This guide describes the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing customer service to an offshore call center. Is an offshore call center right for you or is it a risk you can’t afford?
- Using third-party offshore call centers can be more cost-effective than setting up your own customer service department.
- The economic benefits of offshore call centers can come with communication, data security, and changing the way your customer service team works.
- Consider language and cultural barriers, technological differences, customer experience, and the call center’s customer portfolio when deciding to outsource customer service to an offshore call center.
- This article is for small business owners who are considering outsourcing customer service to an offshore call center.
Many businesses outsource customer service to a call center to save time and free up staff for tasks other than managing phone lines. Call center services provide trained agents to handle your incoming calls based on a script or policy you create for them. Call centers often offer other services, including order management, complaint handling, technical support, and outbound marketing campaigns.
To keep costs down, some companies look for an overseas call center provider. Although overseas call centers are usually less expensive than their domestic counterparts, the business owner should keep in mind some important considerations when deciding to partner with an international call center.
What is an offshore call center?
It is no secret to many consumers that companies often outsource their customer service to call centers overseas. India and the Philippines are the main countries where offshore call centers are located. Overseas call centers usually offer lower rates because labor costs in those countries are much lower than in the United States. However, it’s important that companies don’t lose sight of the essentials when considering moving their call centers overseas.
Fareed Malik, CEO of Outsource Tel, a California-based provider of outsourced customer service with four offices in the Philippines, warned that cost is not the only factor to consider. Companies also need to make sure that the vendor they choose won’t compromise their brand and, more importantly, their customer experience.
“The most common mistake companies make when choosing a call center is to focus solely on price,” Maddock says. “Service, reliability, and cultural appropriateness should never be ignored. Choose a call center that fits your brand and company culture, not just price. “
This has long been a major point of contention between domestic and offshore call centers. Domestic call centers bring in English-speaking employees as agents and avoid the cultural barriers associated with offshore call centers. Domestic call centers also tend to maintain a technologically superior infrastructure compared to foreign call centers. More recently, however, a different type of call center has emerged: the Middle East call center.
The Asian Call Center.
Asian call centers were developed to combine the quality of service of national call centers with the profitability of offshore call centers. These call centers are typically located in Central America or the Caribbean and have a significant number of bilingual agents as well as native English speakers. Nearshore call centers also tend to minimize cultural barriers because there are more opportunities for information exchange between nearshore countries than between truly foreign call centers.
Advantages and disadvantages of offshore call centers
Here are some of the ways offshore call centers can benefit your business:
Reduced payroll costs.
The main reason companies outsource customer service to offshore call centers is that in many foreign countries, employees are paid less than in the United States. Thus, using an offshore call center can be much cheaper than building your own customer service team.
Reduced technology costs.
In-house customer service can mean implementing and maintaining technology such as customer relationship management (CRM) software. Outsourcing customer service to an offshore call center eliminates these technology costs.
More affordable customer service.
In an ideal world, your customer service team should be available 24/7. In reality, your team likely works 9 to 5 on weekdays, which is often all a small business can afford. However, thanks to the low rates of offshore call centers, 24-hour customer service is quite possible.
Here are some of the ways in which offshore call centers can be unprofitable
- Lack of control. The geographic remoteness inherent in international outsourcing can make it difficult to control your operations. Presumably, you can’t easily visit an offshore call center to see the team in action and discuss changes in person.
- Less regulation. Offshore call centers are not required to adhere to the strict security protocols required by U.S. law. Thus, using offshore call centers could theoretically increase the risk of data breaches.
- Language and cultural barriers. Customers may feel dissatisfied if they contact an international representative with whom communication is difficult. We discuss this consideration in more detail below.
The key point: Offshore call centers can be cheaper and expand your availability, but they can also create problems with controlling transactions, protecting data, and ensuring uninterrupted communication.
What to consider before outsourcing customer service to an offshore call center
Whether you choose a domestic, Asian, or offshore customer service management partner, it’s important to consider a wide range of factors. While cost is a key factor, the decision to outsource customer service depends on many other things. After all, you’re trusting your partner with your brand image and customer satisfaction, two of your most valuable assets.
Your customers should be your top priority, not your budget
The primary goal of customer service departments is to ensure that your customers are caring and satisfied. A satisfied customer is a repeat customer who will recommend you to friends and family. An unsatisfied customer is unlikely to ever return, often without complaint or explanation.
Despite the temptation to save every penny, you should never cut costs at the expense of customer satisfaction. Instead, balance costs by outsourcing customer service to a call center that represents your brand as much as your own employees.