Eye on Offshore Call Center Outsourcing

The worldwide market for customer service outsourcing hit $12.2 billion in 2007, compared with $8.4 billion in 2004, according to Gartner Research.

The main reason it’s so popular? Marketers can save around 40% of their call center bills by outsourcing overnight or overflow calls, says Art Hall, principal with management consulting firm Marsel and Alvarez.

But you need to manage an outsourcing arrangement carefully, says contact center consultant Liz Kislik. First, evaluate “the matrix of quality, control, and cost,” she states. Your customers should get “a satisfactory experience that is a reasonable match for your brand promise and image.”

And you don’t have to outsource all your calls. Many firms do it only for overnight calls or for overflow during peak periods, says Erv Magram, managing director of Cyber City Teleservices, which operates a call center on the site of the former Clark Air Force base in the Philippines.

The Philippines are a good location because people speak English and are knowledgeable about American culture, he adds.

What about the language barrier? For Creative Irish Gifts, language has not been much of an issue with overseas outsourcing. “Some customers are aware of the language barrier and some complain,” says Debi Rauckhorst, the cataloger’s general manager. “But for the most part, these types of complaint are minimal.”

Creative Irish Gifts outsources overflow calls Monday through Friday and all evening and weekend calls, using Cyber City. Orders are entered into the firm’s order management system via a VPN connection.

Haband also outsources calls to the Philippines. The local accent is barely detectable to customers, says Jay Baney, contact center manager for the firm.

In fact, there may be a bigger issue with offshore sourcing than language. “Be careful with telephony,” Kislik says. “A timing lag between when the speaker speaks and when the hearer receives the transmitted sound can be much more off-putting and more disruptive to understanding and conversation than a slight accent.”

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