In the Spotlight: Suppliers in Emerging Markets
BGRS experts share their experience managing the global supplier network in emerging markets In the Spotlight.
Collectively, you have more than 30 years’ experience managing suppliers around the world. What is essential to ensuring suppliers are reliable and aware of the challenges relocating employees may face?
Jason Parry, Director, Global Supplier Networks:
Getting on the ground and testing the end-to-end experience from an assignee’s perspective. It’s important to look at what’s going on in a particular market, because every market is different. In the United States, United Kingdom, or other mature markets, it’s important that suppliers can manage larger volumes. Whereas in emerging markets it’s really important to look at their structure and capabilities – do they have a process in place, etc. Suppliers in emerging markets don’t typically need to be concerned with large volumes, so we take greater stock in other aspects of service delivery.
Pawel Wojnowski, Senior Manager, Supplier Networks:
Jason is exactly right. No move is exactly the same, so it’s important that we come prepared with specific scenarios to see how each supplier will handle the situation. Instead of them carting us around to see what they want us to see, we test them. They are meant to meet certain expectations with specific requirements in a particular scenario. Our goal is to know exactly what the assignee will be experiencing. We want to ensure that whatever the supplier sells on paper, in their brochures, and submits to us in a request for proposal (RFP) is what our clients’ employees will see first-hand. The RFP has the questions, but the on the ground visit is the validation. You actually understand who they are, and how they are going to function.
Gustavo Perez, Director, Client Services, Latin America:
Both Jason and Pawel are spot-on. Speaking from a client services perspective, we are critical of any supplier who is currently part of the BGRS network, or a prospective partner. We want to be confident in the services being delivered and the expectation we set for our clients and customers. In a way, every supplier is benchmarked against the specific population they will be servicing, which informs our site visits and the scenarios we develop. BGRS takes a detailed approach to ensure our customers experience the highest level of service regardless of where their assignment is.
A lot of work goes into ensuring that BGRS partners with the best suppliers worldwide. How does BGRS set reasonable expectations for assignees going to more challenging locations?
Pawel: We do a good amount of education for our own operations teams, so that they are prepared when they speak to customers. The more informed our teams are when they speak to clients and customers the better BGRS is able to set realistic expectations and make sure the customer has an excellent experience. Recently, for example, BGRS had a Destination Service Provider (DSP) in Mexico speak to the client services team about the difficulties in that market. They developed a presentation from their first-hand experience. This provided BGRS with invaluable insight and helped us better anticipate our customers’ concerns.
Gustavo: Many times in the more challenging locations, we must partner with small suppliers. Our upfront investment in training those suppliers is extremely critical for overall service delivery. It’s important to keep in mind, this time and investment in building relationships is to everyone’s benefit. In the most challenging markets, if there is an escalation, it is big. It will be a joint effort to problem solve because there just aren’t as many options in smaller markets as larger ones. Yes, it’s challenging, but our suppliers rise to the occasion. Some of the most innovative suppliers are in emerging markets, such as Brazil and Argentina. These suppliers generally have to be more creative – more entrepreneurial. They continuously invest in new solutions, including apps and videos, to set proper expectations, which in my opinion is key to succeeding in emerging markets.
How do you prepare for escalations or challenges that might occur in emerging markets?
Jason: We always try to uncover the root cause. The root cause can be essential in service recovery efforts, ranging from adjusting a communication template, to something more complex like, revising a client’s security approval policy or developing new supplier training.
Pawel: Recently, we experienced how identifying these root causes is really helpful. We noticed an influx of returning nationals to India and Mexico. Recognizing that individuals returning to India and Mexico will have very different experiences, we developed a supplier training on effectively handling returning nationals. This helps the suppliers understand the unique challenges of returning nationals, shifting their communication and service delivery approach.
Gustavo: We always work with our partners to anticipate needs and be prepared. If something is escalated, the team and our supplier partners work together to resolve any issues as quickly as possible.
How does BGRS continue to enter new markets and grow its network of preferred suppliers?
Pawel: On an on-going basis, our team looks for new and scalable solutions. A good example is in second and third tier cities in China. We treat these small cities as if they are individual countries. Our team looks at the entire list of suppliers available in that market and we begin with the same process as we would in more developed locations – RFP, mock-calls, virtual, or on the ground visits, etc. We also ask for recommendations relying on our existing supplier partners and network. In the smallest pockets there may only be one or two providers, so it’s essential that we do our due diligence.
Jason: In 2016 we started the Remote Location Project. We did an analysis of all the countries BGRS and our supplier network can service. We found that our clients are in 140 countries and BGRS can deliver service in over 185. This was a great exercise because we started asking questions about those more remote locations outside of the 185. Is there someone there? Can we do a search? Slowly, we continue to expand our on the ground capabilities.
What do you think is most important for employees to be aware of when relocating to a challenging location?
Pawel: Have an open mind; don’t compare it to a home country. It’s going to be different; different communication style; different practices. Anyone moving to a new country needs to be open-minded and nimble, but especially in a challenging location. Also, trust that you are working with highly managed suppliers and BGRS is here to help.
Gustavo: Along those same lines, be flexible and patient. Any relocating employee gets a lot of information and a lot of calls – from their employer, from the DSP and from BGRS. Trust the DSP and the material they provide. Look at and read the material, it will help you prepare for where you’re going.
Learn more about managing risks, issues, and opportunities that arise when relocating talent to challenging markets in BGRS’s Insights article, Navigating Challenging Markets when Relocating Employees.