What consumers should expect from Remote Design Professionals – Part 4
- Management Structure
What is the management structure like? Are they skilled in the fields of your needs? Some companies have “front men” that are qualified and use unskilled labor for the technical work. If this is the case, it will become apparent pretty quick. Be sure to qualify your design professional and its management team.
- Material Knowledge
How extensive is the knowledge of the materials being used? Each region uses a varying type of materials, dependent upon the locale. Elasticity, affordability and practicality all become key factors in material selection. Without proper knowledge of the materials, cost will go up, profits will go down.
Is accuracy measurement taking place? How frequent is it? What type is it? Is it “for show”, or a genuine assessment. Most design professionals have absolutely no measurement system in place. They fly by the “seat of their pants”. Without a proper measurement system, accuracy is questionable, consistency is non-existent from one technician to the next. Measuring quality and perception is essential if the customer is to be maintained on the long term. The measurement process must include the client’s feedback, as the critical factor. This key element is true in any type of venture, business or pleasure.
Can your design professional help you grow your network? Grow your business? In this age of global communication, this is a key element that is often overlooked by many. Consider the potential, that if everyone worked together, everyone could benefit. Networking should be an open, honest source for both parties to benefit.
A design firm can become part of your team and bring an even stronger sense of getting it right to your bidding process than a new employee — simply because they choose you as much as you choose them. The vested interest in development of a “regular customer” keeps a consulting firm thinking about your best interests. They will even show you a different (perhaps even better) way to do business…if you let them.
- Operational Policy
Is the design professional a “fly-by-night”? Are there policies, procedures and protocols in place? Any viable company will have specific details on company policy that can be distributed at request. Do you really want to compromise your company’s integrity by utilizing a resource that doesn’t value policy and procedure?
The beauty of remote assistance is opportunity, specifically growth opportunity. All sales cycles have fluctuations, growth “spurts”. Here is where a remote design professional is of the biggest benefit. How long will the “spurt” last? Will the trend be maintained? You can keep up with demand without adding extra employees. When the workload lightens, so does the use of outside assistance. The opportunity to grow your company’s revenue and client satisfaction level is an email/phone call away.
How organized is the design professional? Are there tools in place to make the setup transition a smooth process? A disorganized outfit will show its true colors fairly quickly. If the organization is not in place at the beginning of the relationship, why would you think it would be there later on? To be successful, the design professional must operate as an extension of your company.
Is there ownership placed on the design professional’s product/service? Or are they going to walk away at the first sign of trouble, leaving you holding the bag? Without ownership in the product/service, why would you even consider utilizing them? Does the design professional offer a guarantee? Do they have insurance if something does go wrong? These are all painful questions that decision makers must consider before putting their company’s reputation on the line.
What type of organizations and associations does the design professional participate in? Are they supporting their industry, giving what they can, or just taking from it? This is an often overlooked area of concern, which has a significant importance. We must give before we can hope to receive. Does your company place a high value on giving back? Why or why not?
An old saying comes to mind “United we stand, alone we fall”. What types of partnerships has the design professional formed? Are they acting alone, isolated on an island? Forming partnerships with others in the industry is absolutely critical to growth and success, not only for referrals, but for reputation. Companies that seek to form partnerships not only grow faster, they also grow into different areas previously unexplored.
How is the design professional viewed in its respective industry? What are others saying about them? Sometimes the perception of others can be a determining factor. The perception of a lack of integrity is just as bad, if not worse, than an actual lack of integrity. Find out what others have to say about your source.
Performance is essential to reputation and repeat business. How does your remote design professional perform? What is done to enhance performance? Is there repeat business? When performance is questionable, everyone loses, especially the consumer. How will your company measure performance before pulling the trigger?
- Practical Knowledge
Does the design professional have a practical, working knowledge of the product or service that they are selling? Or did they attend a few classes and become an expert? What looks good on paper, does not always look good visually. Be sure that your design professional has field experience and/or product knowledge. Do not assume this to be the case, ask! Sooner or later a tiger always shows his stripes.
How precise is the finished product? Will it meet the consumer’s expectations? Will it meet your expectations? Never take precision lightly. If every tire wasn’t perfectly round, the tire would separate and need to be replaced. A lack of precision equals dissatisfaction.
Will your company receive priority from the design professional? Will your workload be the straw that broke the camel’s back? Some outsourcing companies just do not have the capacity to make new work a priority. This is an important that must be asked in the beginning, when you are qualifying the design professional.
- Procedures & Protocols
Is there a detailed, descriptive outline for the service to be performed? A “how-to” for the product to be made? Is it written down, or in someone’s head? Without procedures and protocols to follow, for each staff member, consistency is a pipe dream. Take McDonalds restaurant for example. You can go to any McDonalds, anywhere, at any time of the day and get the same consistent product. Could this be possible without procedures and protocols? How can you expect the design professional to be consistent without procedures and protocols? More importantly how can your company be consistent? Fluctuations in this area equal variations in profitability.
What is the level of productivity? Does it match your company’s expectation? There are 60 minutes in an hour. Statistics say that most people only have 43 productive minutes in their hour. Others only have 35. Some have 20 or less. Ensure that your company’s expense is optimized by utilizing a design professional that is productive. If you are paying by the hour, second guess it. You never know how many productive minutes are in their hour. The best money is spent on a measurable source of productivity, such as per piece, per foot, etc.
How familiar is the design professional with all of the products your company is distributing? Have you asked? Or did you assume? This simple, yet critical question almost never gets asked. What happens when you assume?
- Professional Development
Some companies do not even know the meaning of these two simple words. A company without a focus on professional development is as inconsistent as the stock market. With such inconsistencies, profits vary. Quality varies. Does your design professional value professional development? If not, find one that does. Does your company value professional development? Think of it this way: When was the last time your company sat back to reflect on how you could improve your successes? Don’t we usually wait until a failure to do that? Why wait until a failure happens? Being proactive is the secret to success. Without professional development school teachers would not know how to use a smartboard, much less a computer!
Is the consultant you are looking to hire a known quantity? Has the consultant held office in a local or national association, are they members of local association, do they teach or train others or do they give back to the industry in other ways? This is an important category often left up to assumption. Be sure to qualify the consultant. Ensure they are providing value to the industry they are in. A true professional will place this in high regard.
The million dollar question: Is your design professional proficient? It may seem like a silly question. Never take this for granted. Just because they are in the industry they are in, does not mean that they are any good at it. You should ask the design professional to prove their proficiency before even considering utilizing them
Can your company be profitable utilizing design professionals? Absolutely! Believe it or not, most times it is actually cheaper to outsource that to use in-house staff. The insurance, workman’s comp, benefits, etc. become the responsibility of the design professional, which add points to your bottom line. During busy times, overtime will eat up profits. When you open your mind to the possibilities that outsourcing involves, you increase the potential. How would you feel if you could expand your market share, knowing you had a credible resource that was on-call when you needed it? Would your salesman then stop passing on jobs? How much more profit could you gain if they brought in more?
Are there any incentives? Some companies have a “VIP Club”, or discount offerings for steady clients. What is the incentive to remain associated with your current source? Are there discount offers? Is there a difficulty scale, or are you paying a fixed amount?
Stay tuned for Part 5…