It’s easy to fall for the obvious benefits of outsourcing your business processes. The lure of cost savings and becoming “sticker happy” can be great. And indeed, many call centers advertise on price. $8/hour, $7/hour, even $6/hour – in some countries it goes down to $1/hour. But the true measure for outsourcing success lies with Quality – not just on the BPO providers side but also from the client’s side. A BPO provider cannot be better than the client. So what is the one thing that contributes to BPO success the most?
Business Processes with Quality build-in
Quality is in the eye-of-the-beholder. Hence, the quality you seek needs to be defined and measurable – it really helps you and the BPO provider to be on the same page when it comes to delivering results. The first stage in building a BPO operation is the solution planning phase, before you go into mobilizing the workforce or the delivery. During the solution planning phase, you define the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and the Goals & Objectives (GNO) - ie the key components that deliver results. After all you don’t want to buy employees and time-sheets, you want to buy results. With those KPIs and GNOs in hand, you can then setup your operation for success.
Plug’n'play: Have a Plan – Have a Process
You should expect your BPO provider to understand and have extensive knowledge of their respective specialty, such as Customer Service or Social Media Marketing. But don’t assume them to be your business consultant developing the processes for you. BPO providers are here to execute your processes. You want to be plug’n'play for the BPO provider with clear business processes and standard operating procedures. Having said that, most BPO firms allow you to look over their shoulders and let you see what they are doing for other clients (case studies), which surely will provide you with insights and inspiration for your solution. Please note that not-so-ethical BPO providers may give you off-the-cuff “consulting advise” to get your business – but these are nothing more than remarks to overcome your objections during sales negotiations. Ask to speak with actual call center agents doing the job – let call center agents tell you first hand about their work.
Written by Leo von Wendorff
You think that this name is way too beautiful for a simple fly? Oh, then I have to tell you how the fly Ching Ling earned this rather unusual name, and then you’ll find this name very appropriate. May I have your ear, please.
Have you ever been in prison? Excuse me, of course not! But I can ensure you, getting into is not so hard. The other way, getting out of prison is the hard part. During the trial, I got to know that somewhere, some time under the influence of alcohol, I said about someone, something not so nice. You shouldn’t do that. Hamlet was in the same situation because he thought that there is something foul in the state of Denmark.
Hamlet wasn’t allowed to do it either, although he – well, that’s unimportant. Important is that you hear about why I called the fly Ching Ling.
I squatted down in the prison cell, shattered by the accusation of the court, broken down, surrounded by the impenetrable mist of a darkened soul, with an empty stomach, my knees to my chest, and stared at the plain wall. Then, unexpectedly, right in front of my half-closed eyes, a simple fly sat on the wall. Or rather she stood because flies cannot sit.
I don’t know, how it came – but it must have irritated me. Is it an old typically male characteristic, an instinct to hunt, or just a flashback to my awkward youth? Be that as it may. The provocative behavior of the fly caused my hand to cup unconsciously into the typical form for fly-catching. Cautiously, my hand moved closer to the seemingly unaware victim. That was when my mind produced some clear thoughts. Maybe it wanted to justify the strange behavior of my hand. Anyway, I thought: The way I was caught, that’s how I will catch you, you little fly – I also want to play judge. I want to be your fate and decide about life or death. But that was only what I thought; then when my fate-seeking hand tried to seize in a God-like manner, it grabbed empty space. The little dark spot sat as if nothing happened just a few centimeters higher on the wall. Just so high that I couldn’t reach it.
Resigned, I wanted to fall back into my mindlessness, that’s when horrible anxiety struck me like lighting. Didn’t the fly just grin at me? Just when I wanted to throw my boot into her sneering face, she talked to me – with a slightly thin and reasonable sounding voice of worldly wisdom, – she reminded me of my religion teacher. See, she said, “you wanted to be my fate, but I have escaped, you idiot? You have to stand above your fate, even if it is only a few centimeters, just enough so fate cannot draw you into the abyss. Do you understand that?” – “You laughed at me!” I cried. – “That’s what it is all about,” she answered coldly, “you have to smile at your fate. See, you nincompoop, and then you’ll discover that life is comedy rather than tragedy.” – She put herself in position, grinned at me again, and took off. She disappeared as fast as she came.
I have thought about her for very long and discovered that she was right: You have to stand above your fate! I’m still remembering my little fly quite often, who came like a speck of sunlight into my darkness, and gave her the name Ching Ling. That’s Chinese for the lucky mood.
Written by Wolfgang Borchert
Translated by Leo von Wendorff
Answer by Balaji Viswanathan:
- Plenty of landlocked countries. Among the continents, Africa has the largest proportion of landlocked countries. Landlocked countries are substantially limited when it comes to food sources and international trade. The countries on the coast – South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, Libya and Algeria rank comparatively better in HDI. (See references at the bottom on why being landlocked is bad).
- Dutch disease: This is the paradox of having large resources. You would normally assume that resources would lead to better outcomes. However, most nations with large natural resources face the. Large natural resources often leads to lower incentives in building manufacturing capability.
- Charity agencies. Just like the Dutch disease, this is a paradox. I mean the billions of dollars in aid must all be good, right? But, things are more complex. The problem lies in aid and what the aid agencies advertise to get the aid. A lot of African cities look these (Tanzania's Dar es Salaam). However, you don't see this in media as it doesn't get the aid agencies enough sympathy.
What the aid agencies instead advertise is this – some hapless, scared Africans who need an external person. This creates a self-fulfilling prophesy. Africans cannot take care of themselves –> More aid –> Kill local entrepreneurship –> Africans cannot take care of themselves.
What this change in perspective does is that it impedes investments in Africa. Would you do business with an absolute basketcase? The poverty porn at the behest of Western media does more harm than good.
- Extremely divided. Africa's population of 1 billion is divided into 62 political entities. Europe is the only other continent with such high number of divisions. Like the Europe before WW-II African countries are constantly at war. Apart from the wars, the divisions make the geography even more terrible. Gobi desert, Great Australian desert and Thar deserts are part of larger nations that allow the people in the desert to migrate. However, a poor Namibian or Djiboutian is stuck in the desert.
- History. Most of central Africa didn't have well-organized ruling systems before the arrival of colonialism. While Ethiopia, Egypt and Western Africa had stronger kingdoms, most of central Africa had no major kingdoms of note. This leaves them at a disadvantage when it comes to developing a national identity.
- Vast chunks of Africa are not arable. Between the Sahara and Kalahari deserts, there is the African Savanna and rainforests. This leaves a smaller percentage of land for efficient agriculture. Djibouti & Western Sahara have almost no agriculture. Percentage of arable land in Namibia, Botswana and Mauritania are less than 2% of agricultural land.. The Green revolution that helped reduce hunger in Asia and Latin America has not had much impact on Africa.
Often companies do not take their criminal employees to court because of the negative PR value it would generate for their company. Remember Apple’s manufacturing scandals in China? But, hardly a day goes by without a new fraud case in the news. Example: The Montauk Grifter. Fraud can bring down even the big guys – think Enron and Arthur Anderson.
Unfortunately, there’s no absolute security against fraud. Even well established and ethical companies get hit. However, the risk of having fraud occur in your company can be greatly reduced by understanding the three elements, which have to be present before fraud can take place: opportunity, justification, and motivation.
It’s difficult for an employee to steal from his employer if there’s no opportunity to steal. Probably the most impactful measure ever taken to reduce the opportunity to steal cash in business history was the introduction of the cash register. Cash is the easiest to steal and hardest to track. A popular opportunity for employees to steal is to create bogus expenses or to lie on the expense claim. Opportunities can be limited and reduced with strong processes. For an expense to be approved, you can specify that there needs to be an initiator and an approver (dual signatures). Other measures could be fingerprint scans to enter sensitive areas or unlock computers, blocking USB ports for thumb-drives and rotating duties.
The justification is the reason for committing the crime, what makes it okay to do in the mind of the perpetrator. The number one reason is the feeling of being underpaid, under appreciated and over-worked – that one deserves more. Fair & competitive compensation, benefits and perks can do wonders. An appreciated and fulfilled employee is much less likely to defraud their employer.
The pressure or motivation is the most difficult to control as an employer. The pressure to defraud is usually caused by an external force – external to the employer. This could be a vice, such as gambling or drug addiction. It could also be that the spouse lost their job or unexpected high medical bills. This unexpected loss of income may have caused financial hardship on your employee. At VKW, we utilize the management technique called The Daily 5 Minutes as made famous by Rosa Say. Everyday, the supervisor checks in with each employee to check – to see how they are doing. While there are many other benefits to this practice, it has the side effect that the supervisor will probably learn about any hardship or at least notice a change in behavior.
All three elements – opportunity, justification, and pressure – must be present before fraud can take place. One might be stronger than the other but still all three need to be present. To greatly reduce the risk of fraud, an employer should understand and work on all three aspects.
I sincerely hope that fraud will never happen to you but the chances of that are against you. If you haven’t done so already, please spend some time whiteboarding on how your company can prevent fraud. It’s a lot less work and headache than the alternative.
By Leo von Wendorff
While success may be different and unique to each individual, I dare to say that success is formulaic. It doesn’t matter if you seek riches, fame, family, enlightenment, or self-actualization. Success is not luck. Winning in the lottery is luck but arguably not success. Success is an outcome and can be planned for.
Success = many good Options
The more options one has, the more likely success becomes – especially when there are many good options. Obviously, if you have multiple job offers on your table and these offers come from Google, Microsoft, and Facebook with a 6-digit salary, well, it’s nearly impossible to not succeed at that point. The reverse would be to have few options – poor options, when there are no job offers and the only option is to live a life of crime.
So how does one create many good options?
Options = Opportunity * Ability
Options come about when opportunity and ability meet.
“Opportunities are like buses. There’s always another one coming.” – Richard Branson.
Opportunities probably abound for someone like Mr. Branson because they are handed to him at his level. On the other hand, many have created their own opportunities and overcome adversity. We celebrate them for doing so.
The USA holds equal opportunity as a defining cultural value. But while everyone in the US has the opportunity to create a Fortune 500 company, not everyone has the ability. “We’re all create equal. After that, baby, you’re on your own,” was a famous advertisement slogan in the early 1980′s for Fortune Magazine. If we don’t have the ability to take advantage of the opportunity, then there’s no option. Let’s break down ability a little further.
This is probably obvious. With experience, the quality and quantity of one’s skill set increases. Same goes with education. The sum of education and experience become one’s skill set and thus define the ability to take on opportunities. With low ability, opportunities will be outside of one’s grasp. If opportunities are not within reach then it isn’t an option.
But let’s go back to opportunity and how to create one or many.
Opportunity = Imagination * Evaluation * Network
Good opportunities are rarely handed to you. To find the good opportunities, one would have to create them. Three ingredients make up an opportunity:
- Network – the size and quality of one’s network
- Imagination – the creative mind to spot inter-connections and solutions
- Evaluation – critical thinking to evaluate niches
Let’s say that you have conceptualized a widget that will allow you to never lose the second sock in the laundry, and now you’d like turn this into a business. Next step is to evaluate. You would create some prototypes, test it, and see if people are willing to actually spend money on your widget. While evaluating, you realize you’re onto something.
If your network consists of many successful and influential business people, you probably have a good chance turning your widget into a business. Whereas, if you know few people and none of them work in business… Well, now you know why LinkedIn is so successful.
Or, if you’re seeking a special someone and all your friends (your network) are married with children, you would turn to a dating website. You’ve create a profile on one or two dating websites and increased your network. Once you start meeting potential mates, you make sure that your values and life goals are compatible (evaluation), thus, turning your network into a real opportunity for happily-ever-after. Contrarily, if you only increased your network by online dating but cut short on the critical evaluation of your mate, you might have created a poor option for yourself.
Success is never just an opportunity handed to you on a silver platter. Plan your efforts and include your network, imagination and evaluation – all these things unique to you – contribute to that fulfillment that is success.
By Leo von Wendorff