On paper, moving a call center to an offshore location looks like a great choice. After all, popular offshore outsourcing locations such as India and the Philippines have highly educated workforces, people who speak English well (albeit with accents) and labor costs that are lower than the U.S. Internet telephony makes the whole thing affordable from a telecom standpoint.
So what could go wrong?
On paper, offshore outsourcing doesn’t reflect customers’ general distaste for placing a call and finding themselves in another part of the world. Companies that use U.S. based contact center outsourcing can keep the whole process rather opaque…most customers don’t even know they’re dealing with a separate company. Throw in accents, however, or a tiny bit of latency in the call that reveals it’s a long, LONG distance call, and you’ve just underscored that you’re outsourcing, according to a recent article by Aurelie Chazal on Business2Community. This doesn’t sit well with many customers.
“Let’s put it this way: whenever you send a customer’s call to an offshore call center they feel like their problem isn’t important enough to be dealt with by your company directly,” writes Chazal. “Your customers know that the only reason you offshore customer service is to save money. It’s like saying to them, ‘You are not really worth our well paid employee’s time, your question is probably not so hard to answer, people with little to no qualifications can do that.’”
Americans are tighter with money today, and expect to be appreciated by the companies they choose to give their business. Americans are also some of the most patriotic people in the world, and the idea that a company is shipping jobs offshore during a time of high domestic unemployment is a strike against your company before you even finish the support call. In essence, it can make a company seem greedy rather than genuinely concerned about its customers.
In addition, though the individuals who work for your foreign outsourcer will speak English, they may speak it with a heavy accent, which requires customers to ask them to repeat themselves. Cultural barriers may exist as well, with foreign agents not understanding certain references or turns of phrases. This can actually make calls longer, which goes a long way toward erasing financial benefits. Customers expect to be served quickly and efficiently, and when they’re not, it reflects poorly on your company.
While offshore outsourcing seems to work for some companies – many successful companies use offshore resources for chat and e-mail rather than voice calls – be aware that if your customers believe you are putting up a cost-effective barrier against them, they may elect to take their business elsewhere.