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Offshore Call Centers: Customer Sentiment and the Cold, Hard Truth

Offshore Call Centers: Customer Sentiment and the Cold, Hard Truth There is a multitude of very good reasons why organizations outsource their contact centers offshore. Customers don’t always understand them, though, and they’re making some waves that could cost companies.

Does your organization need to follow the sun to offer 24x7 service to customers? Does it need to do that at the lowest possible cost? I understand, and likely so does the rest of the call center industry, but customers...not so much.

I was cruising Facebook the other day and came across this post from a friend:

Hi Everyone,
I want to share with you some great information that I found out purely by accident. I believe it can also save and create jobs in America while giving people better customer service.
So, how many times have you called a companies service phone line and found that the rep. can barely speak English? Once with a major mortgage company it was so bad I demanded to speak with someone who spoke English. Right at that moment I broke the code, the secret password for customer service.
Come to find out that every American company using overseas operators must transfer you to an American rep. by saying "I want to speak to a representative in America." (Don't take no for an answer on this)
This was confirmed by the American rep. that they must transfer you after that request. I've tried it on a half a dozen major companies including cable, bank, phone and mortgage companies. It works every time and I actually get my issues taken care of…

Now, it's true that legislation has been proposed that would require such an action by call center agents abroad, but it's not a law…yet. I say "yet" because it’s not for lack of trying on lawmakers' parts. In fact, there’s legislation in the U.S. Congress now that would have an even broader impact on offshoring practices by U.S. firms, and you can find out more in the article I wrote for this week’s Call Center Insider.

But whether or not the U.S. government enacts penalties against off shoring, organizations that engage in this practice may already be suffering in the form of increased call times if U.S. customers are demanding transfers or increased call volumes if customers are hanging up at the sound of an accented voice and calling in again.

Isolationism is rumbling in the U.S. – certainly not at the level of that generated by World Wars, but rumbling just the same. There's certainly a dark line against certain customer demographics. Just a few years ago, the cell-phone provider Jitterbug, catering to the Greatest Generation, filled airwaves with commercials touting its U.S.-only call center agents standing by.

Does offshoring still make sense? In some instances, yes, but there’s a real risk of losing customer loyalty and of incurring soft costs. When it doesn’t make sense, new technologies like cloud-based (hosted) call centers can help. In some cases, however, the minimal capital expense doesn't immediately offset the loss for a center that has life and investment left in hardware- and software-based platforms. Those centers might consider a strong customer segmentation strategy that routes calls to U.S. and offshore centers based on sentiment-based demographic information.

The challenge is to find a strategy that will help your call center stay afloat in the swell.