SmartAdvice: Voice-Recognition Technology Can Extend Call-Center Reach

Used to augment but not replace call-center staff, voice-recognition technology can make for better customer service, The Advisory Council says. Also, efficient modeling of processes is key to successfully automating sales orders; and getting technical staff to work with offshore outsourcers depends on how they've been treated.
Question C: How do I motivate my technical staff to cooperate with staff from our offshore outsourcing vendor?

Our advice: There are two very different answers depending on your company's situation. The big question is whether the offshore outsourcer is providing supplemental services alongside your technical staff, or whether it's in the process of replacing the IT staff.

In the first instance, the issues to be overcome involve fear of eventually being replaced, territorialism, change, and adjusting to working with a new culture. In the second situation, the issues are more fundamental--why should I help someone who is putting me out of a job?--and thus more difficult to solve.

Assisting Supplemental Services
The most important factor is putting your staff at ease in terms of their job security. If staff members feel that their assistance will eventually put them out of a job, at the very best you'll get malicious compliance with cooperation requests. Honesty and good communication are always the best policy, as they create trust and eliminate fears about your "real" motivations.

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The second step is to create personal relationships between your staff members and their counterparts in the outsourcing organization. Cultural awareness training is very valuable for overcoming cultural "miscues," but nothing beats creating a team where members know each other as individuals for encouraging cooperation.

The final step is providing some financial or other type of benefit based on the success of the overall team, giving individuals added incentive to cooperate with their offshore counterparts.

Training Their Replacements
In this scenario, the level of cooperation is largely set by your and your company's behavior in reaching this point in the outsourcing arrangement. If your staff members feel they have been treated unfairly in the process, in terms of honesty, severance arrangements, and job-placement assistance, you're unlikely to get much cooperation regardless of incentives.

If employees feel they've been treated fairly, you have more latitude in providing motivators such as longer severance periods, completion bonuses, and additional training assistance to reward cooperation. Change is always painful and resisted, but if you help replaced employees regain security by moving to new and better positions outside the company, they're more likely to help the company make the transition successfully.

In today's still-tight economic climate, offshore outsourcing is a lightning rod for job-security fears. You can't blame technical staff members for being hesitant to assist those they fear are taking away their jobs. Reducing or eliminating these fears is your most important motivator for gaining cooperation.

-- Ian Hayes

Beth Cohen, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 20 years of experience building strong IT-delivery organizations from both user and vendor perspectives. Having worked as a technologist for BBN, the company that literally invented the Internet, she not only knows where technology is today but where it's heading in the future.

Peter Taglia, TAC Expert, has more than 20 years of IT experience from the vendor perspective, focused on process automation for eBusiness, eCRM, contact centers, telecomm operations support systems, E911, wireless and wireline networks via n-tier applications, integration, middleware, and portals. His experience includes complex planning, project management, financial justification, ROI, metrics and strategies for growth via opportunity assessment, product management, value innovation, benchmarking, and industry structure research for alliances, mergers, and competitive analysis.

Ian Hayes, TAC Thought Leader, has extensive experience in improving the business returns generated by IT investments. He is the author of three IT books and hundreds of articles, a popular speaker at conferences, and his clients include many of the world's top corporations. He helps companies focus on value-creating projects and services by better-targeting IT investments, improving the effectiveness of IT execution, optimizing the sourcing of IT activities and establishing measurement programs that tie IT performance to business value delivered.

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