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November 2017 | Outsourcing Blog | BPO Industry Updates and Articles

20 Tasks to Outsource to a Virtual Assistant

by: Sidney Liquigan

Thursday, November 30, 2017 | Comments (0)

Category: Outsourcing Research / Trends

Free up your time by outsourcing clerical, creative, or technical work to someone who can work with you and do these tasks remotely. Hire a virtual assistant so you can give 100% attention to your core responsibilities.

A virtual assistant is essentially like an administrative assistant or secretary but a lot more cost-effective since it is usually offered by offshore outsourcing companies. With virtual assistants, you are free from overhead costs, employee-related taxes, and logistic concerns. You only pay for the service provided to you.

Virtual assistant services

Here are some of the tasks you can outsource to a virtual assistant.

Administrative work

  • Managing contact lists and spreadsheets
  • Managing calendars
  • Email management
  • Making travel arrangements
  • Research and data analysis
  • Transcription and encoding
  • Business coordinating
  • Data processing and reporting
  • Data entry
  • Customer service
  • Social media management
  • Content management

Specialized services

  • Online marketing
  • SEO and SEM
  • Accounting and bookkeeping
  • Telemarketing
  • Legal or medical transcription
  • Creative tasks (content writing, graphic design, web development)
  • IT development
  • Sales and marketing

What to look for in virtual assistant

For the general tasks, you will need a virtual assistant who has strong organizational and communication skills and experience with data entry and research, as well as proficiency in digital and online tools such as navigating the internet, emails, and messaging apps. Of course, for the specialized services, you would need a virtual assistant who has knowledge and experience with the corresponding job.

Hiring an individual or a team of virtual assistants through outsourcing firms in the Philippines like MicroSourcing gives you access to a competitive pool of Filipino talents who are fluent in the English language and has a strong affinity with Western culture. Grow your business more effectively; learn more about the virtual assistant services you can acquire from MicroSourcing.


Tips to Reduce Outsourcing Risks

by: Sidney Liquigan

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 | Comments (0)

Category: Outsourcing Research / Trends

Business process outsourcing (BPO) proves to have significant benefits in cash flow, operations, and logistics. However, having an offshore third party provider also comes with risks that when managed poorly, can cause major damage to your business.

According to Exigen Services CEO Alec Miloslavsky, outsourcing risks are generally divided into three:

  1. Financial risk – where project costs are higher than expected
  2. Time to market risk – delays in production and turnaround
  3. Delivery risk – where the project failed to meet objectives

Reducing outsourcing risks is a continuous practice that starts during the decision-making process on choosing the right outsourcing partner and continues throughout the course of the partnership. The decision-making stage is the perfect time to define the risks and plan how to minimize them. Along the way, as your outsourcing partnership develops, reducing outsourcing risks becomes a shared responsibility.

Mitigating outsourcing risks

On your end, here are the ways you can successfully reduce outsourcing risks.

Ask for a trial

Among the potential outsourcing partners you have shortlisted, a trial of the services you require can ultimately help you decide the right outsourcing firm to go with. A trial saves you from impulsively finalizing agreements and contracts and lets you put potential partners to test without commitment.

Identify your goals and set checkpoints

In outsourcing, you can delegate tasks in volumes that depend on your budget and confidence in having your business processes outsourced. You have the option to break down your projects and outsource them by task; or when you outsource a long-term project, set progressive milestones and checkpoints to keep track of the project's progress and its deliverables. Identify your objectives and goals for each project and share your expectations with your outsourcing partner.

Set KPIs

In addition to communicating your objectives and expectations with your outsourcing provider, it is also important that you define quality standards and set key performance indicators (KPIs) for your offshore outsourced team. These can help you have a measurable gauge to analyze how well they are performing.

Demand transparency

Your outsourcing provider should be explicit with their methodology. Ask them about how they manage and execute projects and find out if they have the flexibility to adjust and scale their processes to your own set of standards. Changes and demands in the market and the industry constantly varies and it is important that you have a partner that is agile to changes.

Obtain raw files, not just the final product

The main point of outsourcing is delegating business functions to vendors that have the experience and right skillset. Thus, you might only be interested in the final product or deliverable and you might not find the raw files useful. But look at the big picture. What happens when you decide to change your outsourcing partner? Obtaining the raw files will allow your new vendor to take over or make changes to the project easily and without having to start from scratch.

Make your provider sign an NDA

A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) protects your business and bounds your outsourcing partner under a contract to keep your projects confidential. When you outsource a production job, such as app development or creative work, it is your privilege as an outsourcing client to have the product white-labeled. The signed NDA will not only protect trade secrets and proprietary knowledge, but it will also keep your outsourcing partner from revealing that they work with you and which of your projects they are working on or have worked on.

Shared responsibility

Outsourcing involves two parties: you and your outsourcing partner. And as any partnership goes, both of you should have accountability for accurate process execution. As we mentioned, reducing outsourcing risks is a shared responsibility. When something goes wrong, both parties will be affected and therefore should work together to cultivate a collaborative relationship.


How do you manage customer issues in your company?

For many companies, it means setting up an issue tracking system (ITS) in place to help the support team manage and keep track of issues from beginning to end when they finally get resolved.

An ITS is especially helpful for companies who provide IT support services to customers and businesses. Also referred to as a ticket management system, an ITS is a piece of software that organizes information in a central location to make it easier for your team to offer support and resolve customer issues so that your customers remain happy with using your products.

But even with a ticket management system in place, many businesses still have a hard time managing technical support queries due to problems with poor process management, messy workflow and lack of training. Poor customers support can lead to your business losing valuable customers.

An effective ticket management system is vital not only to the support team but also to the success of your overall business. Here are 5 ways to maximize your ticket management system and make it work for your team:

  1. Implement a first-come, first-served ticket process

    Many support teams have different ways of handling support tickets, but most of them use the first-come, first-served approach as a guide in prioritizing which requests to answer first.

    JitBit, a company that provides helpdesk software to businesses, recommends working on issues in the order they arrive to prevent any ticket from getting lost in the void.

    Sometimes, though, there may be cases when sticking to a first-come, first-served approach may be a bottleneck to providing top-notch service such as when a free customer gets prioritized over a paying customer with a more complex problem. In cases like this, it's useful to have a little flexibility and employ a different tactic, which brings us to our next point...

  2. Categorize support tickets

    In the real world, a business receives customer issues with varying degrees of difficulty, often spanning multiple areas of expertise. That's why a technical support manager should know how to triage and categorize support tickets so that they can be sent straight away to someone who knows how to solve them in the right order of priority.

    Triaging support tickets was inspired by how doctors would triage—aka sort—patients based on how much they need immediate medical treatment. Zendesk implements this strategy to keep response times down and make sure that tickets would be sent to a support agent familiar with the issue the first time around.

    Combining this strategy with the first-come, first-served approach allows support teams to better distribute the load within their teams while still keeping on top of customer requests.

  3. Enable self-service/searchable knowledge base (FAQs, etc.)

    It's inevitable: there will be times when you need to answer the same question again and again because it happens to multiple users.

    If you have a handy list of frequently asked questions that your customers can easily access on demand, then they won't need to file a support ticket anymore.

    Publishing a searchable knowledge base is not a new thing. In fact, 9 out of 10 users expect brands to have an online FAQ so they can search for the solutions themselves instead of having a lengthy conversation with an agent. This works best for simple issues and saves both you and the customers precious time and money.

  4. Automate workflow and create a support workflow

    The ticket management system you use should work for you, not the other way around. Having a solid workflow reduces delays in your team so that everyone knows when and who to approach when certain problems arise.

    Your workflow can be a short paragraph or a simple 10-point checklist that tells your team when and who to call when things need to be escalated. The important thing is that you set up your workflow to be seamless. Remove as much friction as possible so that each request goes from point A to point B without any unnecessary steps.

    Aside from having a solid workflow, taking advantage of automation can also make the task of IT support services flow more smoothly. It's hard to find the right balance between automating tasks and dedicating time for manual work, but as a rule of thumb, the tasks asking customers for information about the issue should be automated so that your support agents can get up to speed and work right away on solving their problems.

  5. Track performance metrics/data

    Just like marketing and sales, customer support is composed of processes that lead to results. As the team leader, the results you're aiming for should be happy customers, so you need to find out which processes keep customers happy, and keep on doing that.

    That's where tracking performance data comes in. Tracking your team's performance allows you to determine which strategies are bringing positive results, as well as those that can use more improvement so that you can try out new strategies and continually improve your workflow.

    Additionally, the customer support industry continuously evolves as technology comes up with new forms of communication for customers. What works today may not work tomorrow, so staying on top of data allows you to adapt your strategies to improve your ways of managing customer issues.

  6. Outsource technical support team

    For businesses with a lot on their plate, handling support tickets internally can be a little messy. In those cases, BPO companies that offer technical support management is the most practical choice because it may already have optimized systems, processes, and people in place enabling it to outperform your own customer support capabilities.

    Having an outsourcing team makes it easier to provide 24/7 support to your customers and reduces ticket processing time. It also comes with the added benefit of having more time to focus on growing your products, while the outsourcing team makes sure that your customers remain satisfied and happy with your brand.

The best customer support is one that can quickly provide solutions and make customers feel important. It looks like a simple process on the outside, but there's a lot of operations that should always be kept in top shape to ensure an efficient ticket management system. And if you need an outsourcing company, MicroSourcing is here to provide great quality of service that will help boost your business performance.


Tips for Delegating Work Effectively

by: Sidney Liquigan

Wednesday, November 22, 2017 | Comments (0)

Category: Outsourcing Research / Trends

Startups and small businesses tend to want to take control over everything – for them, it is easier to monitor progress when you keep it in-house. However, delegation is a practice that is essential to achieve real business growth. When you have a small team, it is not ideal to juggle tasks. Handling many different responsibilities will distract you from your core business competencies.

Delegation and outsourcing

When delegating work, know that this doesn't always mean that you have to hire more staff. Expanding your in-house staff can be costly. Allocate your resources instead to scaling up your business and delegate work by outsourcing them.

Outsourcing is a cost-effective solution that gives you access to a highly skilled workforce without having to worry about the additional costs and logistics concerns that come with it – you only have to pay for the service you require.

Additionally, outsourcing offers various flexible options to help you get started with delegation. You can start with outsourcing specific tasks first to test how it works for you. As you gain more confidence with outsourcing and with your outsourcing partner, you can gradually outsource larger projects and arrange for a long-term partnership.

What to outsource

The success and the continuous growth of the outsourcing industry can be partially attributed to the wide range of services different outsourcing companies offer. Nowadays, you can outsource almost anything; you can start with outsourcing administrative tasks to a virtual assistant or outsource different back-office departments such as finance and accounting, recruitment and human resources, and IT. There are also outsourcing services for marketing, creatives and production, as well as customer service.

When to outsource

Deciding when it's time to outsource varies from case to case. Essentially, you need to assess your team's current workload and identify the areas that need more focus. Based on your priorities, would you have enough time and manpower to handle all of them with equal dedication? If your answer is no, then the higher level priorities should be handled by your team and outsource the other tasks, with the volume of work to be outsourced depending on urgency and your budget.

You should also identify the areas that need special skills that your team lack. Obviously, you need to outsource these projects to gain access to professionals with the right skills and resources to get the job done.

Conclusion

Overcome stagnation and delegate parts of your business processes. Consider outsourcing work to third-company providers that offer outsourcing services with the managed operations approach. With managed operations, you will have full control over your outsourced operations, with your outsourcing partner serving as your representative in supervising your external team.


We can't stress enough how outsourcing might just be the key for your company to save money, expand capacity, and have access to extensive resources and specialized expertise for many of your business functions. However, all these can only be achieved if you do it right. Make an outsourcing mistake and the consequences will be critical – it can cause you to waste more time and money, have poor customer service, and even cause your business to fail.

Common outsourcing mistakes

The first step to avoiding outsourcing mistakes is to be aware of them. Here are four of the most common outsourcing mistakes and how you can avoid them.

Going for the cheapest service

Outsourcing generally provides you high-quality solutions at affordable costs. However, choosing an outsourcing provider based on price alone is not always a wise idea. Select your provider through competitive bidding. Review each proposal to see which of the potential vendors will meet your specifications at reasonable costs. Identifying the outsourcing company that you can build a long-term partnership with should also be taken into consideration.

Insufficient guidance

Your in-house team follows a set of guidelines and processes in order for your company to have a streamlined system and to run smoothly. Outsourcing essentially means you are hiring new people. Considering that your outsourcing provider will be working with you remotely, they need to have more guidance in the form of comprehensively documented guidelines and procedures that they can incorporate into their own processes.

The common mistake among companies that outsource is failing to provide enough guidance. Requirements and scope of work should always be clear to help encourage accountability and management of expectations. Defining the project clearly will also help you identify an accurate job description, which in turn will help you find the right provider fit for the job.

Lack of communication

Just because you can delegate work to experts who have specialized skills for the outsourced job, it does not mean you are free from the responsibility of supervising your outsourcing partner. Just as you require your offshore team to be available for correspondence and to be mindful of deadlines, you should also always be reachable so they can receive support and supervision, especially when they need information from you in order to perform their tasks accurately.

Feedback is also an important part of the process. Work with your outsourcing provider in managing your outsourced operations. Regularly provide constructive feedback that will help them identify the areas they need to maintain or improve. Telling them exactly what works and what's not working for you can help them provide better service and achieve the results you expect.

Unfamiliarity with the differences in time zones and cultures

Offshore outsourcing is more efficient and cost-effective than outsourcing to local providers. This entails challenges that lead to misunderstandings. The most common challenge is the cultural and time zone differences. Take time to know and understand your offshore team's values and culture, and their ethics when it comes to work and communicating with clients. Also, understand that your outsourcing partner may be located in a different time zone.

Keep an open mind to these differences and make room for allowances. Communication is the key to building a strong and lasting partnership. Choose an outsourcing provider that is accountable and has the skills and resources you need to add value to your business. At the same time, you should also do your part in being responsible in choosing the right partner and in being a proactive client and supervisor.

Whether you're extending your own company to the Philippines or just outsourcing a part of your operations, partnering with MicroSourcing guarantees that you will receive all the support you need in managing your operations here. Managed operations with MicroSourcing means that we will manage your Filipino team together. You can choose to have your own locally-hired managers or take advantage of our operations managers to serve as your representative in providing training and support to your offshore team.


According to Gartner, vendor management is "a discipline that enables organizations to control costs, drive service excellence and mitigate risks to gain increased value from their vendors throughout the deal life cycle."

For an outsourcing partnership to work, there are things that both your company and your vendor or service provider should take into consideration. Successful vendor management is not how you are able to get the lowest price or a really good deal. Vendor management is about working and communicating with your outsourcing provider to make arrangements that are valuable to both parties.

Tips for a successful outsourcing partnership

Here are some vendor management tips for a mutually successful outsourcing partnership.

Transparency

Having a clear communication with your outsourcing vendor allows them to serve you better. You don't have to share all confidential information, but just enough to avoid misunderstandings. Share with them key business strategies that involve the product or project they are working on so they can also gain some insight that they can apply in the work that they are doing for you. For your security, make sure that you have a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) signed with your outsourcing vendor.

Communication and Collaboration

It is also important that both parties know and understand each other's priorities. Let the vendors know exactly what you need and give them enough information to allow them to provide the best solution for you. In turn, your vendor should also let you know what you can expect from them and the turnaround time. These concerns should be settled before signing a contract. The scope of work and the timeline must be clear.

Set up regular communications and project management arrangements with your vendor to ensure that agenda and priorities are monitored and on-track. Communication can be done through email and messaging platforms such as Slack or Skype, while agenda and deadlines can be managed through project management systems such as Asana.

Offer Commitment to Gain Commitment

A successful vendor management is when you form an outsourcing partnership with a vendor who will commit to helping you reach your business goals and priorities. In turn, you must also be willing to give your vendors your commitment to work with them. This doesn’t mean that you will agree to their pricing right away. It simply means that both sides should reach an agreeable rate that is reasonable and competitive.

Long-term Partnerships

Building a long-term outsourcing partnership can save your more money than constantly changing vendors to look for a cheaper solution. A long-term partnership means consistent service quality. Trust is also stronger with this kind of relationship. Further, it is also easier to reach agreements with a long-term partner that already understands your business, and on the same hand, a partner with a system that you understand and has been customized to adapt your processes.


4 Signs You Need to Outsource Your Accounting

by: Sidney Liquigan

Monday, November 13, 2017 | Comments (0)

Category: Outsourcing Research / Trends

One of the most common mistakes that startups and small businesses make is not asking for help. Business owners, regardless of scale, will inevitably face challenges along the way. If you think you can make it on your own, it's possible, but the progress will be painfully slow.

According to the Small Business Facts report of SBA, about two-thirds of businesses with employees survive at least two years, while about half survive at least five years. Startups fail during the volatile first few years because of low productivity and poor cash flow management – both of which can be solved by outsourcing.

Accounting and bookkeeping are business functions that should be ideally outsourced, especially if you have a small staff and few resources. Hiring an outsourced financial specialist gives you access to a highly skilled expert that has a deep understanding of your industry.

Delegating tasks to a third party provider also offers a refreshing insight from an outsider on how your business can be further improved. Outsourced accountants and bookkeepers will do more than financial reporting; they will also help you identify issues and find ways to improve in those areas and maintain stability in the areas that are doing well.

When to consider outsourcing accounting

How do you know if your business needs to outsource accounting? If these red flags apply to your business, then it's time to consider outsourcing.

No existing financial management

Poor financial management, or the lack thereof, will be the number one cause of your company's downfall. Your cash flow plays a big role in making important business decisions. If you have no idea about how your business is doing financially, it’s time to outsource finance and accounting to the experts and get it under control in no time.

You keep track of your finances but cannot interpret the data

Keeping track of your earnings and expenses is a good practice, but not enough to drive your business towards your goals. If you don't know what to do with the data you have and how it can help with creating business strategies, then a financial analyst will help you identify your assets and liabilities and what to do with them.

You need an accountant but don't have the budget

One of the advantages of outsourcing is the processes and project arrangement is tailored to your requirements. You can acquire the services you need only when necessary. The options are also scalable to your budget. You can outsource a specific task to a single person, or hire a team to work within that budget. As your financial situation improves and becomes more stable, you can then increase the capacity of your outsourced team.

Time spent on managing finances makes your productivity suffer

Handling your finances on your own or delegating the tasks to other members of your team who also have other roles is counterproductive. Finance and accounting are time-consuming and require a dedicated specialist to do the job. Outsourcing finance work frees up you and your employees' time to focus on your core business processes and will boost your business efficiency.

In the Philippines, MicroSourcing is a leading outsourcing provider with finance and accounting professionals who are trained in international accounting standards. Outsource your financial processes to us, including payroll, bookkeeping, financial reporting, tax compliance, and more. Contact us to learn how we can help.


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