25 Apr Customer Service heads back to British shores
What had begun as a much touted strategy to cut down on customer service costs seems to have lost steam in just a little over a decade. Outsourcing to overseas call centres in Asia was looked upon as a smart move by businesses hoping to cash in on the lower labour and infrastructure costs in some of those countries. But things seem to have come a full circle as many companies have done an about turn on their stance and are now packing up their overseas ventures and are headed back home – as is evident from the resurgent re-shoring trend.
The most recent example is EE, Britain’s biggest mobile operator, who has decided to downscale operations in the Philippines and bring back 1000 call centre jobs back onshore. The move is being triggered mainly as an attempt to deliver higher standards of customer service in response to the complicated queries that the company was receiving about its smartphone and tablet software. EE is confident that re-shoring to British resources would not only ensure more efficient resolution of problems but also help restore the loyalty and good will of its clients.
Other firms who have also joined in this reverse wave include Santander who are bringing back 500 contact centre agents to the UK, HSBC, Axa, New Com Telecom, Aegis and RSA to name a few.
So what has turned the tide so completely?
The main reason for the resurgence of the homeshoring trend seems to be the need for cultural affinity between consumers and the voice that represents a brand and it isn’t really about superficial aspects like accent and language. It’s more to do with familiarity and the ability to identify and engage with customers and facilitate a progressive relationship of trust between them and the brand.
1) Customer service is more than just about saving costs
Looking only to reduce costs is a very narrow outlook towards customer service – a service that is vital to creating a positive brand image and nurturing a band of loyal clientele. Although Asian call centres could help curtail costs by as much as 90%, the gaps in culture, customer perception and geographic dissimilarities could not be easily or effectively bridged. A cheaper service did not necessarily guarantee a smooth and quick resolution to customer problems leading to disenchanted, frustrated clients and a tarnished brand reputation.
Prior to the offshoring trend, the intrinsic cultural empathy, experience and thorough knowledge of brand product and service offerings facilitated a natural rapport with customers and successfully bridged any lacunae in systems without causing any real damage to customer perception. But since the advent of the overseas outsourcing trend, much of this valuable knowledge was lost, thus drastically impacting the quality of customer interactions.
2) Security concerns with outsourcing
Contact centres have always been vulnerable to security lapses and cybercrime but the onshore ones are still relatively easy to monitor. Outsourcing call centres may pose a risk to the protection of consumer data as local technology may not conform to international standards and the local law may not have the necessary clauses to recognise and check cybercrime.
3) A patriotic wave
As most of Europe is still reeling from the aftermath of the recession and with unemployment still looming, many British businesses have been spurred by nationalistic feelings to bring work back to their home countries. This reaction has no doubt its origins in the fact that the outsourcing trend did not quite reap the expected results, but also stems from the rising confidence that business owners have in the abilities of their own people.
All this has put the limelight on the re-shoring trend as it finds its way to the front page of the main business news of the month. With David Cameron emphasising the need to make Britain “the re-shore nation” by providing “new opportunities for hard working people”, the recent announcement by EE to bring jobs back home seems absolutely in tune with the mood of the nation.
Arise Virtual Solutions has been the driving force of the homeshoring cause since 1997 and has successfully partnered thousands of home based entrepreneurs and helped them to set up independent businesses that offer the highest quality customer service to reputed brands across US, Canada, UK and Ireland. With some of the most high profile businesses heading back home, the Arise work from home model seems all poised to open a plethora of exciting opportunities to aspiring entrepreneurs – armed with talent and expertise and a dream to succeed – on their own terms.