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Who's Answering Offshore?

June 19, 2014

Americans aren’t terribly keen about dealing with call centers sited abroad. Accents, cultural barriers, poor voice communications and more can actively sabotage customer relationships. Though some companies have notably brought their offshore operations back to the U.S. (and received a lot of press for it), many more still use the offshore outsourcing model. Some even do it successfully.

The truth is that offshore call center outsourcing doesn’t always fail to impress customers simply because the agents have accents or the idea violates their sense of patriotism. Too often, the venture fails simply because it’s poorly managed. Companies outsource care of their customers to a company based on too little planning and oversight, and simply fail to communicate with the outsourcer. Alternatively, they assume “everything will be all right” and fail to keep a close eye on quality and service levels.

In a recent blog post, customer support services provider Open Access notes that constant and consistent communication is the key to success, and many businesses are missing this.

“Some businesses, however, only recognize the importance of communication but unfortunately never truly put the theory into practice,” writes the blogger. “Some do employ contacting measures, but these end up being poorly executed. In an example cited by CIO, one outsourcing client communicated with its outsourced staff via an intranet connection, but only 10 percent of the employees spent time reading the messages. Needless to say, the effort came out futile.”

Open Access recommends several steps to open the lines of communication. First, establish an official channel or channels through which communications will happen. It might be via chat, phone, videoconference or a liaison officer that has been appointed at the outsourcing company. Communications should be regularly scheduled and expected by all employees involved at both companies. Keep these communications brief, to the point and easy to read. (The more complex and long-winded they are, the more likely they are to be skipped.) Anticipate questions and concerns and ensure that staff members and managers don’t have to chase you for the information they will find necessary to do their jobs.

Open Access says interactivity is the key to having meaningful communications with an outsourced services provider.

“Encourage interactivity by opting for live channels such as videoconferences and phone calls,” blogged the company. “Two-way communication promotes real-time exchange of messages, thus eliminating delays. Here, you get to immediately address concerns and clarify questions that could possibly blow into a problem if left unanswered even for a short period.”

While offshore outsourcing today can be a difficult way to save money – the customer perception challenges alone can be hard to overcome – companies that engage in the model successfully have something in common: they don’t “set it and forget it,” but instead remain close partners with their outsourcer.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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