The HotLine Magazine Archives
For The Profession of Cloud/SaaS Product Support
By Mikael Blaisdell

“They’re doing interesting things with vocal ‘accent modification’ in some offshore contact centers,” a senior support executive recently assured me. “You can hardly tell the difference.” Permit me to be skeptical on that point. US callers certainly notice a difference when talking to un-modified reps, and their reaction is definitely noticeable. Horror stories of mis-communication and very unsatisfactory outcomes can be heard at all levels of our society, along with tips about how to get your call escalated back to a US center.

I’m certain that support executive is aware of the difference when he personally has to go offshore to India or the Philippines, etc., 4 or more times per year. The accounting people who process his expense reports notice the difference those costs make on travel budgets. The skyrocketing rates of employee turnover in the offshore contact centers makes a noticeable difference in the quality of the support/service being delivered, and I’m very clear that the “offshoring” of American jobs makes an unmistakable economic difference in many homes and local communities.

Let’s be specific about some differences. The outsourcers tell me that the standard hourly rates they charge for support/service personnel are about $12-$15 per person in the offshore centers in India, Pakistan and the Philippines. “Near-shore” centers charge about $15-$18 and domestic (US/Canada) rates run between $25-$30 per hour. Offshore centers carry the significant risk of customer alienation, which has forced companies such as Dell Inc., Delta Airlines and others to pull out of offshore contracts and turn to domestic resources. On the other hand, using domestic centers obviously carries a substantial cost difference.

Time to Look Again

Clocktower-01 SMBut what if it didn’t? Suppose you could get domestic voices and skills at offshore rates? Instead of going to India or the Philippines once per quarter, what if your support/service executive only had to take a trip to a US or Canadian location? If there were potential tax benefits that could lower the cost below $15 per hour, would that be of importance? Do you think your marketing department could stir some media interest if you were actively bringing US jobs back to this country? And helping to develop the next generation of US workers in the process? Potentially identifying vital talent for future hires for your company?

All of the above is definitely within reach. All it takes to realize these benefits is vision and a willingness to think outside the box.

The On-Campusing Initiative

University life 01 SMThere are in excess of 3, 500 colleges and universities in the USA. According to US Department of Education figures, 17.9 million students will be enrolled during 2007, with over 80% of them being undergraduates. These college and university students represent an enormous potential workforce, already highly technologically competent — but typically relegated to low-skilled work. Those students would absolutely notice the difference if they had the chance to do real-world work that was in some way related to their education and the development of marketable skills. I call it the “On-Campusing Initiative.”

I have some schools more than ready to play, and some states willing to help out with grants and credits. What I need now are some companies with vision and a commitment to making a difference. Is yours one? If so, let’s seize the opportunity and make a difference that matters.

August 14, 2007