Why are more outsourced call centres coming back to the UK

In the early 2000s a trend began for companies to outsource their call centre operations to India and other parts of the developing world based on the promise of call handling costs being cut by as much as 40%. Now in 2016, many companies are choosing to bring their call centre outsourcing back to the UK. With outsourced call centres in the developing world offering the most competitive prices on 24/7 call handling services, it is the promise of better customer service, compliance, and friendly relatable voices that is making many UK businesses look closer to home for their call handling services.

Why Do Companies Outsource Their Call Handling?

There are many reasons why a company may choose to outsource their call handling services. For many UK businesses, the initial draw of outsourced call handling in particular is its cost efficiency.

Lower labour costs and overheads in the developing countries that have come to specialise in call centre outsourcing mean considerable savings can be made. Some companies even go as far as to replace their call centres with interactive voice response (IVR) technology. While there is no doubt IVR is more cost effective than a traditional call centre, it can prove to be a false economy. This article from the Conversation shows customer response to IVR systems can be so negative it could even damage a company’s reputation.

But the benefits of call centre outsourcing go beyond just cutting costs. For smaller companies in particular call centre outsourcing can help to provide a better quality of service to customers. Whether it is overflow call handling or full scale outsourcing, utilising the service of a 3rd party call handler can giver small companies the appearance and capability of a much larger firm.

How Did Call Centre Outsourcing Begin?

Despite already being common place across many industries in the UK, call centre outsourcing is still relatively new as a business practice having only come to prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

In this interview with callcentre.co.uk telemarketing expert and business consultant Simon Roncoroni talks about how he and his colleague Robert Liederman set up the first outsourcing operation in 1979. A decade earlier in 1969 while working at a paper company, Roncoroni realised that he could reach a week’s worth of customers by Tuesday afternoon if he contacted them over the phone instead of travelling to meetings. His boss was so impressed that he asked Roncoroni to set up a call centre for the company. This put Roncoroni on a path that has shaped the way businesses handle their calls to this day.

Roncoroni’s belief in the power of the telephone has been proved right, but while call centre outsourcing has only become common place in the last 25 years, it is easy to see why UK businesses’ relationship with call centre outsourcing continues to change.  While many companies initially jumped at the offer of increased cost efficiency that offshore outsourcing promised, more and more companies are now looking to the UK for their call handling services. But what has caused this change of heart?

The Problem with Offshore Call Centre Outsourcing

While offshore call handling may provide considerable savings, reports such as this one from the Wall Street Journal have shown that the outsourcing of call handling services to more affordable companies in developing countries has seen customer satisfaction ratings drop for many businesses.

One of the primary issues with offshore call handling services is the issue presented by cultural and linguistic barriers.

The quality of English spoken in offshore call centres is undoubtedly high, but there are some aspects of language like idiom and connotation that will never be as strong as with a native speaker. Another issue is that customers themselves may be unfamiliar with speaking to non-native speakers and find offshore operatives difficult to understand. While this is no fault of the call centre or the operative, a business can’t pick and choose their customers based on their exposure to other cultures from an early age.

Customer satisfaction can also be affected by the use of offshore call centres as customers are far more business savvy than they were 20 years ago. It’s common knowledge amongst the general public that outsourcing call handling offshore is a cheaper alternative to UK call handling. What this means is that when a customer realises they are through to an offshore call centre, there is an immediate presupposition that the company they are calling cares more about cost-cutting than providing good customer service. Whether this is the case or not, once that idea is planted in the customer’s mind it is a difficult one to remove.

The Benefits of UK Call Handling

Offshore call handling may be falling out of favour with customers, but this doesn’t mean businesses should forgo using call handling services altogether. By working with call handling services here in the UK, businesses can experience all the benefits of professional call handling services without compromising their customer satisfaction ratings.

While UK call handling services may not be as ruthlessly competitive in their pricing as their offshore competitors, outsourcing to a UK call centre can still see businesses make considerable savings overall. And, when you take into account the level of service a UK call centre is able to provide, outsourcing to a UK company provides better value for money.

One of the first and most obvious benefits to UK call handling is the response from customers to a familiar voice or accent. As we have already covered, offshore call centres experience negative customer satisfaction ratings, so keeping call centres in the UK can see an overwhelmingly positive response from customers.

Improved customer satisfaction ratings however is just one of the many reasons companies are choosing to outsource their call centres to firms in the UK.

Another benefit of choosing a call handler from within the UK is that your call handler of choice will be compliant with UK business legislation. By keeping your call handling within the UK you can be sure all the data handling, staff management, and other important legal requirements are met in compliance with UK law and won’t come back to haunt you.

The recent trend for UK businesses to bring their call handling service back to UK call centres goes to show that the priorities of UK businesses are changing. While outsourcing was once seen as a quick fix to cut costs, the relationship between outsourcing and customer service is now more important. By providing an extensive range of call handling packages, UK call handlers are able to help companies improve their relationships with their customers while still providing a cost effective service that can benefit the business. With all of these benefits considered, it is likely the trend to bring outsourced call centres back to the UK will continue.

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