It was 3 year ago when I was first contacted by an offshore research firm in India. 

Several of my sole-operator clients loved our software tools, but they did not have the manpower to make effective use of the powerful technology.  Our clients hired the offshore firm to run the software for them.   As it helped with client retention, I worked out a deal to train the offshore researchers.  My relationship was still with my client and I was able to observe and learn from afar.  Offshore research can pay huge dividends, but it can also cost you if you don’t what you are getting yourself into.  Here are some rules of thumb that I learned from success and failures.

1. Offshore research is a service, not a technology offering.  It’s not about efficiency or cost savings, it’s about relationship.  The offshore firm should have service, service and service in their DNA.  

2. Don’t treat people like a number.  This sounds like common sense, the golden rule, etc.  However, somehow the terms “offshore” or “remote” has a tendency to depersonalize the relationship.  Don’t let that happen.

3. Use their real name.  If one of your offshore contacts name is Rajaranan,  don’t call him Joe, Bob, or Peter.  Call centers started this protocol of giving foreign workers western names. This may work for a call centers, but it is a poor idea for someone you work with on a long term basis.  Use their real name, insist on it, you might butcher it, but they will respect you more than if you call then Jimmy.

4.  Beware of the over-emphasis on “dedicated” researcher.   Want to know a dirty secret?   Offshore firms are absolutely notorious for placing 2 workers on 3 accounts.  When I learned about this, I was livid.  Plain and simple, this is dishonest, and corrupt.  If the price is too good to be true, you’ve got a 2 for 3 situation.

5.  Have a plan.  If you cannot articulate what your current process is.  It will be hard for a researcher to achieve any level of success. 

6.  Make time.  In the recruitment arena, an offshore researcher will take about 15 minutes per day of your time to manage them.  Sometimes more and sometimes less. Be prepared.

7. Beware of metered results.  If you are getting 8-10 resumes per day, every day…something is wrong.  When I was a recruiter, some days I would get nothing and some days I would get a windfall of candidates.   Wake up and smell the appeasement.  This is usually a symptom of firms that do the 2 for 3 trick. Don’t except it, call them on it.

8.  Undergo a process audit.  Before connecting a new client with a remote researcher, Broadlook performs a technology and process audit.  This has been critical for our clients to understand what their current processes are, and what resources they have to accomplish their goals. 

 9.  Have defined timelines for each task and a weekly schedule outlining what they should do and when.  This is more important at the beginning stages.

10. Know how to do their job.  This will give you insight into how long repetitive tasks will take and will allow you should budget for them. 

11.  Host onsite.  With todays technology there is no reason for research to be done on a terminal thousands of miles away.  Set up an in-house research station and give them remote access to it.   You can use logmein for free to accomplish this.

12.  Watch them work.  Requires in-house research station, but wow, you can really tell something about someone’s efficiency by watching them work for an hour.

13.  Work with several firms.  When I compared results of one firm against another, I was surprised.  All firms are not equal.

14.  Get a referral.  If you need recruitment research done, don’t use a firm that does offshore mapping services.  Most firms will take any business they can get.  Make sure you are picking a firm that specialized.

15. Check certifications, training and tenure.  Insist on a researcher with at least six months of experience.  If you have multiple researchers, it is ok to have a new person as long as the team lead is a veteran.  All researchers I work with go through Broadlook’s certification program.

Donato Diorio is a leading authority on Internet Research.  Donato is the Founder & CEO with Broadlook Technologies, a firm that “Leverages the Internet” for recruitment, sales and marketing research. Thousand of companies worldwide use Broadlook’s recruiting software.