Outsourcing your call center to an international agency can be a risky venture. Before doing so, it is important that you weigh the costs and benefits associated with it and also arm yourself with an arsenal of questions to ask your potential service providers. Below is information to help you along this endeavor.
Advantages of contracting an international call center agency
Many call center outsourcing companies will maintain their own workforce, infrastructure, telephony and management team. Additionally, they often hire agents from countries where the cost of living is much lower than in the U.S., thus salaries and their infrastructure costs are often much lower. These savings often translate into reduced costs for their customers. Thus the cost associated with contracting an offshore call center agency is often less than what you would pay to maintain an in-house call center.
Round the clock service for a fraction of the price and effort
If the thought of maintaining a 24/7 call center workforce is enticing, but the thought of doing so with in-house agents is terrifying, outsourcing your call center to an overseas contractor may be a win-win for you. You can provide your customers with round the clock service, without the costs and hassles associated with maintaining a 24/7 in-house call center workforce and management team.
Multilingual workforce at an affordable price
If your customer base is culturally diverse and multilingual, then maintaining an in-house call center workforce that can adequately meet their needs can be costly. However, by contracting an overseas call center agency that taps into the international market can offer an adequate supply of call center agents who speak the native dialect of your customer base for a reasonable price.
Spend more time on what is most important to your business
If customer service, sales, marketing, or IT isn’t a high priority for your business, then outsourcing all or one of these tasks to an overseas call center may make a lot of sense. You can then focus your energy and resources on what is most important for your business.
Disadvantages of contracting an international call center agency
Language and communication barriers
Accents, unclear pronunciation as well as more frank language difficulties all affect service quality. A 2008 study conducted by the CFI Group stated that when customer service representatives are perceived to speak clearly, they resolve customer issues 88% of the time. When they’re not perceived as speaking clearly, they resolve customer issues only 45% of the time. That is a huge difference that can have an enormous effect on service quality.
Cultural mismatch between callers and agents
For customers based in the US, calling a local number and being connected with an overseas agent can be off-putting. A 2010 study conducted by CFI stated that callers were happier when they spoke to a customer service representative that sounded as if they were native to their country. This, of course, can have a huge impact on service quality.
Decreased first call resolution
Call center agents outside of the U.S. are notorious for being less effective than their U.S. counterparts when it comes to resolving customers’ concerns. A 2010 study conducted by CFI found that 32% of callers to a caller center located outside of the U.S. had to talk with more than one representative in order to have their issue resolved. The same study found that only 21% of callers to a call center located within the U.S. had to talk with more than one representative in order for their issue to be resolved. A decline in first call resolution can have a huge impact on service quality and the customer experience.
Decreased customer satisfaction
All of the factors listed above are thought to have a significant impact on customer satisfaction and a recent study conducted by a team from MIT Sloan School of Management confirms this. The study revealed that call center offshore outsourcing results in a significant decrease in service quality and customer satisfaction . It is therefore important to consider the impact of decreased customer satisfaction on your company.
Decreased control over business functions
Although it may seem tempting to outsource your less-than-vital business functions to an offshore call center agency in set-it-and-forget-it fashion, you may be sacrificing more than you anticipated. Relinquishing total control over any business function, no matter how small, can have a trickledown effect into more important ones affecting customer satisfaction, efficiency, service levels and your bottom line.
Security and privacy issues
Overseas call center agencies often do not have the same rigorous security practices as their U.S.-based counterparts. Agents are often not subject the same background checks that U.S.-based agents are, data may not be encrypted and other security practices that are a mandate for U.S.-based companies are optional for companies overseas. Thus, confidential data is often less secure.
Pending US regulations
Legislation introduced in Congress in August, 2013 is proposing to make any U.S. company that relocates their call center oversees ineligible for federal loans, grants, and tax credits. The proposed bill, the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act of 2013  would also require call center agents to reveal their current location to callers and provide them with the option to transfer to a U.S. call center. Any failure to comply would be considered a violation of a regulation under section 18(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 57a(a)(1)(B)) regarding unfair or deceptive acts or practices.
Although contracting an offshore call center agency may seem cheaper at face value, hidden costs can change everything. Costs associated with legal issues resulting from security breaches, strict federal regulations, hiring an international lawyer, losing customers to poor customer service and the cost of re-acquiring customers can all have a significant impact. Taken together, these costs may offset the savings of hiring an overseas call center agency making it more expensive than maintaining an in-house call center workforce.
Questions to ask your potential overseas call center service providers
- How do you recruit, hire, train and coach your agents?
- What are the demographics of your call center agents? What languages do they speak? What is the average age, experience and educational level of your agents?
- What is your agent turnover rate? Is it lower than 5%?
- How many agents will be dedicated to answering my calls?
- How do you route calls to agents? Do you have skills-based routing capabilities, IVR, etc.? Do you match the caller’s needs with the agent’s skills or language?
- Do you record all calls? Can I have 24/7 access to these recordings? How soon are the recordings uploaded?
- Do you have call monitoring , whisper coaching and call conferencing capabilities?
- Can I have a list of your current customers? May I contact them?
- What is your average service level, average wait time, longest wait time and average abandonment time?
- Do you have an SLA?
- How will you communicate with me? If there is an issue? To keep me informed of progress and daily operations?
- How long will it take us to go live?
- What are the costs associated with hiring your company? How will I be charged? In what currency? What will this include? Are there any hidden costs?
- Does your call center software allow for integrations with other business tools, built in CRM, collaboration between agents, voicemails, live chat, call queues, call-back from queue, etc.?
- How do you manage legal risks and comply with U.S. and foreign laws?
- Are there any bilateral treaties, free-trade unions or multilateral organizations like the European Union and Mercosur that might impact, effect or govern our deal?
- Will the terms of our contract be affected by any legal issues?