In outsourcing, often the advice you’ll hear is to start with something simple and then move to more challenging and sensitive work with time. This gives you – whether you’re with the client organization or the service provider – a chance to work together, to strengthen your relationship and confirm your satisfaction in such matters as quality, service levels and costs. This is even more important when the work is being done offshore, because time and cultural differences often get in the way of having a clear understanding about the company you’re partnering with and the level of work actually being performed.
In this case study, Motif, a service provider with operations in Morristown, NJ, USA, Ahmedabad, India and Manila, Philippines, shares the details of the process it went through in implementing new services for a major client, which was also in the outsourcing space. The client, a provider of diversified business process outsourcing solutions in human resource outsourcing (HRO) and information technology outsourcing (ITO), is a Fortune 500 company with more than 55,000 people supporting client operations in nearly 100 countries. It was already using Motif for lower end transactions, such as account maintenance.
The challenge for Motif was to adapt to more complex work – dealing with money – being offshored by the same client while maintaining or increasing the levels of quality and productivity, as shown in Figure 1.
Setting the Bar High
In preparation for the transition, Motif prepared a detailed step-by-step plan for its operations team and process associates to not just meet but also exceed client expectations. The operations team and quality assurance representatives executed the following tactics to meet service level agreements (SLAs) and standards of productivity and quality.
The first concern: to understand and adapt to changing requirements, such as varying turnaround times specific to the client’s customers. The company allocated specific work to specific process associates. This structured distribution of work made management easy and ultimately increased the efficiency levels of the process associates. Team leads monitored turnaround times for queries on an hourly basis by logging into a client tool and coordinated with the process associates to handle them on time.
Motif determined the average handle time (AHT) per transaction by analyzing data for three months of operations, as well as the output of individual process associates, which helped in setting productivity targets.
It worked on a goal of 100-percent daily query resolution to surpass targets set by the client through quick resolution of queries on transactions by proactively approaching subject matter experts (SMEs). The number of queries ranged from 20 per day at the start of the transition and dropped to five per day for both Level 1 and Level 2 transactions. Operations floor supervisors provided active support to process associates to achieve client-specific service levels by resolving staff queries and escalating them to the client if not resolved.
The company addressed error-prone transactions by focusing on quality processes and subject matter expertise. Errors included such things as missing information per the customer’s requirements and missing a deadline for handling a customer’s request.
Initially, there were frequent communication and calibration calls between Motif’s lead team and client’s team so that both were updated simultaneously on the nature of errors and types of forms and requests coming from the clients’ customers. This increased product knowledge, which was shared with the team.
Motif added features to its proprietary tool, Quality Monitoring System, to track every case with internal errors. This application identified the areas of improvement and helped in knowledge transfer within the team.
Also, quality assurance reps verified transactions by checking all the information generated by the associates prior to delivery to client, thus helping associates make continual quality improvements with timely correction of errors.
In order to enhance team quality and productivity, Motif implemented alert processes against quality benchmarks. Team leads provided continual coaching to team members, which significantly improved quality and raised productivity. In cases where an individual member didn’t keep up, team leads verbally informed the person and issued warning letters.
Early on, to understand Level 2 processes better, associates were trained on day-to-day documents ranging from sale contracts, hardship documents, good faith estimates and power of attorney – among others – and procedures to handle them. This training was delivered in person and lasted about an hour.
Then the company handled real-time knowledge dissemination to the operations team through an internally developed tool, Knowledge Source. This knowledgebase provided a reference compilation of the procedures and updates received from the client for each of its customers and every transaction. Its use helped in reducing the AHTs and meeting all the SLAs.
Over the course of two years, the team’s approach to operations and quality for level 1 transactions increased client confidence in offshoring higher volumes of level 2 transactions to Motif. Motif’s adherence to strict quality guidelines also encouraged the client to move quality assurance tasks to the service provider. The client was delighted with Motif’s innovative approach and internal tools. In fact, it requested the use of the Quality Monitoring System and Knowledge Source for its onshore operations.
The bottom line: Motif exceeded client expectations. As the HR director for the client firm said, “We started our offshore experience with Motif, expanded with another vendor and then started our own captive location in India. After five years of experimenting, we decided to terminate our relationship with the other vendor, stopped expanding our captive location and will expand our relationship with Motif over the next year. This is a testament to their quality of services, commitment, management skills and cost competitiveness.”