Nearshore tech outsourcing is a people-driven business, and one of the most uncomfortable realities of the industry is that customers can be nasty people too.
For Nearshore staffing firms and providers of IT talent, servicing a customer that is being extra-difficult or even vile with programmers assigned to a project can put them in a tough situation. The landscape in the region is growing more competitive by the day, meaning there are plenty of options available for a client that feels unsatisfied with the service provided. Plus, the job market is turning tighter, leading to talent becoming perhaps the most valuable resource for any company in the business.
There are no easy answers to dealing with a client that is causing extraordinary trouble for your IT staff. Most companies will try to walk a very fine line in an attempt to keep both sides happy, a maneuver which requires high levels of patience and finesse.
Below you’ll find five tips that will help your company navigate the conflicts that might arise when a customer is being unpleasant.
Use “Missing Link” Intermediaries
In spite of the growing popularity of Nearshore arrangements, there’s still a lot of doubt and even concern over the viability of IT development by third parties in the region, fed by stereotypes about offshore outsourcing.
From concerns about product quality to fear of cultural differences, a customer’s doubts can translate into unhealthy behaviors that exert unnecessary pressures over staff, which might sour the business and/or labor relationship.
To diffuse such situations, the best bet is leveraging the abilities of what industry players call a “missing link” intermediary: someone that dominates technical topics but who’s a good enough communicator to engage customers who are not tech-savvy.
The role of the intermediary is to provide the customer not only with accurate and pertinent information of the project’s development, but also your team’s expertise and the benefits of the arrangement.
The intermediary should brush away any shred of buyer’s remorse in the client.
Alignment Instead of Mere Transactions
Some customers might treat developers as tools/resources instead of a team of people working with them towards a common goal. Such a distant approach might give rise to several problems, such as distrust –which might result in excessive attempts at control–, lack of communication and even interactions that veer towards confrontation.
One of the best ways to avoid these is fostering a relationship that goes beyond the transactional. Ideally, customers should understand that IT vendors aren’t merely providing a service, but working in alignment with their own goals as a company.
Doing so will reduce the opportunities for conflict and, in the eyes of the client, turn IT teams into partners instead of mere resources. The relationship will be allowed to mature, bringing both parties closer together and strengthening the bond for mutual success.
It will also allow for smoother, clearer communication between customers and staff, providing the former with a better understanding of the team’s capabilities and the benefits in the arrangement. The final result shall be a client who is more trustful and willing to let go of total control.
Ride the Line Between Flexibility and Record-Keeping
At NSAM we have pointed out the need for flexibility for a successful business relationship in outsourcing. Even when the nature of the relationship has been put down in detail in a global services agreement (GSA), changes might arise as the project moves forward.
Although IT teams need to be aware of the possibility of unforeseen changes in the project, the responsibility of watching out for them falls on company leadership.
One of the best ways to do this is by keeping a strict record of deliverables, deadlines, metrics and other aspects of the project that a customer might be interested in, pointed out Enrique Pérez, VP of Operations at Tijuana-based Framework Science.
Beware of Poachers
There’s the possibility that clients will try to snatch staff members away. This is one of the worst things that can happen to a staffer or Nearshore IT provider in today’s labor market.
IT’s talent landscape has grown hypercompetitive. Companies have to remain on their toes, keeping an eye not only on potential recruits but also on the people that are already on board. The latter translates into several strategies, such as re-recruitment processes, clear paths for growth, incentives (financial and non-financial) and transparency.
Even when several of these strategies are applied, losing developers to a client is still likely. With wage inflation and service rates climbing even in the Nearshore, vendors are experimenting with alternatives to staffing agencies and traditional IT providers. Tools like Deel, Henry and Torre provide talent with the chance to work directly for clients in the US, Canada and other attractive territories, turning the screws tighter on the labor market. In this context, IT firms have expressed their concern over a rise in “moonlighting.”
Keep in mind that talent ultimately has the finanl say on whether to stay or leave. Company’s should do their best to keep IT staff around without incurring in toxic employer behaviour themselves. Best case scenario: the three parties (employer, employee and customer) will be involved in the conversation.
Breaking Up Is OK
Nearshore firms have to know when to fire a client. Although most vendors would rather avoid this outcome, companies need to impose limits for the sake of their talent and business. It must be underscored: in today’s tight labor market, talent is perhaps the most important resource for Nearshore IT companies.
“The bottom line is that you have to be willing to lose a client, ot at least lose that fear of loss, which will give you clarity on what issues are non-negotiable and which aren’t,” said Mario Chaves, President of Encora’s operations in the Americas.“We prefer to cut a business relationship that doesn’t look good instead of fostering a toxic one”
Breaking up tends to be more difficult for smaller vendors or ones with little experience. Even then, company executives have to know how much they’re willing to take.
“A company is never small enough to establish limits on how they want to be treated by clients. If they let it happen, there’s going to be mistreatment, because there are always clients out there who want to take advantage,” warned Chaves.
When firing a client, fast and direct is the best approach. Before having “the talk”, it’s necessary to have a clear understanding of the causes for the firing and, if possible, get the support of company leadership.