Knowing full well how important communication is to quality reporting, I approached Andrew Reich, Managing Director of InTouch and an expert in the quality control industry, who agreed to answer some pressing questions. In the extensive podcast interview that followed, Andrew revealed four signs that buyers can look for as indicators of effective communication in a QC company. The following is an abridged transcript of that interview:
Why is communication important when selecting a QC company?
Andrew: Well, when you're working with a QC company in China, Vietnam or elsewhere, that's really your boots on the ground in that country. Usually you are yourself back in your home country and you're relying on those people to carry out the service, whether it be product inspection, production monitoring, factory auditing or whatever it might be on your behalf and do so at a high level.
When those services are complete or while they are underway, you want people who can communicate clearly back to you exactly what's going on there on the factory floor and exactly what the results are and not skew those results by poor communication in any way. That's what makes communication one of the most important parts of selecting a 3rd-party QC company.
What signs can buyers look out for in a QC company that are key indicators of effective communication?
1. Experienced background
Andrew: Well, I like to tell people that when you first get introduced to a 3rd-party QC company, you probably want to think about who you are actually talking to. Who's the person that you've been introduced to? Who's your account manager there, the one that's going to be doing the day-to-day communication? You probably want to get to know them and ask them what their background is.
That's the first thing which is basically who is the person there answering your question.
Is that a recent hire who's never done a quality control inspection in his/her life or never done a factory audit in his/her life, doesn’t know what the inside of a factory looks like? Is that some representative who's based in the U.S. or wherever you're located who has never been to China or east Asia and doesn't understand what goes on in the world of manufacturing in Asia? Or is that somebody on the ground who has been in factories before, who knows what's going on and has direct communication with your inspectors on the ground?
So you want to know who that person is or what their background is.
2. Strong proficiency in language
That person's native language is another sign of how well they can communicate.
If I'm an American buyer or I'm in Canada or the UK or Australia, generally speaking, I really appreciate speaking with somebody who is a native or near-native English speaker. That way, I have the confidence that I can pick up the phone and call that person and they can speak back to me without hesitation.
Also, when I'm typing and I'm saying things maybe in innuendos or phrases or paraphrasing things that we do in English, that person really gets it and understands what I'm saying.
That's one of the reasons why at InTouch we pretty much hire exclusively either Chinese that have been educated overseas in universities and are native in the English language, or westerners who themselves grew up overseas and are native in the English language.
So if your first language is English, you want to be working with somebody else whose first language is English.
On the other hand, if you are a Chinese trading company or you want your China office to be dealing with the QC company, then it's important that they have client managers who speak Chinese.
John: Yes, I definitely agree that it's important to have bilingual staff and to have staff that, preferably, been educated overseas or, if not, are native speakers.
I think that, particularly with vendors or trading companies, finding suppliers for clients in China or elsewhere in Asia, the language barrier can be a big issue. It sort of transcends literal terms; maybe they tell you one thing but what they mean is something a little bit different.
3. High familiarity with your product
Andrew: Yes. My next point is: Does the person that you're speaking to know the product that you're working with? Is this somebody who's literally just been pulled in off the street and it's their first day, and yesterday they were talking about textiles and today they're working on electrical components.
The person that you are talking to should know the product that you are working with.
Generally speaking, a client manager or an account manager at a QC company can't know all product types in such depth. But they should have a support structure or technical service team that can bring them up to speed quickly on that product and what we are testing and what we are inspecting with that product.
So, what kind of support structure does that person have, and when you ask them a question, do they really know the product?
4. Utilizing multiple methods of communication
Andrew: Going on to the last point, I would say, is the level and the format and the sophistication by which a person communicates as well.
At InTouch, we utilize all forms of communication. We email, but we also call, we do videoconferencing, we meet with our clients face-to-face. We strive to communicate at the highest level in all these ways.
That's really important to consider. When you receive emails, are they sort of broken up, with poor grammar or poor structure? Or are they clean in bullet points, really communicating effectively?
When you speak to somebody at your 3rd-party QC supplier, is it noisy in the background or not really connecting well? Or do you have a good connection with good quality audio, and you can hear what they're saying? Are these people also willing to get on the phone and do videoconferencing with you when need be in order to show you something? That's really important.
John: Definitely. Utilizing all forms of communication is important whether it be getting them on the phone, email or videoconferencing. We can do a lot with that, especially for sample review, if we can show them on video any particular defects or discrepancies from the requirements. I think that's really important as well.
Andrew: Yes, John. You got it. You've been here. You know what clients are expecting and the level of communication that you really have to hit in order to meet people's expectations. That's what we do here.
John: Yes. I think this sort of returns to this point that I've been harping on for a long time here now which is: one of the most important functions of a QC company is managing expectations for the client and for the supplier as well so that everyone is on the same page.
If you look for these signs of communication as a buyer and you find them in a professional product inspection company, chances are you're more likely to get a better product in the end. Would you agree with that?
Andrew: Couldn't have said it better myself.