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8 Reasons Why USA Call Center Work Should Not Be Outsourced Overseas


Some businesses in the United States outsource their call center work overseas in order to save money. But is it really worth it considering all the issues that inevitably ensue causing the customer service aspect to suffer?

Image of a city where call center work is outsourced overseas

It’s easy to understand bad telephone branding and what not to do when considering the many irritating situations encountered daily while using the phone:

  • The phone rings and rings with no answer.
  • The call is delivered into “voicemail jail” with no way out.
  • The line is busy and the call is not connected resulting in repeated call attempts.
  • The phone is answered by a hurried, agitated or rude receptionist.
  • There is an abrupt ‘hold’ placed for what seems like an eternity.
  • The caller is relegated to dead silence while holding; no music-just silence.
  • Someone is reached on a cell phone and it’s noisy, the connection is poor and they are distracted by something else they are doing.
  • The caller reaches someone they can’t understand, because the call is outsourced overseas in a foreign country.

Unfortunately, these experiences are commonplace.  Businesses often fail to remember that branding encompasses every impression they make on their customers. Leaving phone answering and the call center component out of the branding equation is a crazy thing to do.  The focus of this article will be on the last of these irritants, the outsourced offshore call center. 

It is important to understand that there are applications where offshore and near-shore outsourcing work well, but it is easy to conclude based off of experience and intuition that they are few and far between. What is the typical reason that companies outsource their call center needs offshore?  The obvious answer is the right answer: cost savings.

While overseas outsourcing is occasionally appropriate, it is repeatedly fraught with problems that greatly outweigh the simple goal of getting the work done for the lowest price.  The adage is well known, ‘you get what you pay for.’  Everyone has had the experience of talking to a call center agent overseas that can’t be understood and who doesn’t understand the caller…not only is the language barrier a factor, but the cultural barrier is in play as well.

Here are 8 reasons why it is typically a bad idea to outsource call center needs to a call center located overseas.

1.       Language Barrier

It’s common to hear complaints about communication failures when discussing conversations with agents in overseas call centers. Why is that?  It’s simple; callers do not want to talk to people who can’t understand them and they do want to talk to people they can’t understand.

 2.      Cultural Barrier

The inescapable truth is that the cultures of the United States, India and the Philippines differ in many ways. Briefly take a look at the Indian culture.  They have a problem saying ‘no’,  often feel uncomfortable giving bad news, don’t understand American colloquialisms  and don’t have any comprehension of holidays and customs in the United States, just as most Americans have no comprehension of theirs.

3.       Privacy Issues

Not many people are comfortable with their social security number, financial and medical information floating around in a foreign country, and for good reason.  In today’s world of heightened security requirements, what’s more important, cheap labor or exposure to security issues? It is vital to consider sending sensitive customer information offshore. While privacy laws are relatively new in the United States, they are almost nonexistent in many foreign countries.

4.       Security Issues

Even in foreign countries that have legal protection for data theft and security issues, the actual numbers of prosecutions are minimal. Simply put, there just isn’t too much risk in committing data theft or a security crime in many overseas countries, particularly if the victims are foreigners – USA citizens.   Another complicating factor is that in the United States, new-hire background checking and interviewing is common, but that is not always the case in many foreign countries.

5.       Regulatory Issues

Security breach notification is a huge consideration.  An offshore service provider may have the contractual obligation to protect data for USA citizens, but there is no statutory obligation or cybercrime law which hinders or prohibits law enforcement assistance or prosecution for callers or the outsourcing company.

6.       Poor Customer Service Training and Skills

Not only is it made clear by speaking with veteran call center professionals and consultants, but it is even a subject in TV shows and movies like Outsourced starring Josh Hamilton and Asif Basra; overseas call centers seek customer service training and skill training from the USA call center industry.  There’s a reason for that!

7.       Accessibility for Training and Onsite Visits and Oversight

It is difficult, expensive and untimely to send all necessary team members frequently to an offshore location.  This cuts the valuable interaction needed in outsourcing engagements and the experience gained when the outsourcer and outsourcing teams communicate, share, work together, socialize and collaborate.

8.       Geographical Dislocation, Political Instability and Political Considerations

Geographical dislocation not only provides a hurdle for oversight of an overseas call center by the outsourcing company, but is also complicated by unfavorable time zone differences.  There is vast disparity in time zone and time reference.  When contact center activity is outsourced offshore, there is also potential for political instability in some countries and the political ramifications and public relations nightmares of removing jobs from the shores of the USA and sending them elsewhere.

It’s interesting to note that while cost savings has been the compelling reason to outsource call center services offshore, this is rapidly changing.  As foreign countries build their middle classes and wages rise as a consequence, the cost differential between onshore operations and overseas outsourcing is narrowing year by year, making one more convincing case to leave the business in the United States.

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About Michael LaBaw

As Founder, President and owner of Sound Telecom, Michael LaBaw provides strategic, visionary, management and operational oversight of the Company. In addition to directing Sound Telecom's management team, Mr. LaBaw is responsible for negotiating major contracts, acquisitions and divestitures. He also takes an active role in the sales and marketing strategies of the Company. Prior to founding Sound Telecom in 1986, Mr. LaBaw started his career as a Certified Public Accountant for Grant Thornton and subsequently served in key management roles as an owner or executive for a number of privately held companies. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting from Colorado State University. Mr. LaBaw is an active supporter of several youth educational, athletic and Christian organizations in addition to serving as a director on several non-profit organizations. He is currently serving on the boards of Seattle Area Youth for Christ and Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.