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While e-mail and the Web have made strides, the phone remains the primary channel consumers use to interact with customer care. In a 2007 Harris Interactive Research study sponsored by our company, 97% of respondents reported that they most often use the telephone to contact customer service. Today, more than 79.8 billion calls are made to call centers annually, and that is only expected to rise as use of the mobile phone for customer care increases. However, providing one-to-one call center interaction is not always economically feasible.
On the surface, overseas outsourcing—with live human operators—might appear to be a good means to save operational costs. However, research from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business shows that as a group, those that outsourced customer service saw a drop in their score on the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, or ACSI, a measure created by the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan. The same research found that the average ACSI decline at companies outsourcing customer service is associated with a drop of roughly 1% to 5% in a company’s market capitalization.
What we do know is that customers are willing to use automated systems. This has been borne out by the likes of ATMs and airline kiosks. They are convenient and fast and the customer is in control. According to a Harris Research Study, consumers actually prefer to use automated customer care for the following reasons:
• It is available any time of the day.
• It can address simple questions.
• “I can do it myself.”
• “I get immediate service.”
• It’s faster to use.
The phone channel isn’t going away and will only increase with the use of mobile devices. This presents new opportunity to reduce costs and increase revenue—and automation can help.
Whether we’re talking about a consumer contact center or an internal IT help desk, there is no question that outsourcing delivers tremendous benefits. There are several factors companies should consider before taking the outsourcing leap, and potential customer backlash for offshoring is clearly one of them. However, outsourcing’s track record shows the risks are nominal.
Today’s consumers understand that support calls are as likely to be answered from Hyderabad as from Houston. For the most part, this is not a concern. Of much greater importance to consumers is having their questions answered quickly, competently, and courteously.
As such, companies should strongly consider outsourcing call centers and help desks. They’ll benefit from lower total cost of ownership, multi-language support, improved call-handling processes, guaranteed service levels, and extended operating hours.
Moreover, companies that outsource don’t have to maintain physical space or expensive call-routing equipment. They don’t need to hire, train, or retain employees, and have more flexibility to adjust staff to handle call volumes. And because they are consulting with help desk experts, they tap into best practices, complying with Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework that results in better call handling—which means satisfied customers. Companies that outsource the help desk function can establish 24/7 call center capabilities without having to pay for facilities on multiple coasts or even in multiple countries.
Ultimately, businesses with outsourced call centers and help desks free up resources so they can concentrate on increasing core competencies and strategic programs that lead to profitable growth.
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