The Cloud Contact Center Offers a Compelling Model to Replace Offshore Outsourcing
There are many things that annoy us about dealing with customer support departments: poorly designed interactive voice response (IVR) systems that lead us in circles- agents who don’t have any answers, rude personnel and the need to keep repeating our details every time the call is transferred. All these things can contribute to a poor customer support experience.
There is one grand, overriding annoyance that nearly all consumers share, however: agents with accents so heavy they cannot be understood. It’s the hallmark of the rampant rush to outsource contact center services overseas that began in the 1990s when nations such as India and the Philippines positioned themselves as low-cost alternatives to U.S. based contact centers.
While the foreign outsourcing market is still booming, there is some evidence that many U.S. companies are bringing their call center work back to the U.S. According to a recent blog post by Monet Software CEO Chuck Ciarlo, the reasons have as much to do with economics as customer service.
“Why did so many companies outsource? One word – money,” wrote Ciarlo. “No one will ever argue that the customer service is better when it is delivered from India or the Philippines. With the lower cost of manpower, overseas call centers have been able to provide outsourcing services at a cost that is 50 percent less than in the U.S or U.K. But there are inevitable consequences to doing business this way, and none of them reflect favorably on a company’s customer service reputation.”
In addition to the language and accent problem, U.S. customers may resent a company that ships jobs overseas, particularly during a sluggish economy. As Ciarlo points out, this isn’t to say foreign agents aren’t educated, smart and well-trained – in some cases, they may be better educated than their U.S. counterparts – but a call that sounds “distant” and is accompanied by a heavy accent lets a customer know from the get-go that this transaction won’t be easy. But some black marks against offshore outsourcing may go beyond accents. It may be about security concerns.
“Many telephone calls require the customer to provide a social security number or credit card information,” writes Ciarlo. “Some of us are reticent about sharing this data in the U.S., where privacy laws have already been passed. These laws do not exist internationally. Hacking and security breaches are also more commonplace overseas. If you become a victim, you might not find out about it for several days, or even weeks.”
Many companies that are attracted to the cost savings of offshore centers but with to retain U.S. agents are turning to what’s known as “onshoring.” It means a return of U.S. call center jobs to work in a model that may be more flexible and low-cost than traditional brick-and-mortar call centers.
Today’s cloud-based contact center solutions allow companies to use home-based agents, which can offer the same kinds of savings as offshore outsourcing. Companies have larger pools of potential agents to choose from – they are no longer limited by geography – so they can choose more experienced and educated agents. They don’t need to provide a building, a parking lot and utilities to these individuals (or even benefits, if they are hired as contractors), yet they can use technology to knit them together into a cohesive whole. All the remote agent requires is a computer, a high-speed Internet connection and a headset…and customers don’t need a foreign language dictionary to resolve their problems.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi