AT&T “Back-shores” Call Center

George Spafford wrote an interesting post about AT&T Internet "back-shoring" their call center to the United States. Spafford correctly articulates three key issues that companies must consider when deciding to send their customer service calls overseas:

  1. Language. Trying to bridge the language gap can quickly lead to frustration and dissatisfaction. Customers want resolution, and trying to understand and be understood can add a difficult hurdle for the customer.
  2. Cultural differences. We did customer satisfaction research for one catalog retailer who discovered their customers grew irritated when off-shore CSRs could not culturally understand some of the products they were attempting to find and purchase. The culture gap led to longer calls and angry customers. The resulting customer back-lash was, in this case, disastrous.
  3. Customer expectation. Customer’s expect quick, efficient resolution to their issue. If off-shoring impedes meeting these expectations, the cost-savings can suddenly vanish along with your customers.

Spafford correctly concludes:

In the end, the customer doesn’t care that there is a push for cost reduction (or whatever the strategy is). All they care about is that their needs are met in an efficient, professional and courteous manner.

Flickr photo courtesy of maximolly

  2 comments for “AT&T “Back-shores” Call Center

  1. October 15, 2006 at 7:59 am

    In my experience in my call center, I have seen the other side of this. Sometimes, I have customers that don’t speak English that well calling in to set up transactions.
    Anyone who has had any training in a second language knows that it can be easy to make people believe that you know more of that second language than you actually do. You can handle the niceties, the greetings, the requests for simple data, like name, address and phone number, but some conversations are much more complex.
    There come a point when things start to go wrong, and it becomes obvious that my customer does not know understand all that is going on, but their supervisor has made them responsible to finish the transaction thinking they know more English than they do. That can be scary.
    I feel for the foreign agents. Many of them trained for years to speak English, but unless they travel to train in a Western English Speaking country, their level of expertise will never go beyond a certain level. Many of them are pretending they speak more English than they do, because call center jobs can pay much more than any of the local jobs do.
    Many of the foreign companies that provide these services are in the same situation as their workers, they really don’t have the expertise to handle every kind of call center work, but they really want the work, so they are hoping they can pull it off.
    That is what we have to look at when deciding whether to give our customer care to an off-shore company.

  2. October 16, 2006 at 6:11 am

    Great thoughts, AC. As always, I appreciate your front-line perspective. The whole off-shoring/back-shoring issue is an interesting one. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

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