Offshoring Contact Center Operations In A Multilingual World

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Offshoring Contact Center Operations In A Multilingual World

Offshoring contact center operations is not a new concept. When it comes to BPO (Business Process Outsourcing), customer service is near the top, especially for large businesses.  Remote and offshore work is a growing field with projections of growth to $19.5 Billion by 2025. 

Let’s look at the reasons, benefits and challenges of offshoring in a multilingual world.

  • costs
  • scalability
  • 24/7 service
  • company size
  • brand
  • country options
  • language barriers
  • communication tools
  • change and risk management

Why Are Companies Offshoring

The costs of setting up and/or scaling contact centers are high from training, to equipment, to wages. Outsourcing offers a faster track to customer service coverage than building a department from scratch. If you are a newer company having to manage scaling all of your operations, the last thing you need is a customer service headache on top of it. 

Interviewing candidates, purchasing equipment, setting up a service hierarchy, creating workflows, training, monitoring interactions, scoring, parsing data – customer service demands time and resources.

If you do have the benefit of on site customer service, there are times you may outsource to augment  your customer support options. Heavy volume times, like the holiday season for retail or sudden company growth, are examples.

Then there are the cost savings of offshoring to countries with a lower cost of living reducing wage expenditures. Plus, supplemental contact center support in a different time zone makes it possible to have 24 hour service accommodating your customers around the world. This helps to maintain and improve CX while expanding your business.

Who Is Offshoring

Stats show that customer service is one of the most outsourced aspects of business for larger companies from varying industries.

Banks like Capital One and JP Morgan Chase offshore their customer service. Communications giants AT&T and Verizon offshore theirs also. Amazon created two call centers in the Philippines in 2019. 

Customer bases as large and diverse as these companies have make offshoring a viable choice. However, it is not without problems. Large companies like these have come under fire publicly for issues connected with offshore contact centers from bad working conditions to misconduct. 

Choose your offshoring company carefully and maintain clear communication. Be mindful and proactive in regard to how your offshore workers are treated. When negotiating contracts offshoring contact center operations, have a clause about worker rights, conditions and wages. 

Values and Brand Voice

Now more than ever customers want businesses who authentically match their values. According to Toluna’s ‘Understanding the 2021 Consumer’ Global Barometer Study, 69% of customers choose brands who match their values and 34% stop supporting those that don’t.  Humanitarian issues and equality are key drivers for customer loyalty in the current climate. 

Bear in mind not all customers appreciate interacting with a customer service department in another country either. Customer perception is linked to customer satisfaction which is in turn linked to company success. 

A business with a mission of being made in America and creating jobs in America may not benefit from offshoring from a brand perspective. Their customers may see this as inauthentic. Stay true to your company brand and your customers.

Where are they Offshoring

For customer service/contact center outsourcing, the Philippines and South Africa are two of the top countries. The Philippines is ranked #18 in the world for English proficiency and #2 in Asia. Compare that to India ranked #48 and #6 respectively, and it is clear why the Philippines is a better choice for companies based in countries where English is the main language. 

A viable alternative is South Africa, which ranks #12 in English proficiency worldwide and #1 in Africa. 

Other countries offer back end and customer service support too. For companies seeking multiple BPO offerings, their contact center needs may land elsewhere in Africa. Kenya and Nigeria are well placed to offer support to companies in English speaking countries.  

A customer base that speaks other languages or multiple languages benefits from multi lingual customer service. South American options like Mexico for Spanish or Mauritius in Africa for French are support options. 

This brings up another set of considerations.

Offshoring Challenges

Language Barrier

Could you repeat the question please?

Standard questions like, “Why didn’t my shirt arrive?” have complexities when the customer and the service agent have different native languages. Common translation tools lack the ability to decipher nuances in languages like English. Is it a traffic jam, a music jam or something spread on toast? 

Your customers may be using speech to text to make their request in chat or email. This is especially true for your disabled customers. Unclear speech, bad connections and fast talking cause voice to text to transcribe poorly. This poses obstacles for agents trying to translate an already incorrect communication and causes frustration for customers trying to be heard.

Consider your options carefully to have the best communication possible with the best cost savings. Think about ROI including possible losses from poor customer service ratings and damaged reputation.

A robust workforce that speaks the main language of your customer base is helpful. However, agents who speak multiple languages may inadvertently respond in a mix of languages. Tools exist that assist agents in making sure they are communicating in one language solely. 

AI based technologies are available which identify empathetic language and abusive language. This supports your agents in providing quality CX and protects both sides from emotional stress. As a bonus, it assists in preventing escalations like social media backlash or legal nightmares.

Change Management

Cost cutting measures of offshoring don’t help if you don’t do your research. Third party services as the source of misconduct have put companies at risk and made headlines. Fines, ruined metrics and regaining customer trust can outweigh savings.

Risk management and change management have come to the forefront of business planning particularly since the onset of the pandemic. Clear communication of policies must be reinforced. 

The global pandemic has challenged businesses to continue to provide services under duress. Supply chain shortages and an unprecedented uptick in online buying caused an overall reduction in ACSI’s customer service satisfaction index of 3.7% for all but a few retail players. Finance, insurance and health care all suffered, along with many industries like live entertainment that came to a complete halt. 

Agile business models have been created to weather the storms of uncertainty. However, it wasn’t until August 2021 that the Customer Service Satisfaction Index stopped dropping. Even then it was still at the lowest it has been in 15 years.

Make sure whatever company you offshore to has systemic agility within their systems to provide coverage when the going gets rough. 

Agent churn and pandemic limitations can hit a well functioning contact center no matter where they are located. If the region has an outbreak are there systems in place for coverage?  Extreme climate, pandemics, and other economic forces can interfere with business. Consider having customer service operations in more than one location.

The Future of Offshoring

Quick adaptation to change can mean the difference between business growth and shutting down. Though cost is a factor in offshoring contact center operations, The 2021 Kearney Global Services Location Index predicts that it will cease to be the main one. The report indicates the importance of “highly networked’ locations with skilled talent. Countries that have a young, educated, English speaking workforce able to provide multiple services will rise to the top as offshoring hubs. 

Be prepared for your business to grow and change by considering offshoring contact center operations.