Offshoring: A tale of two halves, part one

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Kathryn Clarke 23rd May 2016 3 minute read

Offshoring: A tale of two halves, part one

A study by Which? consumer group highlighted call centres based outside the UK as the biggest customer service gripe for UK customers, with 46% agreeing they are an irritant.

This view is clearly shared by BT customers – in 2015 the telecoms company announced that they would stop using Indian call centres for frontline customer services after complaints over poor service.

It would be easy to think that the bubble may have burst for the offshore call centres servicing the UK.  After all, customer service expectations are rising and the rejection of offshore may be a continuing trend. Companies such as Plusnet have already pinned their USP on their UK-based service (‘We’ll do you proud’).

Separating fact from opinion for a minute, it is clear offshore will always play a huge role in outsourced customer management - the costs benefits alone are clear. However the question that has to be asked is, “are offshore call centres & excellence in service mutually exclusive?”

The balancing game

Research by analyst firm Ovum shows the array of offshore locations considered by global companies.

Each location has its own merit. Near shore locations such as Hungary, Romania or Croatia are up and coming, benefiting from multi-lingual capability, high cultural alignment and similar time zones whilst still benefitting from reduced costs.

Malaysia is seen to be key for companies wanting highly skilled advisors to serve international markets. On average, Malaysians are at least tri-lingual – speaking English, Malay and either a Chinese or Indian language. In addition, Malaysians are also exceptionally social media savvy, which can also be said of people from India. The two locations are therefore well-suited to managing social channels.

 

Given the number of channels needed to service customers in today’s digitised marketplace, is the negative view of offshore contact centres a dated one?

How equal is equal?

Not all call centres are created equally, and not all ‘offshoring’ will be managed equally. It must be considered how empowered offshore contact centres are to deliver excellence, and whether companies are harnessing the true extent of offshore capabilities. Chucking voice support over the fence and squeezing margins is hardly a customer-centric view!

The research by Ovum shows that demand for offshore service remains. Perhaps what we are seeing in the UK is a state of transition. The real winners will likely be those who can find the correct service mix while still balancing the capabilities required to ‘wow’ their customers.

Opinion polls with broad brush statistics will always stick in the mind, but perhaps on the ground the situation is a little different…

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