by Stephanie Overby

Offshore Outsourcing: When the Customer Isn’t Right

Jul 15, 20032 mins

Indian I.T. vendors have an unmatched commitment to customer service. But sometimes offshore employees need to know when to push back.

Indian I.T. vendors have an unmatched commitment to customer service. “It’s absolutely their competitive advantage,” says John Doucette, vice president and CIO of United Technologies, which contracts with five companies in India.

But that positive can turn to a negative, which Doucette found out when he worked with Wipro Technologies while CIO of Otis Elevator (1998-2000), a United Technologies subsidiary. (For more on Doucette’s experience, see “Inside Outsourcing in India”.)

Once, Doucette recalls, his company gave Wipro the requirements and specifications for an e-commerce system. The system returned to him as requested—on time, on budget. But his request, it turns out, was flawed. The system didn’t work as envisioned.

“They knew it wasn’t what we wanted, but they were so determined to please us that they did exactly what we said,” he says. Doucette had to visit the offshore workers and explain to them that they should speak up if the company asks them to do something they don’t think is right.

The talks helped. “Now they take our requirements and say, We think you should do it this way. And they have some really great ideas,” Doucette says. “They’re getting to where they understand a lot of best practices, whether its Web development or ERP.”

This story is a symbol of the growing sophistication of companies like Wipro, which now must compete with the likes of IBM Global Services and Accenture. “We have excelled at giving the customer what he wants. We now need our people to become consultants who not only know better but also are unafraid to say so,” says Vivek Paul, president of Bangalore-based Wipro.

Paul says Wipro is acquiring these new skills both by acquiring U.S.-based companies (like NerveWire in April) and by investing in training programs so that 2,200 Indian employees can develop leadership thinking and communication skills by early next year.

Doucette hopes the culture change doesn’t go too far, adding, “I wish our domestic contractors understood the customer-focused nature of the Indian people.”