Communicating to stakeholders on both sides can help win champions as well as put customers at ease with your services globalization.
Communicating effectively with your internal and external stakeholders is an important part of successful globalization initiatives. That’s important because opinions, if they become negative, can turn into behaviors that threaten to derail an initiative. Positive opinions, on the other hand, can turn into behaviors that contribute substantially to success.
When communicating with internal stakeholders (including all of your organization’s employees, from the C-suite to the frontlines), focus on goal, path, and potential outcomes, and follow these five best practices:
• Begin Your Communication Early. Start at the onset of your initiative-planning phase. Then, communicate often. Most successful globalizers have periodic briefings about the progress of the initiative as well as ad-hoc proactive communications.
• Resist Empty Communication. When organizations try to communicate but don’t really end up saying anything concrete, the outcome can be worse than not communicating at all. When you communicate with your employees, you raise their expectation that they will learn about how the globalization initiative will affect their future; don’t let them down. They’ll learn not just about why it’s important to the firm, but also the WIFM (What’s In it For Me).
• Forget Persuasion as the Primary Objective. Your principal goal in communicating potential outcomes to your internal stakeholders is not to bring them over to your way of thinking; it’s to help them understand the importance of the initiative to the company and how they will personally be handled. Instead of trying to persuade your employees, let an “opinion leader”—a leader within the company who’s well respected and trusted—speak of the initiative and its potential outcomes. Trust and open communications are key.
• Be Honest. Of course, you want to position your globalization initiative in the best light, but resist the temptation to sugar-coat potentially negative outcomes for your employees. Instead, communicate the whole range of possible outcomes—both positive and negative—and how you intend to handle it.
• Cascade Messages. Allow a variety of people to be part of communicating your message to the organization’s internal stakeholders.
No less important than an organization’s internal stakeholders are its external stakeholders. There are two potential problem-points for your company’s external relations: the perception of the general public and the experiences of your customers.
Clearly, managing customers’ experiences is critical to a company’s success, but managing the perception of the general public is critical. Public perception has a lot of power to fuel customers’ buying decisions as well as to put political pressure on domestic organizations. In the public realm, globalization, outsourcing, and offshoring have once again become four-letter words.
And in the customer sphere, there has recently been some backlash against companies that have globalized services. Some enterprises have even begun to scale back customer-facing offshore operations as a result of the negative customer feedback. But overall, the industry continues to grow.
Yet reining in global services operations is not the only—nor likely the best—answer. If services globalization were better communicated to organizations’ external audiences, it would likely be met with a higher level of acceptance.
That’s E-Loan’s philosophy, and it has paid off well. In early 2004, the online lender launched an offshore outsourcing pilot program for its back-office processes. In keeping with the company’s “honesty is the best policy” stance, the company discloses the details of its offshore program to customers before, and gives them the option of domestic processing of applications. According to E-Loan’s chief privacy officer, 87 percent of the organization’s customers choose the offshore option.
Effective communication requires strong commitment from key management and a deliberate, well-thought-out strategy to address the concerns of internal and external stakeholders. The reward for getting the communication part of the initiative right is that internal and external stakeholders will help propel the initiative forward rather than conspire to hold it back.