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True or False — The Top 10 (mis)conceptions of Call Centers


Misconceptions surrounding call centers exist in many forms. Some are warranted, but most are unfounded. Let’s play a game of true or false to get some real answers about call centers.

Image of a call center in Spokane

There are a number of misconceptions about call centers these days — many of them left over from the heyday of early outsourcing. Let’s address the top conceptions/misconceptions of call centers we hear not too infrequently, and put some of the myths to rest.

True or False —

  1. All call centers are overseas (False) — Although many call centers initially opened overseas, in part due to fiber optic cabling laid worldwide that became available for pennies on the dollar after the late 1990’s/early 2000’s tech bubble burst, there are just as many domestic call/contact centers open now in the United States.
  2. I can’t understand anyone when my call gets transferred overseas (Unfortunately this is True as many times as it is False) — Depending on the robustness of the outsourcing company’s Training and V&A (Voice and Accent) neutralization programs, this problem is hit or miss. While there are many calls that are answered and handled very effectively, there are plenty of agents and companies that do not put forth much effort or investment attempting to neutralize V&A issues/concerns. Many times this becomes an easy area to cut corners and save money.
  3. All of my calls are transferred to India (False) — While there was a proliferation of call centers opened in India in the late ‘90s/early 2000’s, the trend to outsource offshore actually began earlier than that when Ireland jumped into the fray as a way to ease their persistently high unemployment rate. Ireland correctly assumed that they could leverage their unemployed English speaking population to provide a service not offered previously. Other English speaking countries soon followed — India, the Philippines, and we are now seeing a migration toward African nations like Kenya and South Africa.
  4. Call Centers take jobs away from Americans (False) — Even the offshore call centers are net job creators in the US. These offshore call centers, while providing a service, are still consumers of telephony, computer hardware/software, office furniture, etc. Also, the lower paid ‘customer service’ type positions held by agents in call/contact centers used to be viewed as undesirable positions for many ‘go-getters’ in the US — a mentality that has shifted back closer to “normal” with the economic conditions being poor a few years back in the US.
  5. The only reason my calls are being sent overseas is for cost savings (False) — Many companies send their customers overseas for a number of reasons. Cost savings is only one. Many times there are many benefits to sending work offshore — time zone differences allow work to be processed in the (US) overnight hours while it is daytime in India and the Philippines; quality improvement initiatives; and allowing a company’s US based employees to be available to handle the more sensitive or complex issues are among them.
  6. Customers get angry when they reach a call center agent with an accent (False) — Although it is tempting to break this argument into the smallest, most convenient common denominator, in-fact, studies have shown that American’s do not mind speaking with people who have an accent (weak or strong).  American’s do, however, have very little patience for anyone who either has too low a level of comprehension or is not able to address the issue they are calling about.  The solution?  Invest more resources — capital, training, energy, focus, etc. on training your team (in-house or outsourced) to effectively identify and resolve the issue(s) driving the call in the first place.  Focus your team on delivering a great customer experience!
  7. I can never get in touch with anyone in the US to answer my question(s) (False) — All companies have escalation processes and procedures to route calls away from offshore locations to people back onshore if/when the need arises.  It may take asking that your call be escalated to a Supervisor or Manager, or navigation through an IVR phone tree, but you can always get back to someone working for the company back in the States.
  8. I can never speak with a live person (False) — Although the use of IVRs is increasingly popular in call centers, both to gather additional information and to route your call to the most appropriate agent to help, you can still get through and speak with a live person.  In-fact, there are a number of lists circulating around the internet which give you the exact numerical dialing combination to penetrate the IVR phone trees of most large companies in the US today in order to reach a live person.
  9. I might as well be talking to a robot, because I cannot get an actual response out of a call center agent (False) — Strangely enough, we often hear this comment from the same people who complain about hearing an accent; or having to manage their way through an IVR; or having to call in the first place; or about the weather; etc.  Get the picture?  Truth is, if you are following our advice outlined above, your agents will not sound like robots … but some people will ALWAYS find something to complain about!
  10. The telephone is the only tool used in the call center (False) — Today there are multiple forms of communication, most/all of which have been integrated into the contact center.  Certainly we utilize email and chat, but also tools such as IVR, texting, pagers, social media, etc. all with high degrees of success.  The primary goal of any contact center is to engage in a ‘conversation’ with a customer and to drive that ‘conversation’ to a mutually beneficial conclusion.  To do so, we need not be limited in our method of communication!

These are just some of the misconceptions about call centers. Before jumping to any conclusions about call centers it is important to do your homework so you know what’s really going on. Our call center is located in Spokane, WA and is staffed by US-based agents who provide high-quality answering service. Have a question about call centers? Always feel free to ask us!

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About John Dubay

As Director of Operations, John Dubay is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of Sound Telecom's multiple service delivery centers and for ensuring the highest levels of service, support, quality and value for Sound Telecom's many clients. John brings 20+ years of experience in client services, account management and operations management with outsourced BPO and customer service organizations worldwide to Sound Telecom. His ability to leverage previous experiences in multiple industry verticals and successes in the consistent management and delivery of client specific operational metrics adds value to both Sound Telecom and our diverse client base. John earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington State University where he studied business administration, international business and economics.