While many other outsourced HR services can be kept transparent to the customer, there is no way to keep customers separate from mobility subcontractors.
Despite the increasingly remote, offshore, and centralized world of HRO, a key component of relocation management remains local capability. And, depending on the scope, a provider’s hands-on presence can be a key differentiator in the sourcing process.
Generally speaking the local-versus-remote debate still rages lustily when outsourcing is mentioned, but with the exception of recruitment, it’s a contention that has perhaps diminished since the early days. The benefits of on-the-ground recruiters continues to make a strong case, leaving some buyers deciding one way and others the opposite, but otherwise the market seems to be accepting well-executed technology and call-center solutions.
However, relocation is one area where there isn’t much argument. Pretty close to the top of the list of relocation provider desirables is how the on-the-ground services are handled. After all, household goods movers have to enter the home, real estate agents must show folk around actual neighborhoods, and often local authorities require administration to be done in person.
Some remote service, call-center virtuosos may point to the growth of web-based virtual house and neighborhood tours, but at some point a potential expat will have to smile at a real immigration official, and every relocating employee must step over the threshold to an actual new home.
Typically relocation providers manage an army of subcontractors to ensure they can offer the benefits of local know-how. So, it’s not a matter of finding the miracle outsourcer that does everything themselves, but it does involve paying more attention to the subcontractors that might normally be left in the outsourced process “black box.”
When outsourcing payroll, for example, one might have a passing interest in who will print pay slips, but it’s not key to the deal. That view changes on the day the slips don’t show up, of course, but generally speaking, the drivers of customer satisfaction are the centralized agents who pay correctly and handle queries professionally. Ditto for personnel administration.
Relocation has a slightly different emphasis because while the service agents who process a transfer and may handle process queries are important, arguably the key to the customer experience is the subcontractors.
They are like training providers in the sense that a course needs be registered and processed properly, but the part the customer remembers—hopefully for the right reasons—is the course delivery. Though training providers also use subcontractors, they also like to get directly involved with course development and delivery, perhaps because that’s where the serious money is. Whatever the reason, it’s not quite the same as the relocation industry’s reliance on household good movers, destination services providers, realtors, building maintenance services, immigration lawyers, etc.
So, when assessing relocation providers, consider that their vendor management capabilities and portfolio of subcontractors are at least as material as their agents, centers, and technology. It is perhaps even an area where the choice of subcontractor or the change of a subcontractor should not be the sole preserve of the provider even if pricing mechanisms need to reflect the interference of the buyer in the
Movers with quality issues, particularly the kind that lose or damage shipments, are the kind of thing that seriously undermines the customer experience. Similarly, tardy realtors whose priorities are elsewhere or a destinations services provider whose one-man show is overwhelmed by a factory’s new influx of workers can also lead to a black eye for the relocation department.
The customer is likely to spend two to three times more hours with these subcontractors than with the prime provider’s agent, and most of that time will be face-to-face. Therefore, it is a significant part of their experience and one they will remember not least because it concerns matters that directly affect their family.
So, although outsourcing is normally a good way of putting behind-the-scenes junk in the “black box,” where relocation is concerned, the contractor box should probably be kept more transparent than usual.