Published: July 26, 2013 | Comments
There’s no doubt that the process of outsourcing can be overwhelming. With so much to consider, and so much unknown, it can be daunting and scary.
Where should you outsource? How do you make sure you choose the right partner? How much should it cost?
With so much to think about, wouldn’t it be nice if there were some sort of technology to simplify the process? For those interested in expanding to Australia or New Zealand, there is.
Last week I had the opportunity to chat with Sharon Melamed. Sharon lives in Australia and is the Managing Director for Matchboard. In a nutshell, Matchboard works very much like an online dating site would, but it’s not for dating. It’s a tool to help contact centers find the right outsourcing partner for their customer service and technology needs. And it’s free.
I asked Sharon several questions about the service, her motivation for creating it, her experiences with outsourcing challenges, and the current contact center landscape in Australia. Here’s what she had to say.
ICMI: What do you see as some of the biggest challenges involved with outsourcing, and how does Matchboard help with those challenges?
Sharon: When companies are outsourcing for the first time, one of the biggest challenges is speaking the same language as the outsourced partner. I’m not talking about just foreign language communication issues, rather an understanding by companies of how outsourcers operate and their terminology. Let’s take an example: pricing. An outsourcer might quote a client $40/hour. But “hour” could mean “attendance (or timesheet) hour”, “logged hour”, “payroll hour” or “activity hour”. The difference in the definition could mean 30-40% difference in the overall price. Many companies wouldn’t be savvy enough to clarify the definitions when negotiating the contract and end up with a rude shock on the first invoice. There’s no doubt the contact center industry is full of acronyms and jargon, and Matchboard helps its clients navigate through this. When we get a request to connect with outsourcing suppliers, we offer the client free advice, as needed, which adds value to our matching service.
The other main challenge with outsourcing is just finding the right partner. There is a deep sea of outsourcers out there - the options are almost mind-boggling. Matchboard offers a quick and free solution to this business problem. Through our website, a company can enter its precise outsourcing needs – for example location, industry experience, offerings, volumes – which sends a query to our database of contact center providers. The client then gets connected with a shortlist of suppliers which meet their exact criteria. This saves a lot of time in researching who’s who in the market, and reduces the risk of an ill-informed purchasing decision substantially.
ICMI: What inspired you to develop this service?
Sharon: With Matchboard, I wanted to solve a business problem which I saw happening on a daily basis: how do you quickly and accurately pinpoint the right suppliers for a particular sales, service or back office need? For example, you might a need new knowledge management system, an outsourced telemarketing service, a sales training company, or a process improvement expert. People spend days or weeks sifting through search engine results, and sometimes even pay consultants to do this work for them. Using the Matchboard website, you simply enter your needs in a short questionnaire and our matching engine then locates the best suppliers to help. In most cases, suitable suppliers contact you within 24 hours. So I’m encouraged and inspired to develop the Matchboard service further, based on feedback from clients that it helps them save time and source smarter.
ICMI: Do you have any clients in the U.S.?
Sharon: Yes, several!
To quote Michael Stahl, a U.S. consultant representing BROWZ in their search for a call center in Australia, “I needed reliable recommendations for Australian outsource firms fast. Matchboard immediately set me up with successful, proven companies that fit my client's needs.”
This is pretty indicative of the feedback we get from a broad range of U.S. clients, from online retailers to media companies and technology vendors. I think they are relieved that there’s a free service out there like Matchboard which will give them vendor-agnostic advice about reputable local suppliers. Due diligence is very challenging when you’re sitting thousands of miles away, and we have pre-vetted hundreds of suppliers, from call center outsourcers to technology vendors, consultants and training companies, and captured detailed information on each.
ICMI: Why do you think so many U.S., UK, and European call centers are interested in relocating to Australia and New Zealand?
Sharon: Unlike most other developed countries over the last few years, Australia has enjoyed a period of economic resilience and growth, and this has attracted many U.S. companies down under. Once they come here, they often need an onshore or near-shore contact center to support the client-base. Unfortunately cities like Sydney and Melbourne are typically very expensive places to operate, so Matchboard helps guide clients through the options, whether that’s regional locations or even New Zealand (which is like Canada is to the U.S. in many ways). On the flip side, the Aussie accent generally goes down well with U.S. consumers, and there are some U.S. and UK companies differentiating their customer experience with telemarketing or customer service from Australia! Despite the higher cost, the conversion rates may be higher due to the novelty of a U.S. consumer speaking to someone with a friendly Aussie accent. In other cases, a call center in Australia or New Zealand is simply part of a “follow-the-sun” strategy, covering the U.S. or UK night shift.
ICMI: You’ve worked all over the world. What do you see as the biggest challenge(s) of managing across different cultures?
Sharon: For most executives, I think the biggest challenge is simply the fear of the unknown, and this mostly relates to foreign language and culture. For example, countries like the U.S., UK and Australia have large multi-ethnic populations. In fact, in Sydney and Melbourne, 30% of people speak a language OTHER than English at home. These customers would reward companies that serviced them in their native language with better conversion rates, more repeat business, and higher customer satisfaction and advocacy. Yet how many companies really take advantage of this opportunity? Often since the executives running the business or the customer operations don’t understand these other languages themselves, they fear they can’t control the customer experience and quality of service, so they simply put it in the too hard basket. Another example of this fear of the unknown is in relation to offshore call center accents. Many companies hesitate to offshore English-language call center work because they have preconceptions about foreign accent in different countries. An initiative Matchboard is undertaking over the coming weeks is putting together a Call Center Audio Map of the world, so people can click on a country and hear a call sample. By listening to accents in different countries, from the Philippines to New Zealand, and Fiji to Indonesia, people can overcome their fears and select the best option for their needs.