Outsourcing and Call Center Blog

2 November, 2007

Reputation as an asset

Sweden is a small country, only about 9 million people live there, that’s roughly two thirds the number of people who live here in New Delhi alone. I cannot think of two countries that are more different than Sweden and India. On my first trip to Delhi I offered to share my table at a crowded restaurant with some fellow diners who turned out to be Swedes. I took this as a good omen for my moving here as I have a special place in my heart for Sweden and consider it the most wonderful country I’ve ever had the pleasure in which to live.

In my humble opinion India could learn a lot from the Swedes, driving rules and public welfare come to mind immediately, perhaps they could trade food and festivals in return. One of the things that I know is especially dear to many Swedes is the concept of having a “good name”, your reputation. In a small country, maintaining a good reputation is important because if word gets around that you can’t be trusted, well, you will quite quickly run out of people to do business with.

In India, we are in a big country doing business in a big world. But it’s not as big as you might think. Within any particular industry, it can be quite a small world. During my short time in the Yellow Pages industry, I’ll bet I was not more than two degrees of separation away from 90% of the key decision makers in the industry and after 10 years or so in the European mobile telecoms business, a trip to 3GSM, the major annual industry trade show, was like attending some kind of extended family reunion. And because our best bet as a Call Center or BPO is to sell our services vertically within an industry where we have relevant experience, our selling universe is not so huge. Reputation is going to matter, especially over time.

Reputation management is a long-term, strategic endeavour. It can mean compromising short-term goals in favour of gains that aren’t immediately quantifiable. This is something that Indian BPO’s need to look at carefully and determine a deliberate approach.

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8 Comments »

  1. Steve, You are speaking to hide and you are hiding to reveal. Seems as if you have left a lot unsaid in the above article.
    I think, with the corporate culture developing, we Indians are becoming like Chinese; mean and selfish. Human values are being forgotten, not for Sex or Money but for progressing in Business/service (whose basis is emotional quotient of the Human behavior more than no. of brain cells in our head). It is irony and contradiction.
    I agree with every word you have said. Reputation is what one really earns in his lifetime and the short term benefits (lucrative and tempting) have to be sacrificed for some principles one inherit (from the family and the land) which ultimately become the building blocks of one’s character and personallity (and further creates his reputation).
    Now words like Personality and reputation has come up, so let me also mention that we in Modern and trotting India, want good reputation but never give a thought to our personality. Personality is what one posseses; reputation has more to do with people’s perception. Hence comes a lot of showing off, to make a good reputation. One does that showing off over and again. And at the end of the day, the real personality which becomes of that man is the “one who does a lot of show off”. I remember a saying which goes “You can fool someone everytime, and everyone sometime but you can not fool everyone everytime”. In the end Reputation becomes=Personality/character is.
    India is full of energy and bursting with youth but devoid of corporate wisdom and substance.
    I like the Example of sweden… and the fact that its close to your heart suggest that you are a man concious about the ethics in business. I encourage you to promote this. Thanks.
    Sameer Shaurya

    Comment by Sameer — 5 November, 2007 @ 21:33 | Reply

  2. Hi Sameer,

    Thanks for your comment and encouragement as well.

    I see what you mean when you equate reputation with “showing off”, this is definitely one form of reputation building that I have seen first hand. It takes the form of name-dropping, bragging about where you take your holidays, your connections (normally in the West) and such. This kind of reputation is no doubt handy in doing some initial networking with others of a similar ilk and ego.

    I also think there is a deeper level at which one builds a reputation. It is more at a performance level. For example, I am working with an Indian company who are developing my new web site who have had serious problems delivering what they have promised when they have promised it. I no longer trust anything that they tell me because time and again they have let me down.

    I’m no fool, I think you can run a business successfully without being particularly honest, or trustworthy or having much personal character in your business dealings – many companies have proven this to be the case. But I think for most businesses, taking care to “say what you’ll do and do what you say”, operating in a trustworthy and transparent way and providing good value for money is the best way to build a solid reputation and promote long-term success.

    Comment by shamrin — 6 November, 2007 @ 9:20 | Reply

  3. Hi Steve,

    This really is an interesting topic. It is like opening up of Pandora’s box. This topic would fall under the category of business ethics. The Enron and Daewoo scandals as well as the US accountancy firm Arthur Anderson’s audit malpractice case are a case in point as to what happens to a company when it resorts to lies and compromises on business ethics.

    You have mentioned, “Reputation management is a long-term, strategic endeavour. It can mean compromising short-term goals in favour of gains that aren’t immediately quantifiable.” The age old Indian Vendanta philosophy also emphasizes on this concept. It speaks of the Laxman Rekha (the line drawn by Laxman for Sita not to cross when drawn to temptation and greed/ short term pleasures) which represents the moral/ ethical line/ code of conduct that every individual needs to have to lead his life by certain ideals and beliefs. At a corporate level this would mean the ability to be able to say ‘NO’ for a business when faced with a situation where the short term pleasures/ gains look very tempting and for which it may have to compromise upon its business values.

    For most large companies in India and for us at Zensar Technologies understanding client needs and requirement gathering is one of the most crucial steps/ procedures, before embarking upon any project. This particular task can take over a year in some cases. Especially, when it comes to transitioning a process from the client side to an offshore location. And in most cases companies (offshore vendors) have met with or exceeded the client requirements. That’s how India has become synonymous with the acronym of the back office of the world and the industry growth rate of over 30 per cent year-on-year bears testimonial to this fact.

    However, I do understand your point and completely empathize with you for your requirements not being met. This is a teething problem that some firms have as their processes may not be standardised and for not having the expertise to capture the requirements. And then again there is the case of rotten apples, because of whom the entire industry’s and country’s reputation is at stake.

    I am glad that you have chosen this topic for discussion as creating awareness is one of the ways of addressing this problem and encouraging firms to adopt fair and ethical business practices.

    Regards,

    Sapna Agarwal

    Comment by Sapna Agarwal — 13 November, 2007 @ 12:07 | Reply

  4. Hi Sapna,

    Thanks for your insightful comment.

    I probably don’t emphasise it enough when I talk about ethics here, but it’s my firm belief that ethical business practices pay. Perhaps I’ll write soon about some examples, or perhaps counterexamples, of this. We have to distinguish between personal morality, which is a virtue, and “business morality” which is a strategy (I put the term in quotes because, as I’ve said before, issues of morality and character are personal, not actual traits of organisations).

    Cheers.

    Comment by shamrin — 14 November, 2007 @ 12:08 | Reply

  5. Hi Steve

    I visit your blog every second day, anticipating more of these interesting articles. 2 weeks, no article. Seems unfair… Cheers…

    Sameer

    Comment by Sameer — 16 November, 2007 @ 12:27 | Reply

  6. Oh the pressure!

    Stay tuned. I’m working on one called “Character Matters” should be out soon, even today if I get inspired.

    Comment by shamrin — 16 November, 2007 @ 16:13 | Reply

  7. […] sell our services … is what one posseses; reputation has more to do with people’s perception. …https://indiancallcenter.wordpress.com/2007/11/02/reputation-as-an-asset/Reputation as an asset « Outsourcing and Call Center BlogAnd because our best bet as a call […]

    Pingback by people perception on bpo and call center — 7 July, 2008 @ 14:51 | Reply

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    Comment by CROISSANCE SYSTEMS — 31 May, 2010 @ 13:09 | Reply


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