Does Offshore = Negative Customer Experience?

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By Colin Taylor

Following the “Customer Experience is the New Marketing” webinar I did last week I received an interesting question…“Have you found that international 3rd party call centers automatically put you into a negative customer experience for US based customers?”

How would you have answered this question? We know that research has shown that off-shore call centers have lower quality scores, lower CSAT, NPS and lower FCR scores than domestic centers. Of course there better performers and worse ones, but on average the overall customer experience will be somewhat degraded or diluted if we accept the research findings cited. There are many causes for the erosion in the KPI’s, but one of the key ones is cultural alignment, regardless of the linguistic skills of the agent if they are unable to connect on the emotional and rational level with the customers, the overall experience will be compromised. Now if we throw in issues around language skills, accents, biases the customer may posses on top of a lack of cultural understanding and alignment and we can see where this erosion could occur.

All of that being said companies continue to outsource, both domestically, near-shore and off-shore. Many do this for economic reasons. Of course the ‘face value’ of the savings are often overstated. If, for example you FCR rate is 10% lower in your new off-shore location, you can expect to receive 10% more calls than were likely budgeted for. The relationship with the vendor doesn’t manage itself, you will need to devote staff to manage that relationship, travel to visit the center(s), train and plan for new initiatives etc. This vendor management cost is often overlooked or understated by companies looking to outsource. At some point the economic savings will intersect with the loss of value, customers and/or revenue. When that occurs many companies will quick look like they are ‘penny-wise’ and ‘pound-foolish’.

Let me know your thoughts on this question and how you would have answered it.

One thought on “Does Offshore = Negative Customer Experience?

  1. Niek Bosch says:

    I agree with the mentioned metrics that show that customers tend to appreciate an off shore service provider less than a national or even regional one.

    Customer contacts are indeed heavily impacted by “cultural alignment, regardless of the linguistic skills of the agent if they are unable to connect on the emotional and rational level with the customers,”.
    At this moment in time however, there is an additional factor i.m.o.: the financial crisis. With higher than normal unemployement, protectionist emotions impact the customer and it’s experience. When you pick up the papers, US or European, a lot of people complain that they can not find a job or they know someone in a similar position. When you are then serviced by someone abroad, this does tend to put the agent at an immediate disadvantage.

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