We’ve all been there – spending what seems like hours on the phone to someone in an offshore call centre spelling out your name S-L-O-W-L-Y. The frustrations associated with this have become a household joke and even TV comedies. In these economically challenging times, when more and more organisations are looking to outsource their operations in order to cut costs, experiencing the frustrations of an offshore contact centre can endorse public belief that organisations no longer care for their customers. The key question therefore is how can a company ensure a consistent, high quality customer experience while using employees in remote locations?
Originally synonymous with moving back office functions elsewhere, outsourcing companies are now seeing an increase in front office tasks moving offshore too. Similarly, companies have also started to look beyond India for potential outsourcing locations. One such example is Guatemala, where I recently helped a client to set up a service centre offering finance and accounting services to US customers. Here, I realised that irrespective of business drivers, customer experience should be at the heart of a successful operation. Traditionally, offshore service centres are heavily geared on metrics, and the work environment can be an aggressive one, with targets often purely operations-based and not necessarily geared towards customers. At our service centre, we took a slightly contrarian view of looking at the longer term rather than focus on short term cost cutting approach by investing heavily in training and orienting the new employees both in terms of organisational and national cultures. Take, for example, the issue of language. In Guatemala, although the level of (American) English is generally good, employees still struggled with some verbal and written elements, which meant that productivity initially suffered. This concern was overcome with intensive grammar and accent training being incorporated into the working day, despite the negative short term impacts on hitting targets. Presence in a developing country where opportunities to work with large multinationals are scarce gives outsourcing organisations an advantage. Local employees are keen to impress, achieve their targets and please their customers; in part due to the free language lessons, international environment and opportunity to add an impressive name to their CVs. Our strategy of targeting local universities produced a large pool of youthful, enthusiastic talent, something which is often more difficult to achieve in more developed countries. So, despite the issues involved in outsourcing the customer experience, if sufficient time and resources are invested in new employees, there will be a direct positive impact to the service provided to the customer. This directly translates to an enhanced customer experience while allowing the employee to hit their targets. A win-win situation for all involved.