Offshoring contact centre and back office operations requires a lot of planning and understanding of cultural differences. A simplistic “let’s drop it into Manila” approach is geared for failure. Here are some tips for effective knowledge transfer into Asia.
Why knowledge transfer is important
Assuming that the offshore talent acquired is on target, knowledge transfer is the next critical piece in ensuring ‘speed to competency’ – this is how fast agents can competently service customers. The slower the speed or the longer agents are grappling with the knowledge, the more costly it is to the organisation in training days, lost productivity and poor performance impacting customer’s experience. So, right talent + successful knowledge transfer = optimal speed to competency.
This equation becomes complicated when transferring knowledge across borders, especially across cultures as different as Australia, the Philippines and India. The talent in Asia is not the same as Australia – we know this. Yet in discussion with trainers, operational leaders and heads of service delivery in Australia, the typical 4-6 week onshore induction training content has not been changed to suit talent in India or Manila. Why? Responses vary from not really acknowledging the differences in cultures to having no time or budget to adjust this content, let alone focus in on measuring the speed to competency.
However it’s hard to ignore the benefits of getting this equation right. A clear example is a tier one telco that moved from 120+ days in speed to competency to 68 days by innovating its knowledge transfer processes in Mumbai. Below are more real case studies and tips that may cause you to reassess how you are transferring your brand’s knowledge offshore.
Flip the 70/20/10 learning principle for Asian audiences
This principle is widely preferred in Western contexts where learning is 70% experience based, 20% coaching and feedback based and only 10% is focused on content. While this is optimal in getting close to what the actual experience will be like with customers (70%), Asian audiences tend to focus more on the content and are less likely to connect with practice-based exercises initially.
Example: A large oil and gas company offshoring to India had spent almost 40 hours delivering webinar training, showcasing different scenarios on accounts payable issues on a mock system. The goal was to improve the customer service training experience and agent performance. However Indian agents were lost on the calls, with their need for written content and knowledge of the process unfulfilled. When asked if they were following on the call, out of shame and ‘saving face’ they responded with a resounding ‘yes’. When the system went live, agents were unable to process the work. The tip here is, appeal to the Asian need for knowledge and the bigger picture by providing core content first and blending in the practical elements. Adjust the assessment of learning to contain both knowledge and scenario-based questions.
Modularise and layer learning
Create modules of all the content that you need to train, and prioritise each according to the business need; order it in a logical flow of learning and deliver this over a period of time, interspersed with time to practise. This will encourage Asian audiences to embrace the 70% experience-based learning approach, with the appropriate level of content.
Example: A well-known insurance company took all their Manila agents through three weeks’ induction training on processing claims, customer call-backs and quotes. While some agents who had experience working with Australian insurers managed the training, and their speed to competency was acceptable, most agents were under-performing more than 90 days post training. The tip here: there was a backlog of claims to be processed. Training this first module and executing this business deliverable within the first 30 days would have been a win-win, and then callbacks and quotations could have been other modules to layer on. Planned correctly, onshore could have transitioned the work in a phased approach to build competence.
Consider using knowledge management software
There are various knowledge management software tools ranging from the inexpensive to the more pricey, cloud based to add on software. These tools are useful if the knowledge to be transferred is broad and across multiple products, which are prone to changing in price or features. The training can then focus on the process and critical knowledge while the rest is housed on the desktop of the agent to retrieve as needed. It suits a centre that is more customer-focused and not overly focused on handle time – this will allow agents a little leeway to search the system. The training then has to focus on optimal usage of the knowledge tool.
Example: An accounting software company servicing both SME and corporate clients outsourced to Asia and implemented a new CRM system that had an add-on knowledge management tool. The learning and development department then adjusted the 6-week induction to focus on core knowledge, reducing training days by 50% in Asia, even with training on how to source data from the tool included. Asian agents responded well and reached speed to competency faster than onshore. It was found that Asian agents in their 20s and 30s were tech and social media savvy with their tertiary education built around sourcing information from multiple media online.