team can help your business grow and scale faster and be more cost effective. Take the time to make a well defined plan to execute your strategy and solve your business goals. By being specific with the role’s needs, measuring success with a different mindset, and engaging with the team at a deep level, you will have a high level of performance and achieve your business objectives.