Outsourcing and Call Center Blog

27 June, 2007

Another great example of personal outsourcing

Filed under: BPO,knowldge worker,off shoring,Outsourcing — shamrin @ 23:21

From Wired via The Sophistry blog:

A pseudonymous poster wrote, “About a year ago I hired a developer in India to do my job. I pay him $12,000 to do the job I get paid $67,000 for. He’s happy to have the work. I’m happy that I only have to work 90 minutes a day, talking code. My employer thinks I’m telecommuting. Now I’m considering getting a second job and doing the same thing.”

What a great concept. When I get back into the office tomorrow I’m going to start developing this product right away. I can sell it to all my ex-colleauges in the IT industry.

The original Wired article, about Micro-Multinational companies goes on to talk about how beneficial outsourcing can be to small companies allowing them to concentrate their efforts and funding on their core value proposition, and (once again) how outsourcing benefits owners and the economies of both countries.

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Looking for something new? Try India

Filed under: BPO,Call Center,personal — shamrin @ 10:06

Lee Iwan has written a couple of blogs lately about the importance of changing your routine and how moving to another country is a great way to do it. I firmly agree with Lee on both of these counts and I would like to add my advice that for a westerner, India would be a great place to try something new.

Here in India, I’ve been exposed to people, places, ideas and ways of living that I just would never do in any country in the West. While this culture seems in many ways to be trying mightily to emulate the west, especially America, the fact remains that its social and religious history and core values are very different. So the patina of Westernism, which one sees notably in the form of consumerism, covers a very different underlying way of living life. This vast difference is what makes spending time here so challenging, informative and valuable for a westerner like me. And the opportunity to learn goes so much further than overcoming ones preconceptions about India and Indians, it’s an opportunity to learn about and test one’s self in new and unfamiliar territory.

“This is indeed India; the land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of a thousand nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition, whose yesterdays bear date with the mouldering antiquities of the rest of the nations—the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the globe combined.”

Mark Twain, Following the Equator, 1897 

24 June, 2007

You can’t save your way to success

Filed under: BPO,Call Center,Marketing,Outsourcing,Revenue,Value — shamrin @ 13:37

There is sure nothing wrong with being frugal or economic. One has to draw the line somewhere though and I’ve had many a discussion with my wife about the difference between frugal and cheap, for example she thinks reusing paper napkins or glueing the heels back onto an old pair of shoes is frugal – I don’t complain. Even being cheap is no sin in business, the problem is you can’t build a company on it. No matter how much waste or leakage you cut out, no matter whether you ration printer paper or pencils or long-distance phone calls, your business only grows if you increase your revenues. And importantly, growth is how our customers (and their shareholders) measure the success of their businesses.

So what does this mean for how we should go about delighting our customers, how can we help them attain their heart’s desire?

If we assume that our customers are rational or even close to it, then they probably want to increase revenues and profits – let’s help them. It doesn’t sound like that radical an approach really but you would think it was by the way some Call Centres and BPOs sell and market their services. The message seems to be, “buy our service because it’s cheaper than X” (where X is the internal way of working or perhaps their prospect’s current outsourced arrangement). Is saving a few dollars in his call centre what gets the CEO of your biggest customer or prospect out of bed in the morning? I doubt it.

An article on the Pragmatic Marketing website has a reference to a very good, probably apocryphal, quote attributed to someone from the US tool manufacturer Black & Decker,

“Remember no one wants a drill bit; they want a hole in the wall.”

CEOs, and business managers don’t want cheap call centres, they don’t even necessarily want call centres, what they want is to increase shareholder value. Now if the only thing we have to offer them is to shave a bit off the expense line of their income statement, fair enough let’s knock ourselves out trying. But if we really want to grab their attention, to make them an offer they can’t refuse, then we need to be offering them more creative ways to build their bottom line by improving the way they do business, by helping them get new business and by facilitating new capabilities that they can’t get any other way.

Does this mean we have to change the way we think? Yes, probably. Will this challenge our creativity? You bet. Will this make more money for us and our customers? I think so. Will it be a lot more fun. Absolutely. Then I can’t think of any reason not to do it.

20 June, 2007

The Pursuit of Happines and Outsourcing

Filed under: BPO,Call Center,off shoring,Outsourcing,personal — shamrin @ 9:57

Like a modern day Mary MacGregor I’m really torn between two topics today. Alan Alter writes in a recent blog for CIO Insight about an outsourcing study by consultants A.T. Kearney. The article with the unwieldy but descriptive title “Offshore Success is Uneven, Says Kearney Study”, is about this study and others that appear to confirm an interesting paradox about outsourcing:

Companies that pursue cost savings as their primary goal in outsourcing are less likely to realise savings than companies that prioritise other goals.

Now I believe if you take a few minutes to consider this you’ll find that it is less paradoxical than it first appears, but what really caught my eye was the way Alan introduces the topic. He says:

The British philosopher John Stuart Mill discovered he couldn’t achieve happiness by pursuing it; happiness is a by-product of focusing your energy on doing worthwhile things.

And as much as I wanted to write this morning about the paradox of seeking cost-savings in outsourcing (I do have some thoughts on the subject), I just couldn’t get my mind off this Maslow’s chart-topper topic of pursuing happiness. So instead of bloviating on management efficiencies and creating value I will recommend a very interesting article that I recently read called “Can Money Buy Happiness” on CNN Money.com.  Read it,  it might just make your life better.

17 June, 2007

7 Outsourcing Myths

Filed under: BPO,Call Center,off shoring,Outsourcing — shamrin @ 19:21

There’s a really good set of articles just published in the Wall Street Journal on outsourcing. It’s  written by Phanish Puranam and Kannan Srikanth and called Seven Myths About Outsourcing.

Here’s a summary and my quick take on each myth:

1. We Can Have It All
Better, faster, cheaper, pick two. Or better yet, be focused and realistic, pick one and have a chance at having a successful outsourcing project. Try to meet all the requirements of your dreams simultaneously and you’re less likely to be happy with the end result.

2. Outsourcing Services is Like Buying Commodities
There will transaction costs – new systems and management process that have to be implemented. The outsourced functions probably won’t just seamlessly plug-in to your organisation.

3. We Need an Ironclad Contract
Great point. You want and need flexibility from your outsourcing partner because your business environment is likely to change in ways that neither you nor they can anticipate. Don’t paint yourself into a corner.

4. Contracts Don’t Matter
Discussions, agreements and handshakes are great but especially if you are off-shoring, don’t forget that communications is often inefficient and fraught with misunderstanding especially when crossing borders and cultures. I might add not to forget that here in India we have a tradition of saying “yes” to every request regardless of whether we understand it or are capable of implementing the request. Try to be clear or as that great outsourcing executive Ronald Reagan said, “Trust but verify”.

6. It’s Not Our Headache Anymore
Outsourcing is not dumping. Ultimately you need to manage and guide the quality and success of your vendor. Don’t expect to be able to wash your hands of the outsourced functions.

7. Our First Failure Should Be Our Last Attempt
Keep trying. It’s a learning process and you’ll be better at it each time. I personally had a couple of failures (as a buyer of outsourcing) before I got it right. But once I learned the ropes it paid off brilliantly.

16 June, 2007

Leadership is an art

Filed under: BPO,Call Center,HR & Staffing,off shoring,Outsourcing — shamrin @ 12:42

I read a nice piece today in Lee Iwan’s blog called Leading your team to mediocrity. He has some good points there, all of which are worthy of mention but only one of which I will. Leadership is a fascinating and interesting topic and I would recommend anyone with managerial aspriations to study and pursue understanding it (a good place to start would be a book by Max De Pree, former CEO of American furniture maker Herman Miller, called Leadership is an Art). In Lee’s piece he states something that I think Max De Pree would agree with and should be the first thought of any manager who has people working for him/her:

Being the leader involves identifying and eliminating the bottlenecks that affect your people in their work.

I think if a manager only does one thing right in his job and it’s this, he’s going to be successful. This is the essence of leverage, find what’s best in your people and free them so that they can excel. It makes them happy and the results make you happy and all that should make your shareholders/owners happy.

15 June, 2007

Returning messages – a mini rant

Filed under: Rant — shamrin @ 13:12

Please forgive me this little rant about returning messages, it’s Friday and it’s been a frustrating week. I’ve been trying to push through some fairly radical (but completely necessary) organisational changes here in my company and have been meeting with, not resistance, not scepticism, not even grudging agreement, but instead a kind of spongy nothingness. This must be what purgatory feels like.

Maybe it’s that lack of reaction to my wild and crazy ideas (did I mention they they are utterly necessary?)  that has me on edge regarding returning messages. Is it just me? Was I on holiday out of the country when they changed the rules about getting back to someone who is trying to contact you? This week I contacted 3 different suppliers on 2 continents (neither of them Asia) in an effort to buy something;  in one case I am looking for some sales representation and in another a little web development. I’ve contacted each of these companies using a combination of email, phone messages, IM and web forms. None of them have even acknowledged the contact. I don’t get that. In each case I’ve made it clear that I’m a potential buyer for what they are selling.

I learned a while back that the things we don’t like in others are quite often the things we don’t like in ourselves so I’m asking myself, “am I unresponsive to people?”. Or perhaps I’m just too demanding, maybe when you call a sales organisation you shouldn’t actually expect them to get back to YOU, it’s your responsibility to pursue them until you are able to get them to sell you something. I just don’t know.

13 June, 2007

What if your product sucks?

Filed under: BPO,Call Center,Marketing,Outsourcing,Value — shamrin @ 17:05

A colleague of mine and I met for “high tea” at The Imperial hotel here in New Delhi last weekend. The Imperial is way too rich for my blood (I bought some logo-engraved golf balls in the gift shop as a Christmas present for $20) but the tea was very enjoyable and the scones, clotted cream and jam were worth the price of the event – recommended if you come to Delhi. My colleague also works in marketing for  a  large call centre that is based here in northern India, and during our conversation she  complained about the state of the “products” her company offers. She was concerned about commitment to quality and detail and about whether her organisation fully understood and was dedicated to providing value to their customers. (more…)

12 June, 2007

About Trust

Filed under: BPO,Call Center,ethics,Outsourcing,personal,Trust — shamrin @ 18:30

I’ve written before about the importance of building trust with our customers and prospects and it’s almost impossible to talk about it too much. Trust is not just the glue that binds business relationships together, it is the very fabric of our relationships, business and personal. I was riding past the IGI Airport here in Delhi today and thinking about what the great American football coach Vince Lombardi reportedly said about winning, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing“. Well I think Vince was wrong about that, I believe how you play the game matters, but I will borrow his method of juxtaposition anyway and say, “Trust isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

The reason I was thinking about this topic was an article in today’s Hindustan Times called “The Torment of Deceit” by Aash Aurora in a column called Inner Voice. (more…)

10 June, 2007

The Other Side of Outsourcing

Filed under: BPO,Call Center,off shoring,Outsourcing,social responsibility — shamrin @ 12:43

This is a really brilliant program that the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman did for the Discovery Channel. It really gives you a good feel for the people and places of Indian Call Centres and it does so in an unbiased way. I think as much as anything I take away from this a sense that we all have to wake up, and in some cases grow up, and realise that the borders that we used to have, that are a barrier to trade, movement, growth and freedom are simply outdated. We are in this world and this world economy together pretty much whether we like it or not. I think this is at least part of the basic message in Friedman’s book, The World is Flat.

From a personal perspective I thought there were some very interesting insights by Indian luminaries in the video. Ananthia Murthy talks about the growing level of wealth and the dissolving Indian culture being overrun by western culture. Comparing western family practices to India’s traditional extended family culture he says,

“[Now] if you are wealthy enough, rich enough, you may send your parents to an old person’s home…and I think that’s sad.”

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