Draper’s & Damon’s sends calls home

After Four Years in the Philippines, Draper’s & Damon’s has brought its call center back to the U.S. The women’s apparel merchant had been using a third-party offshore provider for order calls since March 2005; its customer service stayed in the U.S.

The cataloger, which was acquired by multititle mailer Orchard Brands in 2006, in January began migrating order calls into a center in Warren, PA — a facility owned by its sister brand Blair Corp. As of March 23, says Draper’s & Damon’s senior circulation manager Jill Medina, “we were 100% back in the U.S.”

Draper’s & Damon’s had moved its call center offshore to save money, but Medina says that, cost-wise, the mailer is now at about the same rate as it was in the Philippines, thanks to the shared services group of Orchard Brands.

Another reason for returning to the U.S: Draper’s & Damon’s felt the offshore center reps were not a fit with its core audience of older women, says Christian Feuer, who joined the company as interim president/CEO in October.

“When I listened to calls answered by our offshore call center, I heard a subtle tone of frustration in our customers’ voices,” he says. The offshore reps were not “in tune” with customers, and could not help when the conversation went off the normal script, Feuer says. “The reps were friendly, but not able to connect culturally with our customer.”

The language barrier was also a problem at times, Medina adds. “Several words do not translate well from one culture to another.”

When you go offshore, you have to know what the reps’ accents will sound like, says Kathryn E. Jackson, Ph.D., president of contact center consultancy Response Design Corp. Many overseas service providers offer training programs to make reps more accent-neutral.

This will cost you more, she notes, because you’ll incur a bigger fee for labor. Even so, Jackson says, “your costs will still be less than what you’ll pay for a U.S. labor force.”

Indeed, if you can have your calls answered domestically for the same cost as an offshore provider, you should, says consultant Chuck Howard. But the reality is, most can’t: “It costs 50% to 100% more to handle calls domestically vs. offshore,” he says.

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