But it turns out that outsourced call centers may be costing companies more than they think, and the third annual study of customer satisfaction with contact centers reports that customers "are nearly twice as likely to recommend the company to others if they think the contact center is in the U.S., while they are three times more likely to defect if they believe it is based offshore," reports the Contact Center Satisfaction Index. (The index is created by CFI Group, which uses the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index.)
Overall, satisfaction gained 3% -- reaching 74 on a 100-point scale --in a survey that includes 2,200 participants commenting on call-in center services from banks, cable and satellite TV, cell phone service, credit unions, hotels, insurance, personal computers, retail and government.
Miraculously, it's the troubled banking sector that scored the biggest gain, with satisfaction scores jumping 11% to 79. Cable and satellite TV gained 8%, while insurance companies gained 5% to 79. Hotels and personal computers were more or less flat, while cell phone companies, retail and government all declined. But even with those declines, the survey found that the performance of service reps improved in all the areas it measures, including courteousness, knowledge, and effectiveness in handling issues.
One reason for the big gain, the company notes in its analysis, is a much bigger talent pool. "Unemployment is still pretty high, and call centers may be benefiting from more qualified job applicants," it says. The weak economy is also lowering call-center turnover.
But the difference between U.S.-based reps and offshore personnel was distinct. Domestic reps were rated 84 out of 100, while offshore reps were rated just 62. And respondents say that call centers in the U.S. resolved their problems on the first call 68% of the time, versus 42% for offshore.
Consumers are also clear about how much they hate the interactive voice recognition systems used by so many companies, and much prefer reaching a warm body. Customers who have to go the dreaded "Representative. Representative! Rep-RE-SENTATIVE!" drill are much less satisfied than those who reached a real person (69 vs. 79).