WatchGuard pulls outsourcing business out of India

Security company cites attrition, lack of qualified candidates, language barriers as drivers

WatchGuard Technologies last week confirmed reports that it had cancelled a contract with an unnamed India-based offshoring company due to repeat customer complaints about poor support and service.

As of Oct. 15, the Seattle security appliance maker will no longer have any technical support staff in India, according to Director of Global Technical Services Bill Foreman. While he declined to name the company on the record, Foreman says: "We are not hiding from our customers that we are seeking alternatives for technical service and support stateside and in the Philippines."

Multiple customer complaints as well as considerable attrition and questionable incidents drove the company to make the decision. He says with bigger -- and bigger-name -- companies such as IBM and Accenture looking to hire 50,000 and 6,000 more people in India respectively by year-end, smaller offshoring engagements suffer. For example, workers who would prefer to work for an IBM than a WatchGuard might leave work or quit without any notice. Also WatchGuard experienced questionable incidents in which new employees would be logging on as other employees.

"In the high-tech industry we are a target for poaching. We require highly skilled networking professionals with hands-on experience to support our customers. We aren't talking about simple customer service problems," Foreman says. "The attrition there was uncontrollable and we also had issues with the quality of staff available to us. Add onto that customer complaints and language barriers and the situation becomes a time and resources drain."

Foreman says about 24 technical support staff are offshored to India and some engineering work will continue on there. The 24 positions will be located either stateside or in the Philippines going forward, bringing support positions at the company overall to 50. He says the company has had success in the Philippines and the culture seems to be more suited for offshoring. For instance, he cites laws under which an employee that works 12 months in such an outsourcing engagement will receive another month's pay as a bonus, lessening the chance of employees quitting without notice or leaving prior to a year's service

Despite the increase in cost WatchGuard will inevitably incur by locating those positions back in the United States or in the Philippines, Foreman says the company and its customers will benefit long term. The lack of technical knowledge and experience or qualified candidates and reports of poor customer support make the potential costs seem less important.

"We want to maintain our customer loyalty. The India support is not what our customers have come to expect for mission-critical equipment," Foreman says.

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Denise Dubie

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