Currently a hot topic, the practice of offshoring has been the center of much political debate as companies have increasingly turned to outsourcing customer phone contact and back office processing to overseas companies in an effort to cut costs and boost efficiency.
The main concerns voiced by consumers typically revolve around the following issues:
— The privacy and security of their personal information when it is sent offshore; and
— The quality of customer service they receive from offshore call center agents.
First and foremost, offshoring still requires compliance with domestic privacy laws. Now more than ever, consumers are concerned about protecting the privacy and security of their personal information. Outsourcing jobs overseas can increase perceived data privacy risks. It may also require quality control mechanisms to protect your customers’ personal information similar to any outsourcing. Before companies offshore job functions in sales, customer service, or technical support areas, they should be prepared to address the issue of how their customers will react to and be affected by such a decision.
For starters, companies should create sound offshoring privacy policies and keep customers informed about how their personal information will be used, stored, and secured while in transit and overseas. These policies must conform with US law and, for our members, with the DMA’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice. By adopting such a self-regulatory approach, companies demonstrate their willingness to protect consumer privacy, and in doing so, maintain consumer trust.
OFFSHORING PRIVACY & SECURITY: A CHECKLIST FOR ACTION
The Data & Marketing Association has proposed a self-regulatory checklist aimed at helping companies engaged in offshoring to protect the privacy & security of their customers’ personal information. The DMA urges these companies to consider the following questions:
In addition to dealing with the perceived privacy and security risks involved in offshoring personal information, those who operate offshore call centers should be cognizant of the differences in language and culture between call center employees and American consumers.
Offshore call centers receive frequent complaints from American consumers about the poor language skills and heavy accents of offshore employees. While some American consumers complain merely because the caller’s accent is unfamiliar, i.e. “foreign” sounding, others just cannot understand what the caller is saying. Poor quality phone transmissions and time delays (i.e. lag time before each party can hear the other) often exacerbate the accent and language problems.
Employing individuals with superb English language skills and unnoticeable accents to staff offshore call centers may seem like the easy solution, but can be meaningless if offshore employees do not understand how Americans behave or think. Just because offshore employees speak English fluently does not mean they therefore understand American culture and behavior.
Cultural differences may affect offshore employees’ ability to interact with and engage American consumers in conversation. Cultural differences can also impact how employees at the offshore location handle situations and questions that arise during their interactions with American consumers.
The call center landscape has changed radically over the past three years. American companies that offshore call center services abroad need to remember that the offshore call centers are an extended part of their own organization. The profitability, success, and brand image of their business are impacted by offshore employees and the quality of customer service these employees deliver to customers. Therefore, it is essential that companies consider doing the following before they offshore their call centers:
OFFSHORING CUSTOMER SERVICE: A CHECKLIST FOR ACTION