In my previous blog post, I had discussed how fear is often the underlying emotion clients experience when they contemplate whether they should outsource overseas or not. More often than not (provided clients focus on ensuring they partner with a reputed outsourcing organization ), I had also explained why these fears are completely unfounded.
One particular fear, I had looked in my earlier blog post, was unprofessionalism. Many clients are concerned that the standards of business professionalism overseas will be lower than what they are accustomed to when contracting with local companies. I had made the point that, whilst, this is true for rogue firms, it is not the case for reputed organizations .
Not only are reputed offshore firms highly professional, they are often more professional than even US businesses.
Why is this the case (or at least, why I believe this to be the case)?
Due to the nature of the outsourcing industry and the tainted image with which it is often (unfairly) projected , reputed offshore companies have to work doubly hard to prove their credibility. Let me put this into context. When you contract with a local US company, as a default, you will assume they are professional. Only if something in their action suggests otherwise, will you even consider to doubt their integrity. But, when outsourcing, the default stand is the other way around. You start by thinking, ‘I better be careful, they are based overseas, I know nothing about them, and I can’t meet them in person; so they might not be so professional.’ You start with apprehension in your mind and are looking for the vendor to prove conclusively that they are not unprofessional. What is considered a given locally, (unless proved otherwise), is not the case when outsourcing.
The impact of this is that offshore vendors (reputed ones at least), have to take professionalism doubly seriously and any client dissatisfaction is attended to even more seriously. If they aren’t extremely agile, they will not be able to build up a ‘shining’ reputation. If they do not have a stellar reputation, (they may not be a reputed organization to begin with), prudent clients won’t partner with them, (as clients are already apprehensive to begin with, and if you have a poor track record, your chances of working with an established firm becomes extremely slim).
Reputed vendors have to work very hard to safeguard and preserve their reputation, otherwise it adversely affects their growth. To maintain a stellar reputation and to do it for a sustained period of time, is actually very difficult – we are well aware that there is always a percentage of unreasonable clients everywhere. The only way such a reputation can be achieved is if a firm consistently goes above and beyond its means to ensure every client is satisfied, and this can only occur if ‘great customer service’ is truly at the heart of the organization’s culture and in its DNA. For any organization, anywhere in the world, the only way to build a strong reputation is to act reputably. Since outsourcing companies are ‘under trial’ even before they have started working for you, they have to be twice as reputable in their actions.
This difference is primarily a result of the different environment in which outsourcing companies operate within. Since, US organizations do not have the ‘outsourcing monkey on their back,’ they do not have to work as hard as the outsourcing service providers. By contrast, if the outsourcing vendor slips a little, the finger is pointed immediately, ‘look how bad this offshore outsourcing company is!’ I can appreciate that you may think that I am being biased, so let’s take a look at some specific examples of this in action.
A good example of this is ‘project spec’ outsourcing, (where a company will give an outsourcing vendor a specification of what they want built on their behalf). The project spec model often fails due to a failure in the knowledge transfer process . However, when it fails, the common reason attributed to the failure is ‘a lack of talent overseas’, (clients rarely attribute the failure to the actual correct cause – wrong delivery model ). However, project spec outsourcing does not just take place offshore, it also takes place locally and fails there, too.
Many clients have told me privately about disastrous results experienced by them when project outsourcing to a local firm, (this is inevitable; because even locally too, clients are often project spec outsourcing when they should not be doing so). However, when the model fails locally, is there a huge hoo-ha made of it? No. Do clients attribute the failure to ‘a lack of local talent?’ No. In reality, the response to project spec outsourcing failure locally, compared to offshore, is dramatically different. Locally, project outsourcing is not associated with the same negative connotations, which the exact same delivery model is associated with overseas; despite having a similar failure rate.
Let’s take a silly example, like that of Mark Zuckerberg. Let’s not forget, he did steal the idea for Facebook, and yet the world has no qualms entrusting him with their most personal and intimate data. Would the same be true if it was someone else? If an Indian in India had stolen the idea for Facebook, I think the $100 billion dollar Indian outsourcing industry would have literally collapsed overnight. “Your data/IP is not safe because of outsourcing to India”, the headlines would read I suppose. Not only this, would anyone have felt actually safe while creating a profile on Facebook? Unlikely.
If you still feel that I am exaggerating, let’s take a look at a more serious example, e.g. of contractual terms. For instance, if you hired a Virtual Employee and were not happy with our service (supposedly), we provide a 100% money back guarantee to all our clients. Would you get such a categorical and clear guarantee from any virtual assistant firm based in the US? I may be wrong, but often that would be unlikely, because this is not expected of local firms.
Take for example, the issue with local recruitment agencies. I have had numerous clients telling me that local recruitment agencies push candidates onto them even if the candidates are not qualified for their job vacancy. Why? The recruitment agency gets commission, even if two months down the line, you end up firing the same resource you had hired via that agency due to poor performance. This is of course, not upholding high levels of professionalism. Dr Reebye, a maxillofacial surgeon at the Triangle Implant Centre in North Carolina, makes this point in the video below.
Over the years, we, (VirtualEmployee.com) have outsourced short, niche projects to US based companies on three separate occasions. Twice, the outsourcing endeavours failed. In the first instance, the company we had contracted with, quite simply, did next to zero work. Our complaints were not taken seriously and we still had to pay for giving them notice to terminate the contract, even though we had informed the company that we didn’t want any further work done. Instead of refunding us for the work not delivered, the firm was not even willing to reimburse the notice period! For us, this was quite a startling experience. Had we been in that scenario with a client, not only would we cancel the notice period, we would entirely refund the client’s fees, (if it was within the first month of service). We experienced a lower level of professionalism in the US than what we were accustomed to in India! But had we protested, it was unlikely that our grievances would have garnered attention.
This is the key difference. When outsourcing, any client’s grievance gains a lot of traction, and vendors have to take their dissatisfaction considerably more seriously than a US based corporation would. This adverse effects of clients’ dissatisfaction are significantly more serious for an outsourcing firm than they are for a local US based company. Offshore, it can cause a firm to lose a lot of business while locally, a slightly tarnished reputation is not a big deal. This is why reputed offshore firms, more often than not, operate at very high levels of professionalism.
During our second outsourcing endeavour to USA, the company we were engaged with behaved as though they were the client, not us! The account manager was not only rude but completely ignored what we wanted, instead, he took the project in the direction he deemed fit. It was a truly bemusing and surreal experience, one that simply would never happen when outsourcing to India.
A final interesting observation is that, often, it is not the vendor that is being unprofessional, but it’s the client. Once the service has started, some clients dispute and disagree contractual terms they had themselves agreed to and signed on! Quite ironic, given the emphasis clients put on professionalism.
Whilst it is true, a higher level of corruption takes place in developing nations and in general, you need to be cautious. At the same time, however, in a country like India, the outsourcing industry is very mature and experienced. The industry has a lot of experience and expertise, and is globally aware and well-travelled and thus fully accustomed to the standards one would expect in the West.
Thus, provided you ensure that you have partnered with a reputed outsourcing company (more often than not), they will maintain at least the same level of professionalism that you would expect from a US-based organization, if not surpass it. A tarnished reputation doesn’t hurt a local company as much as it does an offshore one. For this reason, offshore entities take disgruntlement very seriously and often go the extra mile to ensure their reputation remains unblemished.
A lot of offshore vendors try to achieve client requests that would be regarded as unreasonable and that would not even be entertained by a US entity; a fact that I have touched upon in my next blog post: Why you should not worry about the mixed reviews outsourcing receives ?