By Corey Kotlarz

Think about your last handful of interactions with a customer support representative. You probably think you know which of those conversations featured a company employee working out of a corporate office.

You’re probably wrong.

In reality, more and more companies are adopting and expanding call centre outsourcing as a vital component of their customer support and sales teams, with no detectable decline in performance. As operating budgets fail to grow as quickly as the expenses they need to cover, companies are looking for lower cost alternatives in all aspects of their business. In many cases, moving certain responsibilities to an outside team can reduce overhead without sacrificing output and quality.

A common misconception is that outsourcing is a strategy reserved for enormous international companies serving millions of customers. But in reality, companies of all sizes can benefit. Advances in cloud-based technology platforms and a cost-effective workforce have lowered the bar to entry considerably, often making an outsourced customer support team a superior option to an internal one.

In particular, customer support and lead generation are ideally positioned for outsourcing. The stereotype of the inept, unintelligible call centre agent is laughably inaccurate in the current outsourcing market.

Today’s agents are highly skilled professionals who are fluent in the languages they are supporting, backed by cutting edge technology and extensive training. And, in most cases, their services come at a considerable cost savings compared to employing agents in-house.

Call centre outsourcing is a global enterprise, with different regions offering distinct strengths and advantages. Here is a look at them.

Onshore outsourcing
Onshore outsourcing, or domestic outsourcing, refers to the utilization of call centres within your geographic region, specifically the Canada and the U.S. While typically the most expensive option, going onshore is the next best thing to employing agents in-house.

Canada is positioned to provide an exceptional value both to Canadian businesses and to American companies. In addition to a workforce skilled in several languages, current exchange rates greatly favour Canadian call centres over their neighbours to the south. As a result, the Canadian industry has seen significant investment and growth over the last several years. Domestic outsourcing is ideal for your most valuable call types, including priority customer service and escalated technical support.

Offshore outsourcing
Offshore outsourcing refers to call centres located in a geographic region that is relatively distant. The bulk of offshore outsourcing work is performed in the Asia-Pacific region, with India and the Philippines handling the lion’s share.

The call centre industry in India has largely plateaued over the past decade, making way for the Philippines to exponentially expand its offerings and become the top destination for offshore outsourcing. Outsourced services are a dominant force in the Philippine economy, employing over a million residents.

By far the least expensive option, offshore outsourcing provides an exceptional value for non-voice assistance like chat or e-mail support, in addition to English-speaking voice services.

Nearshore outsourcing
Undoubtedly, the most exciting outsourcing region today is the nearshore: Central and South America. Nearshore outsourcing has exploded in popularity in the past five years and for good reason.
Geography. North American companies’ staff can easily travel back and forth to their nearshore call centres without sacrificing a day and a half to double-digit flight times, tedious layovers and exhausting time zone changes;

Talent. In the nearshore, call centre work is viewed as a reliable and honourable career. Both governments and private enterprises have invested in training programmes and telecom infrastructure that provide a solid foundation for the industry. Perhaps most appealing, many of the agents have lived in Canada or the U.S. where they honed their English skills and became immersed in the cultures. In short, the nearshore workforce is experienced, fluent in English and highly driven;

and Cost. North American companies that outsource their call centre efforts to a nearshore provider can see a cost savings of up to 50%. This savings is a result of a lower cost of living and moderate unemployment rates, not reduction in quality.

Nearshore outsourcing is an excellent option for any type of call or service. The highly skilled agents can handle everything from outbound telemarketing to essential inbound customer support with ease. In fact, nearshore call centres frequently outperform their domestic and even in-house counterparts in performance metrics like customer satisfaction and first call resolution.

Selecting the right strategy
The explosion of the outsourcing industry has created countless benefits and opportunities for businesses, but it has also created complexity. A successful outsourcing strategy must carefully consider several variables including cost, performance, quality, location, services and logistics.

While often reduced to three buckets—onshore, nearshore and offshore—the outsourcing industry is a collection of individual providers, each with unique benefits and shortcomings. Understanding each region’s strengths is an excellent foundation as you begin to narrow your options.

Above all, know that you do not have to settle for mediocrity. Regardless of the region, there are high-quality outsourced providers poised to delight your customers and provide the support and service they expect and deserve.

Corey Kotlarz is a 25-year call centre outsourcing veteran and the president and founder at Outsource Consultants, a call centre advisory firm that helps companies select the right partners. He can be reached via e-mail at ckotlarz@outsource-consultants.com.

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