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Bringing Call Centers Home: The Business Case for Onshoring

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Joe Jacoboni

The call center industry has transformed and evolved over the last decade, away from the focus on customer service and customer satisfaction, to bottom line revenue and outsourced services. Not surprisingly, we have seen steep declines in customer satisfaction and loyalty, and a significant increase in call center employee churn. This obsessive focus on the bottom line has led to many large companies going offshore for call center customer service and technical support, with other companies playing "follow the leader". The result, overall call center customer satisfaction has declined significantly.


Customer Relationships: The Lifeblood of Call Centers and Ultimately of all Companies

A poll by Opinion Research indicates 69 percent of Americans are less likely to do business with a company after one bad call center experience. Yet, according to a 2007 Aspect Index report, customers are 33 percent more likely to do more business with a company after a positive call center customer experience.

So, while everyone understands how important satisfied customers are and how powerful extremely satisfied customers are, many U.S. companies have shipped this responsibility to the lowest cost provider, often an overseas call center with low wage, under-trained workers. In the rush to commoditize services, the call center industry has taken the relationship with the customer—your customer, your company’s "crown jewels"—and overshadowed your customer’s support and service satisfaction by considerations solely for bottom line.

Offshoring call center services fail to tell the whole story—no one mentions customer satisfaction plummets due to the inability to deliver call center service that fulfills the expectations of an American customer. This has led to a loss of customer satisfaction and customer retention for many companies.

In Outsourcing Call Centers We Have Outsourced Our Most Important Person in Today’s Economy: The Customer!

The 21st Century needs a new call center model to transform the industry, focused on the customer, not the cost of doing business with that customer. The call center industry needs to look at the value, not simply the cost of call center services with the ultimate goal: to provide extreme customer satisfaction, which will yield an enthusiastic customer who will, in turn, stimulate strong word-of-mouth loyalty, which ultimately leads to higher revenues.

Yes, cost is key and some call center outsourcing can help save costs, but the siren call of the bottom line obscures the high risk of customer dissatisfaction, which is inevitable due to language barriers, extended length of calls, comprehension issues, Plus there is a lack of cultural context. This lack of language comprehension and cultural awareness kills call center productivity. The net effect of extended calls is a call center productivity decline of 39 to 105 percent.

In addition, many of the behaviors that Americans intuitively expect from call center representatives are literally and figuratively foreign to international representatives. Representatives need to be able to empathize with customers and respond in a culturally appropriate manner. It is reported that problems with comprehension occur in an average of 18 percent of offshore calls (about one in five calls), which is a prime cause of customer frustration.

Offshore Call Center Support and Service is the Life Time Value (LTV) of a Loyal Customer and Customer Retention

Whether it’s a loss of customers due to the fact they reached a foreign country for call center service and immediately hung up, or a customer who had a bad call center experience, current call center industry practices are causing an increase in costs to retain existing customers and gain new customers—to convert prospects!

We have to recognize that not delivering on the promise of extreme customer satisfaction not only inhibits a company’s word of mouth references, but can also destroy a company. An individual’s campaigns against a company, either face-to-face with family and friends or via social media, allows that story to be told again and again and again, and a company is unable to remove or control these negative references.

The key is not just reducing call center costs, but improving overall return on investment (ROI) of the customer experience. at the call center. It’s not about how quickly are calls answered or first call resolution. A real call center partner should understand the traditional variables, but also recognizes the value of an extremely satisfied customer. This means call center managers must understand what it takes to satisfy a customer’s needs. The call center manager must develop a long-term relationship with the customer to continue to evaluate, recognize and support the customer’s ongoing needs—to build a relationship with the customer that transcends a single call center interaction.

The call center industry must look at offering their services as solutions providers, not body shops. We must understand each client’s specific objectives and the service and support needs of our client’s customers. The only way to meet these objectives and provide extreme customer satisfaction at call centers, is to evaluate the processes and procedures of every touch point of customer contact. We must then determine how to support and implement call center services that positively affect these specific areas, so the client’s customers receive excellent support and service.

Re-Evaluate and Re-Invent the Call Center Industry to Make the Customer Number One

The new call center market is based on three things: the innovative use of technology, a closely knit partnership between the outsource organization and the company it supports, and a unique workforce model.

For the call center industry to be successful, we must design and implement support systems that use state-of-the-art hosted on-demand technologies. Call center managers must solve customer service and technical support issues with the appropriate technology that achieves the best results, whether voice, e-mail, chat and allows the call center and remote representatives to be closely integrated and monitored, ensuring the highest level of customer satisfaction.

Call center managers must develop and implement a strategic workforce management model, which uses "natural human resources" available in America such as students, retirees, stay-at-home parents, special needs individuals and veterans. We must take responsibility to not only look at the bottom line, but to provide education, training and call center jobs in the United States.

The Call Center Industry Must Change

The call center industry must elevate customer service and technical support so people are satisfied by the contact, not matter what form. We must deliver a customer experience that responds to the people’s expectations so they are do not dread their call center experience. We must provide call center services that respond appropriately to the cultural context of the customers.

Providing call center services that respond appropriately to the cultural context of the customers will turn customers into loyal followers, and even evangelists, because the experience will align with the customer’s values. For the companies who employ the new call center model, increased customer satisfaction will help attract and retain customers, develop customer loyalty and through the "value-added experience," feed the emotion of the customer, which has far-reaching benefits.

The call center industry must demonstrate that onshore call center services that are cost effective and price competitive. We need to deliver exceptional expected services that are culturally appropriate, work with our customers to define the most appropriate response to their customers’ needs and deliver extreme customer satisfaction, better than is currently provided.

We must re-invent the call center industry to meet our customer’s expectations. We must bring call center services careers back to America to perform customer support more effectively, so as not to waste a customer’s most important resource: time.

First published on Call Center IQ.