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Study Reveals Communication Problems and Best Practices in Outsourcing

by: Karen Cayamanda

Monday, October 5, 2009 |

Effective communication plays a major role in the world of outsourcing where people with different nationalities, culture, and interests work together to achieve their business goals. While it is now easy and convenient to talk to people overseas, thanks to advanced technology, problems are still being encountered because communication best practices are often neglected. This eventually hinders BPO players to establish and maintain long-term outsourcing relationships.

In the first of four-part Best Practices Series 2009 published by Outsourcing Center entitled “Four Communication Best Practices Often Overlooked in Outsourcing Relationships”, 56 buyers who participated in the study noted that communication problems arise from:

1. root cause analysis

2. not being able to understand the buyer's priorities

3. agreeing (or not) on the importance of “noise” or customer's feedback/complaints

4. service provider's failure to listen to the buyer

Communication best practices in outsourcing

The key to having a successful outsourcing relationship is to reach a shared understanding of each other's goals. To achieve this, service providers and buyers must adhere to the four communication best practices that are often overlooked in outsourcing:

1. Service providers must take the “noise” into account. They pay so much attention on meeting the requirements that they fail to look into what customers think about the deliverables, so it is the buyer who ends up dealing with customers' complaints. Providers must understand that “noise” is significant in establishing an outsourcing relationship.

2. Create a communication plan for the period after the transition phase. The relationship usually runs smoothly at the start of the project when both parties understand each other's goals. The problem arises after the transition when the business operation expands and/or venture into new projects. Participating buyers said that providers are not able to identify which tasks are critical for the project and in accordance to the buyer's objectives. The best practice to overcome this is to develop a communication plan for the period after the transition phase so the service provider can determine which should be prioritized.

3. Outsourcing contract should be “crystal clear”. To avoid conflicts, there must be no room for vagueness or ambiguity when it comes to the outsourcing contract. If an issue arises, both parties must identify the cause of the problem and resolve it.

4. Mutual trust must be established. Buyer and service provider need to demonstrate that they truly listen and understand each other. For service providers, pay attention to the buyer's issues and make sure to resolve them. The same goes to buyers. Communication entails two or more parties, and having mutual trust is important to overcome the problem.

This study is a clear indication that communication is more than just talking to the service buyer or provider. It is about understanding each other's issues and concerns and coming up with solutions that will work for both parties. Culture and interests may vary, but shared understanding of objectives must be established in order to develop an outsourcing relationship that is both long-lasting and beneficial to service buyer and provider. The important thing is for buyers and service providers to keep the best practices in communication in mind to avoid problems.

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