Sunday, January 7, 2007

Day 6: Genpact and Convergys

Thursday, January 4, 2007. 9:30 AM IST (Indian Standard Time). Today was another full day of company meetings. We first visited the powerhouse of Genpact. Genpact is perhaps the largest BPO firm in India. Headquartered in Gurgaon, India, Genpact’s 26,000 employees under the leadership of Mr. Pramod Bhasin helped achieve nearly $500 million in revenue in 2005. Genpact delivers its services in 19 languages from 16 centers in 6 countries. They are well on track to meet or beat their 2008 revenue goal of $1 billion.

Before preparing for this trip and reading more about trends in outsourcing, I have to admit my knowledge was fairly limited. However meeting with these companies has increased my knowledge and opened my eyes tremendously. Initially I thought of large call centers which perform a simple function and are not closely tied with the core strategies of a business. While such non-critical support functions are being outsourced in large numbers, there are also emerging trends to leverage Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) firms and others to be more strategic partners. A good example is some of the work that Genpact is beginning to address. They will work with a company is a consulting capacity to review the current situation of the firm and make recommendations for which functions might make sense to outsource and which should be kept in-house at the firm. Consistent with this new trend is the firm’s approach to client relationships. Genpact prefers to work with fewer clients in a more intimate capacity. They would generally not service a project that will require less than 30-40 FTE. Working with fewer clients whose business is scalable provides Genpact the opportunity to strengthen their consulting skills, which is a smart way to plan for future growth.

The second company we met with was
Convergys. Convergys is a slightly younger company than Genpact, however is growing at a rapid pace. Rather than focus on servicing many facets of BPO like Genpact, Convergys focuses on the service components (cell centers, etc). While at Convergys, we were able to visit one of their call center floors which was quite impressive. In my estimate, the floor housed close to 250+ employees. I noticed a section in the center of the floor which appeared to be some type of mobile phone store set exactly as it would be if located on the streets or in a mall. Apparently the company makes every effort to ensure the call center employees understand the business as much as possible – hence the mock store on the call center floor. This provides the call center employee a good idea of what they are servicing and helps the brand become a bit more real for them. If you think about it, one of the important components of a good call center is relevance. If the call center employee has no idea what the reference point is, it will be difficult for him/her to feel empathy for the caller. This is brilliant because the retail outlets are designed quite differently in India than they would be in the USA. Convergys was very gracious. Our contacts there were willing to talk about their business and many of our questions tended to focus on retention efforts, scheduling and training.

The training questions were of greatest interest to me. The first thing I asked was the cultural training that the employees receive. They go through three weeks of cultural and communications training when the employee starts or is assigned to a new team. This training includes background on the country and culture they will be servicing, the company and the product. The objective of the communication training is often misunderstood. The purpose is not to change the accents or dialect of the employee, but rather to prepare the employee to understand terms, slang and accents. We enjoyed a good laugh hearing that an employee was servicing a customer who lived in the boonies. To provide better service, the Indian employee attempted to locate Boonies on a map of the US! Another good question was why employees often assume names such as Bob or George. This practice was at the request of the companies outsourcing the work. The large Fortune 500 companies thought providing great customer service in a brand manner meant giving employees Westernized names, which the employees often enjoyed. However this practice has subsided with Sarbanes-Oxley and other regulations which provide that employees servicing financial services must give their real name. We discussed much more, so if you would like to know more about training or retention programs – just ask!