The Verdict is Out: Americans Prefer American Call Center Agents

10
400 views

Share on LinkedIn

My first article on this topic seemed to bring about a good number of discussions in various LinkedIn groups. So, I aggregated all of the comments across multiple LinkedIn group discussions, our web site and a few other sites where we post. There were 41 total responses and here’s what I found:

Of the people that made comment, it was clear that the overwhelming majority determined that American’s prefer to speak to American Call Center Agents. Nearly 64% felt this way, while 27% disagreed. While these results would not be considered conclusive evidence obtained from a wide spread study utilizing responses across various genders, age groups and nationalities, it is still a viable indication of opinion from people in our space. Ironically, the numbers seem to be in line with a recent (hot off the press) study conducted by CFI Group just a few days ago, citing the move of call center agents back to the United States for the second year running. In fact, CFI Group outlined that “The biggest argument for repatriating a call center is the almost unprecedented level of dissatisfaction associated with offshore agents. The study finds that call center satisfaction is only 58 out of 100 when the call is handled by an offshore agent, compared to 79 for U.S.-based agents.” The Sample size from CFI Group is much larger, but the results are obviously in sync.



Additionally, I broke down the responses by source and found some interesting data. I’m not certain that any conclusions can be made from it, but found it to be interesting that certain LinkedIn groups swayed in different directions. Here’s what I found:

  • The Customer Experience Management group comments clearly sided on there being a preference toward Americans: 67%,
  • In the Customer Service Professionals group, the split was 50/50,
  • And finally, in the Worldwide Contact Center Professionals group, 75% disagreed that American’s prefer American agents.
  • In each of these cases, the response rate was at least 8 respondents. Again, not a large sample size by any means, but interesting data nonetheless.



    The second half of my analysis covers feedback from the population of responses. In addition to claiming yes or no on the preference, there were opinions as to why this is the case or what can be done to offer a better overall experience to the customer. It was apparent in all of the discussion threads that the following list of items would increase the probability of offshore agent acceptance:

  • Better overall employment screening.
  • More training to the agent on products, processes, language and culture.
  • Hiring individuals without an accent, or at least one that matches the locality of the customer.
  • Point #2 hits squarely to the findings by CFI Group which states that “U.S. agents are 34% more likely to resolve the problem on the first call than those handled offshore.”



    So, in conclusion, I’m not alone in my past experiences and opinion of the matter. I do want to make it clear that an outstanding customer experience can be achieved regardless of where the agent is located or what language they speak. However, it is a growing debate that is gaining press in all forms (fall TV series), attention by the masses, and a move back to the U.S. by major organizations looking to increase their overall customer experience.

    10 COMMENTS

    1. Liked the article…interesting that American call center agents resolved problems more often on first call…something I never thought about, but crucial to customer satisfaction.

      I agree totally with your feelings about foreign call centers (as you mentioned in your previous post ‘Do American’s Prefer American Call Center Agents?’). I always have a strange feeling that the cultural disconnect is just too large. And my dismay is not just that the call center is in another country, t is that the foreign country is not analogous to the USA. What I mean is that my impression of foreign call centers is that they are all located in countries where the standard of living, communications, technology, and other critical cultural, sociological, and technological aspects are very different from the USA. I would have no problem speaking to someone in a country that is very similar to the USA…let’s say Germany. I would feel that the call center staff there would understand my situation easily. But if the call center is in, let’s say, India, I worry that the staff’s economic level, exposure to technology, and cultural background is so different from mine that they will have more difficulty identifying with me. And that’s a very important thing in customer service…you want to feel that you are understood…that the person on the other end of the phone understands you and your problem, and can empathize with you, and feel motivated to solve your problem. When I speak to a foreign call center, I don’t feel like they ‘get me’.

      In the end, it’s an empathy gap, a cultural gap, and a first world/third world gap that makes foreign call centers undesirable to me.

      Keep writing this good stuff…

      Tom

      (By the way, it should be ‘Americans’, not ‘American’s’, The apostrophe denotes possession…like ‘an American’s perspective’. When plural, never use an apostrophe.)

    2. Cultural differences have always been an issue in off shoring companies activities. In his book “The world is flat” Thomas Friedman describes the off shoring activities in India. Indian service representatives take on US names and are prepared to work in schedules that cover 24/7/365. It offers a lot of business, economical and development advantages for all concerned. But when you ask them something cultural, or local, the service rep in India will have no clue how to respond.

    3. Guys,

      Thanks for the feedback. I think the thought of putting like cultures on the other end of the phone is a great idea. However, would it likely skew the ROI benefits based on the cultural likeness of a Germany or other similar country? If that’s the case, the center should just be moved back to the states.

      I see the benefit of using offshore centers, but there is an indirect cost and revenue loss factor that needs to be considered.

      Either way, it’s a great discussion point.

      Tom- yes, the apostrophe was fixed everywhere but here! Thanks for the note.

      Kevin O’Brien is the Chief Marketing Officer for RiverStar and writes for a variety of publications and blogs.

      [email protected]
      http://www.riverstar.com

    4. Good points. But I think, it doesn’t matter whether American customers talk to American call center agents, as long as their queries and needs are answered. I believe that some offshore call center companies are now providing training programs for their employees.

    5. I don’t think nationality is an issue here as long as the concern was addressed and customer was satisfied thats good enough. I’ve heard some american agenst handling calls they are so frank and straight forward sometimes lacking for empathy unlike agents located on other countries they are very polite and understanding,and able to understand that US is facing tremendous downfall.I agree with u specially here in the Philippines wherein thousands of call centers were placed here because US government believe in Filipinos abilities and capabilities, and were all well trained.

    6. There is no question that any person in any country can handle a customer call and achieve the desired results. With the right level of communication, training and understanding of the job requirements, the country or nationality in question should not be of concern. However, these scenarios are still evolving and it will take some time. Based on the findings, we still have some ways to go. I will be interested in the economics of the situation once the quality of the service is seamless and the currency value stabilizes across country boundaries. One day, I foresee there being fewer advatnages to outsourcing contact center services.

    7. So, in conclusion, I’m not alone in my past experiences and opinion of the matter. I do want to make it clear that an outstanding customer experience can be achieved regardless of where the agent is located or what language they speak. However, it is a growing debate that is gaining press in all forms (fall TV series), attention by the masses, and a move back to the U.S. by major organizations looking to increase their overall customer experience. — I agree with this.

    8. Was there even ever a doubt about this? American customers would go as far as ask for someone American as soon as a customer service representative picks up the phone. It’s bad to generalize, though. Not all non-American call center employees aren’t committed to doing their jobs well.

    LEAVE A REPLY

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here