On the heels of this week's news that Sears Canada will be sending 1300+ Call Centre jobs to the Philippines, I got to thinking about a question many of us have entertained: should we outsource our Call Centre operations? There is no easy answer to that question and several factors will influence your decision including:
Of all the factors, most organizations decide primarily on the cost/savings vs the customer experience equation. There is no doubt that a business will likely save money by outsourcing its call centre operations, especially if the business is moved off shore (e.g. Philippines or India). It is more a matter of how much will be saved and at what cost to the customer experience. Dell is another organization to have outsourced its operations off shore.
In North America, consumers don't often look favourably on being supported outside North America, especially in a slumping economy. Concerns are around the quality of English spoken and the notion that jobs are being taken away. These biases often lead to a decline in the perceived customer experience, when in actuality the experience may be just as good. Be sure to thoroughly research organizations who have outsourced and see whether or not they have done so successfully, keeping in mind cost and the customer experience.
As a former employee and partner of some of the most recognized outsourcing organizations, I do believe they provide value and are deserving of consideration. It will come down to what will or won't work for you and your business. I find outsourced call centres are especially effective as an extension of your business for mostly transactional activities. I emphasize transactional activities because they are easier to teach and retain.
This is a really good strategy for large organizations, who need increased support for peak call volume periods and for redundancy when there are local issues such as severe weather and power outages (a little too familiar this winter in Toronto!). A couple of large companies in the Canadian telecommunications sector have used this approach successfully.
Outsourcing is one of several factors to consider in building and/or evolving the customer experience. They can be especially effective if leveraged correctly and treated as partners. Again, keep in mind the factors I talked about above and try not let cost be the only consideration in making such an important decision.
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