In Property Preservation, choosing to outsource office work can often be a challenging decision. At times, it can be even be heated topic. Is it really the right thing to do? Can this company offshore really do what they are saying? Will they make a mistake that could end my business? The answer to all of these questions is "Yes", and "No", but please read on because the reasons why are much more complicated. To note, the outsourcing companies I am talking about here are strictly related to Property Preservation.
There is a time to outsource, and there is time to not outsource.
Outsourcing might have worked well from 2008 to 2013, but things are much different now. The level of detail needed for each work order, just in the office, has exponentially increased. It will continue to increase into the future. Many regionals experience this challenge, how do you get contractors, on the ground to provide bids, report damages, or fill out PCRs? You can't, at least not consistently. So the office has to be there to compensate; it will only get worse, as the compensation for work gets tighter and tighter. So, further into the future, processors will have to be better at reviewing photos with essentially no information from the field. An offshore office will have a hard time accomplishing this.
Personally, I do not recommend outsourcing for Property Preservation. Not now. Operating a business in Property Pres for 5 years, working with several different offshore companies, and having dozens of different clients, proved to me that due to cultural differences, architectural differences, differences in residential construction, and communication barriers, those processing offshore can not possibly have the degree of precision, and perception needed to prevent processing mistakes, much less win bids. Now, in 2017, mistakes are more costly than ever.
However, there are situations where you might be okay using outsourced labor. When it comes to processing work orders an outsourcing company shouldn't have any issue processing grass cuts, occupancy inspections, and any other routine job that doesn't require in-depth bids, PCRs, or damage reports. If you also have tasks that require a lot of copying and pasting, they can do this as well, but why would you if you could just automate it with a service like ours, or utilize a client's web services through something like Pruvan or Property Pres Wizard, or Ez Inspections? Typically, it's best to assign tasks to outsourced labor, if they are simply taking information from one spot, and moving it to another. If critical thinking is required, then you will have to write out how to critically think through that task. While this sounds terrible, the reason is pretty simple, outsourcing companies can't retain processors forever, in fact, expect to lose the processor you trained. So you need to provide them with documentation outlining your process, so each new processor will know your requirements.
This is another reason I am critical of outsourcing companies. With some training, an processor can do well at a lot of different things, but you have to put in the legwork, the outsourcing company generally won't do that for you. Rather than providing a service, you have provided a service to them, investing hours of training, and putting thought into how best to get your point across. Not to mention this one processor that you trained, can now take that training and help your competitors. All of this work might be okay for a corporation, or company that sells a product of some sort, but not for your standard, run of the mill, Property Preservation company.
I don't even need to go over the potential security issues that may arise by sharing login information with a company offshore.
Before you sign the Contract, see if an outsourcing company can do this.
A successful preservation company hinges on good reporting, and good estimates.* So, good outsourcing really hinges on good estimates and reporting. Having little to no information from the field and just using photos, if they are not good at estimates, then they are not a good outsourcing company.
With that said, if you are looking into outsourcing, I recommend you utilize a Standard Operating Procedure, in the form of a dynamic quiz that tests a processors ability to review photos, provide bids, report damages and correctly complete an inspection report. This quiz should not be completed by the outsourcing company, but by the processor that the company assigns. The Preservation company can decide a good scoring metric, but if a processor can't successfully complete an inspection report with at least a 90% score, and report damages with at least a 90% score then they need further training. I recommend the test be dynamic, to prevent the documenting of correct answers. Finally, the outsourcing company most likely would attempt to simply have someone else sit in for that specific processor that knows more, so ideally, either don't work with companies, just individuals, or find a way to ensure that the one taking the test is the actual processor that you will be working with. It will be clear that a different processor took the test if your assigned processor starts making mistakes.
This entails that you have an assigned processor, from the outsourcing company. This is important. Your company has a specific workflow and you need a processor that understands the workflow, you shouldn't have to train someone every day on your workflow.
There are good processors.
I have worked with some great offshore processors and made some good friends offshore, that I am glad I got to work with. So there are skilled processors, or better, processors that are enthusiastic to learn and do well, but they are rare. With the exception of possibly implementing an Outsourcing SOP like the one I described above, I recommend sticking onshore.
*As an aside, of course doing the actual preservation work is important too, but if you are just good at changing locks, remediating mold and all of the other preservation-related work, but you are terrible at providing bids, reporting damages and filling out PCRs, then prepare for failure.