outsourcing stinks!

Posted on Posted in MMM
outsourcing stinks

Outsourcing stinks...and now, my wife was in tears. The call was on speaker and I could hear everything that the customer service representative on the other end of the line was saying. There was no empathy in the agent’s voice. Just a restatement of company policy, once, twice, and even a third time. To make matters worse, there was a language barrier. Not that it was the agent’s fault but she did not have a good command of the English language. With learning any language, I believe that you can be “book smart” but lack the practical and cultural experiences needed to effectively communicate. What should have been a simple phone call to Amazon.com became a 45-minute ordeal—all because my wife had lost her Kindle and was trying to locate and/or deactivate the device. I firmly believe that if the agent had been located in-house at a domestic Amazon.com location, the interaction would have gone much differently. The agent lost control because she lacked the cultural experience needed to empathize and provide quality customer service.

In contrast, a few months ago, a guy named Mark from GoDaddy.com’s Phoenix office gave me a call. Mark had been doing an audit of customer accounts and noticed that I was subscribing to multiple services that were overlapping and unnecessary. He was calling me to see if I was aware and to offer a solution. I was shocked at first and somewhat defensive. “Oh boy! What’s this guy going to try to sell me this time?” I asked myself. As I continued the conversation with him, it became clear to me that he was looking out for me. Mark connected with me. He asked the right questions, listened, and found solutions that worked for me and saved me money. I ended up coming away from that call saving around $500 a year. That’s money I would not have saved had he not taken the time to truly connect with me.

Customer Service Is An Art Form

Providing outstanding customer service is an art form—and it is relatively unique to the Western World. Prior to writing this week’s Monday Morning with Marty, I did a little research on customer service outsourcing, both domestically and abroad. There are many companies that will outsource your call center. Their marketing says it all. They cite ownership, transparency, communication, scalability, and efficiency as the primary reasons for outsourcing. However, there is one thing missing from their list—the ability to match the brand reflected at your physical location.

The heart and soul of your organization is its’ brand. To be successful, Customer Service Call Centers must provide a service level that is indistinguishable from on-property brand. How can a call center that is off-site—sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles away—be expected to reflect your brand? How can we expect an outsourced Customer Service team to enthusiastically represent us, promote our attraction, resolve guest issues, and to be quality spokespeople for a location they likely have never or will never visit? To provide the best service levels, our people must be grounded in our day-to-day operation.

Centralizing It Isn't Always the Answer

When I worked at the Luxor Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, our Ticketing operation included running our own on property call center. Our ticketing team shared their time staffing the box office and working in the call center. However, during my last year with the Company, they decided to merge our call center operation with the MGM Corporate Call Center which was located off-site and miles away from the Las Vegas Strip. Almost immediately, I noticed a decline in both the quality level and sales output from the centralized Call Center. Being off-site had the effect of isolating these agents from the day-to-day information and energy they benefited from when they worked on-property. The off-site Call Center team was less effective at representing our brand.

Why Keeping It On-Site Could Be Better

When we outsource our Call Center operations, it’s easy to lose control. The further the distance, the worse the service can be. Remember my example of Amazon.com? That agent was based in the Philippines and yet she was trying to resolve my wife’s technical issue in the United States. Language and cultural experiences created a disconnect. At Luxor, show ticketing agents who shared time in the box office were more grounded and able to communicate effectively than their off-site counterparts. At GoDaddy.com, Mark, who was in a domestic call center, was able to connect, build trust, and find solutions that worked for me.

People who work in hospitality understand how to deliver exceptional service. In the Western World, providing great service isn’t a new concept. Hotels have been delivering great service for hundreds of years. However, culture plays a part. When we farm out our Call Center operations to other locations—and even other countries—quality often suffers. Distance and culture can interfere, making the delivery of great Customer Service nearly impossible. Better to keep your Call Center operation on-site where you can be involved and keep your people engaged and grounded.

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"To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity."