Staying Productive During a Summer Lull

Although for many nearshore countries July actually marks the first full month of winter, for their largely North American and European clientele, July marks the first full month of summer. This Summer-sunset
also means July marks the first full month when many people take vacations and those left behind in the office may take a slightly less diligent approach to their work.

I know of one small company where every July the owner would take the entire month off, leaving the employees to their own devices. The resulting chaos included the invention of at least one new sport, a battle of wits and will called “PenguinBall” that used foam toys given away at trade show booths and combined the rules of football and bowling.

In all likelihood, nearshore BPO and ITO buyers are not engaging in summer “PenguinBall” tournaments during these difficult economic times, but they may have less work to outsource. Call centers will likely find fewer customers (or employees, for corporate contact centers) dialing in, while software developers may find their next major deadlines do not occur until the far-off days of September. Many manufacturing outsourcing customers may even shut down for a week or two. And don’t even get me started on the European approach to summer vacation, which basicallyconsists of treating the entire summer as one giant vacation.

So what is a nearshore outsourcing provider to do if you find yourself with some extra time as a result of seasonally relaxed client requirements? The last thing to do, as tempting as it may be, is to join your clients in their summer repose. Not to say that you can’t scale back your pace of work slightly, but summer offers a perfect time to perform a little housekeeping and catch up on a few things that may have gotten away from you during the busier portion of the year. Here are three suggestions on how to stay productive during a summer lull.

Sweat the Small Stuff – Let’s face it, the typical day of a nearshore outsourcing provider is pretty darn hectic. Clients under increasing pressure to cut costs without sacrificing productivity or profitability are no longer content to “lift and shift” to obtain X savings, but now expect the uninterrupted delivery of high-level services at a level of competency equivalent or even superior to that offered by full-time, in-house employees. And if you can’t meet these demands, there is no shortage of competition, whether from other nearshore providers, farshore providers, or even rural sourcing or domestic “insourcing.” 

Needless to say, in this environment, smaller activities like downloading the most current security patches or conducting employee performance reviews can easily fall through the cracks. But the small stuff can quickly become big stuff if it is not properly dealt with in a timely manner. So use spare time in the summer to guard against the latest malware threat or give your call center agents some constructive criticism.

Review Your Alignment with Client Practices – Clients say they want you to align with their corporate practices, but are often too busy to enforce policies and standards from hundreds or thousands of miles away. So do it for them. Review client manuals, handbooks, email communications, and any other materials that indicate how they ideally expect you to perform their tasks. Then compare to how tasks are actually performed onsite. Close the gaps. Productivity will rise and client satisfaction will increase, more than providing both hard and soft ROI for the effort.

Train, Train, Train – One of the biggest impediments to outsourcing success is outsourced workers who are poorly trained. As opposed to aligning your operation with your clients’ best practices, training means aligning your operation with your own best practices. Especially in more manual outsourcing environments such as call center, turnover can be extremely high, resulting in a near constant supply of new employees in need of training.

While the reality of modern global business is that employees in every industry are often expected to learn on the job and train themselves, a summer slowdown offers a great chance to get everyone caught up on how they are actually expected to do their jobs. As with client alignment, proper training will do a world of good in terms of productivity and customer satisfaction.

Those are just three suggestions on how to make the most of a summer lull, surely you can think of many others. So go on and have the most productive summer (or winter) ever!