Why Offshoring CX Makes Perfect “Cents” Even During a Tough Financial Market
By Bong Borja, Chief Operating Officer, Alorica
Even in times of economic normalcy, companies are constantly looking for ways to manage costs and increase efficiency. When there is a potential economic downturn on the horizon, these measures become exponentially more critical. Nearshoring and offshoring customer experience (CX) services, often considered during high-growth periods, can be just as strong of a solution for brands looking to improve service delivery while reducing cost. Recent research from Zippia found that organizations can save up to 90% in labor costs by overseas outsourcing. Although outsourcing customer service to countries with lower labor costs can significantly decrease a company’s expenses, it does not come without risks. Some businesses have experienced a drop in customer satisfaction after offshoring CX support, with communication challenges or perceived lack of empathy or local nuanced understanding from contact center representatives as common barriers. In aggregate, these CX fails taint a brand’s reputation, diminishing the overall return a company can expect from offshoring.
However, when deployed thoughtfully and with the right strategic business process outsourcing (BPO) partner, it can open up a world of opportunities, providing increased agility and resiliency to an important business function. When assessing CX outsourcers for the rest of this year and beyond, businesses should consider the following factors.
An Infrastructure That is Reliable and Flexible
Offshoring customer service, back office and tech support has a number of benefits. It provides companies with access to a larger pool of workers; it makes voice support possible in every time zone; and it keeps costs down. The underlying assumption behind these benefits is that the infrastructure is already in place to carry out these services and business continuity is a given.
While reliable internet and phone connections cannot be taken for granted, there are other infrastructure needs for standing up a CX operation. For example, companies must find and retain talent that can provide high-quality customer service, which can be a challenge when outsourced contact centers are geographically far away. In terms of physical needs, offshoring can make it difficult to maintain and secure facilities and equipment that power contact center operations. But the best BPOs can overcome these hurdles with technology that enables CX delivery regardless of geographic location. Using the same work-at-home model that has been successful in the United States, companies can increase their talent pool abroad and circumvent physical infrastructure requirements through cloud-based digital solutions. These full-service platforms enable BPOs to easily hire and train talent who are more amenable to remote options. Because contingent workers in 2023 often desire flexibility, a work-at-home model will assist recruiting efforts and improve the employee experience, lowering the attrition rate in the process. BPOs that already have a presence in developed countries can therefore rapidly deploy talent for optimal productivity without the typical overhead costs common in the United States.
An Empowered Workforce Powered by Technology
Many countries, such as the Philippines and Jamaica, have large English-speaking populations who can perform high-demand CX functions. Finding and hiring qualified talent in these countries is not exactly difficult but training them can be. Some businesses that have outsourced their CX delivery abroad have found that offshore service quality is not on par with domestic operations. A lot of the time, this can be attributed to a lack of understanding of the brand’s products or US-based consumers, resulting in disconnected experiences that leave customers dissatisfied.
Rather than limiting the talent pool to onshore hires, these pain points can oftentimes be solved for by leveraging digital tools. With today’s AI technologies, brands should feel assured that agent-assist tools are quickly and accurately managing customer interactions. For example, translation technology can be used to bridge the language barrier on digital channels and ensure multilingual support. Additionally, for voice interactions, experienced BPOs have implemented tools such as noise-cancelling headsets to eliminate background noise for agents working remotely, as well as accent neutralization so that customers and CX representatives from different geographies can easily understand one another.
If there is an outlier agent struggling to perform, CX leaders should have reporting and analytics tools at the ready to adapt agent processes, workflows, and schedules in real-time. In the analog era, this type of hands-on approach was a challenge even for domestic operations. And with contact centers as a service (CCaaS) solutions that allow agents to access training materials and capture data in a single interface, CX leaders and their agents can be on the same page at all times. With top-of-the-line technologies available to optimize workforces both at home and abroad, the only real challenge left is fostering the brand’s culture and voice.
A CX Representative Who Truly Represents the Brand
When businesses are evaluating outsourcers and regions to offshore their CX needs, they need to look beyond the financials. Brands cannot afford to solely prioritize pricing over cultural fit, as the customer experience will inevitably take a hit as a result. To maintain a competitive edge with offshoring, companies must look to BPOs that have relevant experience in their industry and a track record of delivering outcomes that matter.
The reason why companies don’t open foreign contact centers on their own is not just due to facility maintenance, hiring talent, or retention challenges. It is also the Herculean effort that goes into ramping up an external workforce. To do it in a manner that allows new hires to develop a genuine allegiance to the brand they are representing is table stakes. While there is no denying that companies know their own brand and culture better than a BPO, the reality is that they may lack the skills and the experience necessary to turn offshore CX talent into brand ambassadors. When companies can quickly activate effective ambassadors in geographically optimal regions, they can then start to enjoy operational efficiency that leads to desired business outcomes including customer satisfaction and customer lifetime value. Only a few global BPOs are trusted to do this by blue-chip brands. When assessing nearshoring and offshoring options, it’s best to engage organizations that have credibility for turning new talent into trusted CX solutionists.
So, before dismissing the idea of offshoring based on the current financial climate, brands should consider how this move may save their reputation with an ROI that will pay dividends in the long run.