Overseas Call Centers Rupee Wise, Dollar Foolish

call center

If you call a bank, a cell service provider, insurance provider, computer company or large retailer with a complex software or logistics question about your product or policy, the person on the other end should probably speak not just English, but American.

A new study says outsourced call centers might be rupee wise, but they are dollar foolish when it comes to brand equity. The fourth annual Contact Center Satisfaction Index (CCSI) from CFI Group suggests that companies that are trying to decide whether to hire a cheaper overseas call center should look at how often their customers will need to use it, and the level of stress likely to be involved in the call.

Those considerations are not minor: the study finds that offshore contact centers score 27% lower in customer satisfaction than those based in the U.S. The firm says, in fact, that foreign-based contact centers score lower in every single category in areas ranging from first-call resolution to customer service.



The report details how satisfaction affects a customer's likelihood to recommend or continue doing business. Among other things, it examines the various drivers of the customer's call center experience and which of them has the greatest impact on satisfaction.

The study gives call center satisfaction a score of 58 out of 100 when an offshore agent handles the call, compared to 79 for U.S.-based agents. The CFI Group says the 58 score is about the same as Americans' satisfaction with the IRS, which rates a 55.

The biggest frustration was the foreign agent's accent and grasp of the English language, per CFI Group, which says that may have something to do with the fact that U.S. agents are 34% more likely to resolve the problem on the first call than those handled offshore. When it comes to being pleasant, courteous and interested, foreign agents did about as well as U.S. counterparts, per the study.

Sheri Teodoru, CFI Group's CEO, said the numbers should not surprise. "Offshore agents not only serve as fodder for late-night comedy sketches, they're a painful reminder that American jobs continue to be outsourced during a period of high unemployment."

She points out that for many large corporations, the call center is the one human experience a consumer has with the company. "If a customer hangs up mad, it isn't the agent they are going to blame, it's the company that put them in that position in order to save a buck by sending their call overseas," she said.

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