How does a company choose the right outsourcing partner?

Outsourcing is like a marriage so you must know your provider intimately. Be clear about their strengths and weaknesses. There should be a cultural fit so ensure there is a match in business cultures even if the workers’ way of life is different. Will a time zone difference be an issue for your business? If so, South Africa would be a good choice or, if you want 24-hour business and customer support, outsourcing to India might be preferable.

What questions should we be asking?

You need to consider how important it is that an outsourcer’s staff speak clear English. This is as crucial as saving money if a provider’s employees will be talking to your customers. If you want to combine cost savings with good English support choose a country like South Africa or the Philippines. Ask what specialist skills and knowledge staff have, perhaps in IT or finance, and who are their clients. It is crucial the provider can perform as well or preferably better than an internal department.

Does it really matter where in the world the outsource provider is based?

Yes. The political situation locally could have an impact on the service a company provides and its employees. India has a stable government but there have been issues in North Africa. Egypt is tipped as a big IT and business process outsourcing destination but recent political unrest has made many companies nervous because they worry about business continuity. We set up a successful customer service and call centre operation in Egypt in 2007.

What’s the biggest mistake a company can make when choosing to outsource?

Don’t choose a provider and location based solely on the cheapest price. Cost must be balanced with the factors above otherwise a short-term cost saving could bite you in the future when your brand and reputation are damaged.