8 Important Considerations While Choosing a BPO Partner
The benefits of contracting with a provider of business process outsourcing (BPO) services, like creation of scale, lowering of cost, specialized skills they bring, and many others, are perhaps well known. Business process outsourcing today is a well established and accepted practice for large and small organizations alike, allowing them the freedom to focus on their core business and grow rapidly. Many startups are choosing to go directly to BPOs for specialized skills instead of investing in creating a practice inhouse.
What is not as well known is that several BPO contracts end up in failure, and end up destroying value for the outsourcer instead of creating it. It is surprising because in many such cases both the outsourcer and the partner are successful companies. Still, when the two come together, it results in failure for both.
From the outsourcer’s perspective, this points to the need for a careful evaluation and due diligence while awarding the contract to a partner. What are the considerations that should be uppermost for an outsourcer while selecting a BPO partner?
Provider should have domain knowledge and experience
Each industry is unique. Though each company operating within an industry is also unique, with their own set of processes and technologies, it helps to have experience that could be considered similar as it creates a reservoir of organizational learning that comes in handy when handling other projects of a similar nature. Not everything can be documented and included in a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
It should be remembered that BPO partners are sought for work that needs human intelligence and interaction. A BPO handling e-commerce related work will know, for example, that there would be certain times during the year when the client will run promotions and volumes would spike up. The possession of this knowledge will position the provider to handle them better, perhaps by keeping a pool of cross-trained staff who could be additionally deployed.
With multiple engagements of a similar nature across different clients, providers are expected to demonstrate their expertise in handling work in that area.
oWorkers specializes in data related BPO services such as invoice processing, social media moderation, data annotation and data entry. It is counted among the top three providers in the world in data related services, a proud achievement.
Should be able to scale quickly to handle variable volume flows
While many unexpected situations arise in the life of a company, some of them are welcome events as well which the company facing them would be happy with and handle with glee. An unexpected spike in sales volumes is not a development any company will be unhappy about.
Even the happy unexpected developments bring in their wake the need for effective handling. We don’t want sales enquiries increasing with most of them not being handled. Not only will there be no business value of these calls, the unattended or badly handled calls can also impair the image of the company.
Digital businesses in particular can also scale rapidly making planning efforts.
The partner needs to have the capacity to cater to increased or reduced staffing at short notice so that neither excess volume goes abegging while paid staff sit idle when volumes drop.
As a preferred employer in all the communities it operates its delivery centers from, oWorkers gets a plentiful supply of walk-in talent. While it helps in reducing the cost of advertising to attract talent, it also provides a cache from which people can be selected for various projects, based on their assessed capability and interest. This also results in oWorkers being able to handle short-term volume spikes in client projects by being able to hire an additional 100 people within 48 hours.
Quality of work is non-negotiable
While each client will have its own equilibrium between the various benefits they get through outsourcing, generally quality is one aspect that is non-negotiable. Other benefits are welcome, but not at the cost of a drop in quality.
The target partner should be able to demonstrate a track record of investment in employee development and growth. Even a continuing engagement tends to evolve with time, requiring retraining and reskilling of staff
In addition, Quality Assurance (QA) is an established good practice pioneered by leading BPO companies. The Quality team sits outside the Delivery unit and monitors transactions on a sample basis to identify errors and repeated issues. This enables the company to ensure that quality issues are resolved before they impact a client. The QA team should also be acting as the eyes and ears of senior management, enabling them to intervene when required.
oWorkers deploys the classic QA structure, reporting to senior management. The QA team not only checks sample transactions and provides feedback to staff, it also runs improvement projects that are ongoing.
Lower cost is a given benefit
BPO providers have a unique model. If they were only doing a copy-paste of what the client does, it is arguable if they would be able to add any value, bringing the fundamentals of the industry into question.
Cost is one of the most visible and transparent parameters in a B2B relationship. It means the same thing to all stakeholders. It is expected by outsourcers that engaging a partner will lower cost.
How is a BPO provider able to provide cost-effective services?
BPOs specialize in breaking complex processes down into simpler ones. This way, they are able to hire less qualified resources, available at lower prices, to do most of the work, creating a price differential.
BPOs do not have a need for expensive real estate in downtown areas. They can operate from anywhere.
BPOs work with talent pools that are invisible to their clients whose comfort zone is sourcing talent relevant for their industry and function. This talent pool, available at a fraction of the cost at which clients hire, undergoes the efficient training programs of partners, and becomes job-ready.
The ability of a target partner to access such talent pools and train them should be evaluated as well as track record reviewed, as it can be expected to deliver a major cost benefit.
Many clients from Western Europe and North America claim savings of almost 80% after outsourcing to oWorkers. Coupled with their transparent pricing model, offering a choice between input and output basis pricing, it is not a surprise that they have satisfied and happy clients from around the world.
Required infrastructure services should have backup plans
It is well known that BPO players have taken delivery centers to the far corners of the world, bringing people closer together and even playing a role in reducing economic disparities across regions.
However, each location is unique in terms of its environment for doing business, even though BPO, with its capacity for job creation, is usually welcomed. It becomes important to not only evaluate the location’s readiness to support, but also the provider’s ability to manage the elements, such as:
- Adequacy of grid-supplied power and back-up arrangements, if required
- Availability of local transportation for employees to commute, and alternate pick-up and drop arrangements
- Access to talent pools in the catchment area
- Ability to operate a 24×7 shift
- The proportion of women in the workforce
Working with employees, as oWorkers does, and not freelancers and contractors like some of our competitors, is satisfying and offers flexibility in deployment based on need. oWorkers pays social and local taxes and is set up as a local entity in each of its delivery locations. Employees, both past and present, rate it as 4.6 or more, on a scale of 5, on independent platforms such as Glassdoor. All sites are geared to operate on a 24×7 schedule.
Track record of regulatory compliance and financial stability
As a client, what you want is a partner who can focus on the business, and not one who needs to worry about issues arising out of regulatory non-compliance. The partner being evaluated should be able to demonstrate a consistent track record of regulatory compliance such as running a compliant payroll, timely filing of taxation and other returns and compliance with intellectual property and data privacy laws. The partner should also be willing to take responsibility for all compliance related issues that might arise.
It would not be out of place to add here that the company should also have a healthy balance sheet. A financially stressed company is likely to cut corners and avoid investments, saving a few dollars today but causing long-term damage to your brand.
oWorkers has been consistently profitable. It values client data and operates from Super secure facilities & protocols with ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015).
Open, multi-level communication channels reflect a transparent operation
Multi-level communication is evidence of openness in a B2B relationship. When a vendor allows team members engaged in a client project at various levels to engage freely with counterparts on the client side, it reflects transparency in their operations; they have no dirty secrets that might be inadvertently revealed through a careless remark made by a junior employee. It also reflects confidence in the team as well as operational processes. Hence, a multi-level communication process reflects a vendor in a good light.
At the same time, they should be in a position to commit to a formal communication channel with defined personnel through which all official communication will flow, such as process changes and alerts that can then be cascaded throughout the team members who need that information. And, in the current context, a BPO should be in a position to respond 24×7.
With its policy of working with a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic workforce, oWorkers has an organically developed capability of offering multi-lingual services in over 20 languages.
Alignment of culture needed for long-term success
While this may be difficult to define and nail down, an alignment of values between the two organizations seeking a partnership as reflected in the atmosphere at work is important for long-term success. Otherwise, there are many challenges that crop up along the way where divergent views can create a gulf between partners. If the client follows a culture of permitting freedom and flexibility to employees, having a hard taskmaster focused only on output as a BPO provider might create conflict in many situations.
This also becomes important for the client’s brand in engagements where the vendor is the face of the client to the outside world, such as in a Call Center engagement.
The leadership team, with hands-on experience in the industry, leads by example and creates a professional and open work environment that is global in its outlook, where all comers are welcome.