Everyone will agree that communication is a key activity for successful outsourcing.
Then why is it so darn hard to make people within an organization understand what is going on?
Why is it so challenging to have a clear-cut communication between the outsourcer and the outsourced?
Although there are many reasons to outsource the major one is to cut costs and improve the bottom line.
Consequently, effective communication becomes the second priority but sometimes it gets lost somewhere.
Everyone knows the importance of communication but sometimes expectations don’t match the deliverables.
There are many key elements to overcoming some of the communication obstacles.
This further improves the overall perception of a global outsourcing agreement which includes:
a) Establish channels
Every message should be pushed to concerned professionals via established channels. This helps the recipient to take in the message.
Furthermore, the established channels will make it evident where to turn when members of the outsourcing community have something to communicate.
b) Predictable Messages
Communication has to be predictable. This clearly means that it should arrive regularly and in a standardized format so that key points are easy to search.
c) Interactive Communication
There has to be an active interaction between the inhouse and the outsourcing team to further encourage the recipient to absorb the communications.
Well, this is important on all levels. Whether it is between in-house and outsource company, or between project managers and project members.
Make sure there is no one-way communication. Make every possibility to address questions or comments.
d) Be Proactive
It is obviously not possible to anticipate all the questions that will come your way. But proactive communication will help your managers to keep some control over what is communicated.
On the contrary, being reactive results in "putting out fires" to counter a negative impression.
e) United front
Every communication on a global level should build team spirit and understanding among the team members.
f) Show diversity
There will be many situations where cultural differences will come up. Let everyone know what they are.
It may be fun when many names are so unfamiliar to someone who is sitting on the other side of the Earth.
As per the global outsourcing contract, communication challenges are sometimes blamed on cultural differences.
This should never happen. This is because there is a lack of true understanding of the importance of communication.
All this, in turn, results in a shortage of resources. It's nothing more complicated than that.
What happens when communication isn’t seamless? In this situation, anything can happen. Whatever happens, it should be in an uncontrolled manner.
The following are the key players who no longer know what is going on and therefore cannot steer things in the right direction.
This clearly proves that communication is a key factor in delivering successful outsourcing results.
Here is the list of four strategies to help you overcome poor communication with your outsourcing project partner.
Strategy #1: Recognize Cultural Differences
You will know that not everyone you connect with shares your assumptions.
What may be important for you, it may not be important for your outsourcing service provider.
Let’s translate it into a working relationship with an outsourcer. You think that if you write a contract, everybody’s going to adhere to it. This is certainly false. For many people, a contract is just a suggestion.
So make sure you have a detailed discussion with the outsourcing firm so that you can make them understand what your expectations are.
Strategy # 2: Choose the Right Words
Whenever you are explaining your requirements to an outsourcing company, word choice is important.
For many, English still remains a foreign language. Although, the use of the English language is prevalent.
No matter how commonplace English has become, your outsourcing partner may have a basic understanding of each word you utter.
Well, this is quite possible that they are not completely clear on the true meaning of the message you’re trying to convey.
This is the reason exactly why you must speak in a direct manner using short sentences made of basic, simple words.
You might be talking and talking, very politely trying to tell the outsourcing company what you expect without seeming too direct or demanding.
Every requirement is prefaced by something like, "It would be nice if…" or "Maybe you could also…” The outsourcing company may or may not agree.
There must be an assumption that everything is fine, but the outsourcing firm does not implement your requirements as you expected.
What is the reason? You always have been beating around the bush with niceties instead of being straightforward.
And the outsourcing company who is used to very straightforward communications interpreted your demands as suggestions.
Strategy #3: Confirm Your Requirements
The following are a few steps you should take to confirm that the offshore development company thoroughly understands your requirements.
- Step 1: Document All Your Requirements
When the message is conveyed verbally, follow up in writing. Fulfilling your requirements for paper for outsourcing is important.
Many people understand written languages are way better than spoken languages. However, there is more time to process the message.
The reader has the opportunity to reread the language at their own pace and even look up words in a dictionary.
- Step 2: Insist Your Outsourcing company Re-document Your Requirements
Leave nothing that results in misunderstanding. There are requirements that outsourcers write the requirements in their own words.
If the offshoring company is unable to relate to you what you explained to them, then they didn’t understand you.
It is very important that you must get this feedback to verify that they actually “get it.”
It is recommended that you should never settle for a response such as “Yes, I understand.”
Your outsourcer must reiterate your verbal and written communications to close the loop.
- Step 3: Request an Outsourcer-Created Prototype
After the requirements are documented, the outsourcing partner should create a prototype for you.
This is a safety net that ensures that they absolutely, positively understand your requirements.
Pictures are powerful vehicles for communication. This is more effective than the written word.
You can request that the outsourcing company should sketch what you want your final product to look like or build a quick, simple program that reflects how the final product will look.
That way, all working on it can see and thoroughly understand how the final product looks and acts.
Note: If you don’t request a prototype, the offshore company will produce and deliver whatever they think you want, which may not be what you really want.
Strategy #4: Set Deadlines
Much cultural difference relates to schedules and deadlines. This is a fact. A deadline is a set completion date.
You estimate an appropriate amount of time to complete a project. Further, you can select a specific date, and then deliver a completed product on that date.
In many other cultures, a deadline is a suggestion that maybe something will be finished by the indicated date.
To make sure your product is delivered on time. However, it is imperative to add a penalty clause to your contract.
Make it crystal clear that you will not pay if your product is not delivered by the specified date.
Well, an alternative approach is to enforce late fees if your outsourcer doesn't deliver on time. A simple thumb rule: without consequence, there is no delivery.
Six Ways to Make Sure Outsourcing Will be a Big Success
The major question is “what problems you will be solving? What are the opportunities you are trying to capture?"
Beyond volume, timeline, and unit cost goals, a good customer communications outsourcing relationship will aim for:
- To optimize the communication infrastructure for both teams
- To improve customer retention via enhanced communication
- To reduce call center costs
- To comply with laws and regulations
- To maintain consistent brand messaging
Before your outsourcing company can help you move to the next level. You and the outsourcing team, both parties must first have a clear understanding of the current state of affairs by performing a rigorous assessment.
In this particular step, a blueprint for a successful future relationship is developed.
All technical considerations, cultural impacts, financial analyses, and external factors should be discussed.
All the projects where the due diligence efforts but various assumptions are made prone to fail.
There is a change in the management strategy as is it essential for obtaining employee buy-in.
Many new procedures typically cross multiple lines of business and various populations.
This is important for all sides to understand additional or different support requirements.
For example, if the company’s IT department decides to make significant changes to the app that generates or impacts customer communication.
All the changes could have a dramatic impact. The understanding of upstream changes that can impact the scope of work being outsourced is important.
The rate of success for outsourcing customers is quite high nowadays. The communication dramatically increases when the plan is backed by high-level executives.
Never base the decision solely on cost. This will definitely fail to produce optimum results.
There runs the risk of missing out on the innovative thinking that providers may be hesitant to include given cost pressures.
Make sure you make yourself capable enough so that you can balance between short term cost reductions and investing in innovation to drive long term business results and define strategic partnerships.
When the objective is being met, the tendency is to track top-line milestones like deadlines that are not met and unit cost while the collection of data falls short.
The right metrics and regular reporting help in sustaining the relationship.
Well, the focus has to be on the business outcome of the communication.
Keep checking if customer responses are increasing? How are employees reacting to the new system?
When it comes to outsourcing, you must understand the cultural background of the outsourcing company and respect it.
If this isn't feasible, at least be aware that a different way of thinking exists, even if you don’t know exactly what that difference is.
Follow the aforementioned strategies and steps discussed in this article to enhance the likelihood that your outsourced product.
However, this exactly meets the requirements you specified and is delivered in a timely manner.