Monthly Archives: March 2012

Evaluating the work of outsourcing companies

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Evaluating the work of outsourcing companies
People who do analytics analyze various metrics, and might come up with formulas to evaluate market performance, or perhaps the performance of people’s work.  It is sometimes easy to evaluate the work done by a particular company, but there are so many variables, that it is not easy.
Quantity is an easy metric to concern yourself with. If the average employee working on your project at a particular call center can do 30 calls per hour, that is a metric you can use to see how valuable they are.  You might find that one employee averages 25 calls while the other averages 40.  Is one being lazy, or are they more thorough?  Do they spend too much time chatting with clients when they need to move on to the next  customer?  Or is it good to spend a little time being personal.  In this busy world, many people are in such a hurry, that they don’t have time to get to know others or to make small talk.  Many discipline themselves not to make any small talk, but to frantically move on to the next call.
Quality is not such as easy metric to look at.  If you hire a call center (call centre), and they do many calls for you, you have to listen in on their calls, or get feedback from clients as to how good they are. Call center work is actually quite involving.  There is the way a clerk speaks which might be clear, too quiet, or they might have poor pronunciation.  Some clerks don’t answer questions clearly. It is common for call center employees to show empathy if a client has suffered at the hands of the company, while other call center employees behave like they couldn’t care less.  Some employees might suggest solutions to problems, or even be able to talk a client into making an additional purchase.  If you made an evaluation check list, the list might get longer and longer the more you look into these types of issues.
Flexibility — is the company you hired able to adequately handle your changing workload or are they rigid? Do they nickel and dime you too much with hidden charges, or are they accomodating and working for your convenience instead of theirs?
Reliability — Many companies have a very “fluid” workforce. People are being hired and fired regularly, so you are always having to deal with new employees. You might have an old worker you learned to trust, but then they might disappear.  Or, the boss, might allocate his workers to another project leaving your project on the back burner going slowly.  Are there strange things that happen to your account from time to time, or is it always steady?
There are other metrics to think about, but these are some basic ones.  Good luck figuring out how to assess the strength of your outsourcing partners!

(1) Measure the quality & quantity of work done at various outsourcing co’s to compare!
(2) Flexibility & reliability are metrics that are even more important than quality & quantity!
(3) 1 way to compare outsourcing companies is to see how long they keep the same workers!

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How good are you at estimating jobs?

If your client criticizes your workers, who do you side with?

How do you train a BPO worker?

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How do you train a BPO worker?
I have a very small company, and we do tasks very similar to what people in BPO companies do.  We do call center work in small quantities — perhaps an average of two hours a day of outgoing calls, and then we have one dedicated full time incoming phone attendant.  We do about two hours a day of data entry work filling in online forms.  We even do KPO type tasks (we meaning myself individually) such as SEO analytics which includes keyword analysis.  Content writing is another specialty which I personally engage in, etc.
The hard part is how to train others to do all of the 20 types of tasks that I do daily.  Training BPO call center workers is not easy.  The manager has to create a SCRIPT for the call center worker to use when doing outbound calls. 

Hi, this is Don from ZYX company, we are calling in reference to your account with us … etc.
The script is easy to write, and to say.  The tone of voice that you require for reading the script might require a special personality.  Perhaps a strong man, or a caring woman.  Or, perhaps a tough woman, or a sensitive guy!  The hard part is training them to answer questions. There are so many questions that someone could ask, and how do you train a worker to answer all of the possible questions?  I think that creating an online cheat sheet is super, where all of the answers to common questions are there, and you can search by keyword.  Workers should be trained in the main topics, and be quizzed regularly to make sure they understand things well.
The next question is, how often do you check up on your workers?  Some people get better with experience, while others keep making the same mistakes endlessly no matter how many times you correct them.  There should be periodic checking up on workers, and regular evaluations.  If someone has been on a project for three weeks, and hasn’t mastered the basic questions after receiving regular coaching, maybe it is time to say good bye! On the other hand, perhaps your star employee is having trouble dealing with some of the finer points of answering more subtle or less common questions.  How detail oriented should your staff be before handing a question over to the manager?
If you are training a BPO data entry clerk, it might make sense to show them the process, have them repeat it a few times in your presence, and then to do a few hours on their own, and then have a reevaluation.  Data Entry seems to me to be less involving than call center work because there are no incoming questions — the complexity of the work is hence, more limited which makes it easier.  But, how do you teach a disorganized person good formatting skills?  You are on your own! Good luck!
Training for KPO work is much more sophisticated, and I don’t want to touch that topic today!  Let the folks in Bangalore deal with that — there are so many highly qualified KPO workers there.

KPO and Analytics, which company is right for you?

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KPO and Analytics, which company is good for you.
There are many KPO companies out there offering a vast range of knowledge process outsourcing skills.  Some skills such as accounting require formal qualifications.  But, analysts need only be “good” at what they do.  An analyst might have a certain amount of training to be “good” enough to work for a company.  I have found that a trained analyst might know more than you do about analyisis, but are they as sharp as you about analyzing your business metrics and data?  I think that you are paying more attention than they are since your retirement rests upon it, and I stress the word rest.  If you analyze wrong, you might not rest, but only stress during the time you thought you were going to be retired. 
A good analyst is only as good as they are smart, and have time to devote to your project. If they are in a hurry, they might not look thoroughly enough at the complicated details of your business or marketing plan, and neglect a lot.  If you hire a KPO company, fancy or not, make sure they are paying attention to your case and not being neglectful! Or you will be sorry!
Some companies might have fancy offices, fancy looking secretaries, fancy graphs, and a fancy website. It all looks impressive, and someone less fancy might not insprire credibility.  But, being fancy is not enough. They need to deliver results to you — in a way that is helpful to you without breaking your bank account.  Maybe your first assignment should be to hire someone to analyze how much you should pay your KPO company analyst?
I hired a web analytics person to help me, and he changed my life.  So, his help is still helping me now, because he taught me skills that I will keep with me for life!  Some investments give you a 100x return, and this was one of them.
Sometimes analytics projects take a while, because step one is to create a source for accumulating data. No data, means there is nothing to analyze.  It can take time to accumulate data, and you need to have a clear idea of what type of data you want to accumulate. For my purposes, I do internet analytics, so google analytics is my main tool, and it is wonderful.  For doing other types of marketing research, you will have to ask your KPO analyst what tools they want to use.

Assigning billing work overseas to BPO companies

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Assigning biling work overseas to BPO companies
This is a topic of concern to many US companies, particularly small ones who have less control.  It is nice being a big company.  You can set up huge offices anywhere in the world, get business licenses anywhere and your attorneys will do the work for you.  You can have your head office in the Caymen Islands where there is no corporate tax.  You have a lot of freedom being big.  But, for the rest of us, we do not have these luxuries.  We are at the mercy of who works for us.
There are many companies that hire overseas BPO companies to do their billing and credit card transactions.  It is common.  For the most part, it is business as usual.  Americans are always fearful that people in a foreign country will be more likely to cheat them, but I feel that you need to look at countries one by one. India and the Philippines do most of the BPO outsourcing in the world, and there are only scandals from time to time, and perhaps not that many more scandals than their equivalents in the United States.  I don’t have the data.  If you hire a reliable company, all it takes is one bad individual (or apple as we say over here), to spoil the bunch.  One bad employee can commit serious fraud involving credit cards, and ruin a whole company’s reputation and cost them millions. That bad guy could be anywhere. He could be in India, or Canada, or who knows where.
If you are in Nevada, and hire a company in Nevada to do work for you, you can have a contract, and you can sue them if they violate the contract.  If you are in Nevada and hire an Indian BPO company to do work for you, it is not so easy to sue them.  For that matter, if you are in India, it is not easy to sue someone in India due to the inefficient legal system.
To keep the trust of your clients, if you are a smaller company, you might be better off having your billing done domestically rather than hiring an Indian BPO, and preferably by a trusted staff member.  I would not have billing done by anyone you have worked with for less than a year if at all possible. There is a lot to lose here!