Offshore Customer Service

Don’t Damage Your Brand by Allowing Inferior Service—No Matter Where It Is Provided

February 2, 2012

Does offshoring your call center impact your brand? It does if the quality of service goes down. This refresher course in providing good customer service should help you avoid the pitfalls of the most common offshore call center offences, most of which are the result of valuing cost savings over nurturing customer relationships.


For all the bad press that companies get for sending their contact centers overseas, what will truly hurt the brand is if the quality of the customer service is diminished. And this too often happens when saving money is the priority over nurturing customer relationships.

It is important that you manage and monitor your offshore or outsourced customer service organization to ensure that the best practices in call center handling are being followed. If you don’t, customers can end up dissatisfied, frustrated, and ready to bolt.

Here, we provide a refresher course in good (and great) call center practices as well as the worst offences we have encountered with foreign call centers.


I recently received the following email from an acquaintance of mine (who doesn’t know that I’m in the customer experience biz):

“Outsourcing customer service

That's the rule and the LAW.

Now that I know it is the LAW—I will do it for sure.

Any time you call an 800 number (for a credit card, banking, charter communications, health and other insurance, computer help desk, etc) and you find that you're talking to a foreign customer service representative (perhaps in India, Philippines, etc), please consider doing the following:

After you connect and you realize that the customer service representative is not from the USA (you can always ask if you are not sure about the accent), please, very politely (this is not about trashing other cultures) say, "I'd like to speak to a customer service representative in the United States of America." The rep might suggest talking to his/her manager, but, again, politely say, "Thank you, but I'd like to speak to a customer service representative in the USA."


That's the rule and the LAW.

It takes less than one minute to have your call redirected to the USA. Tonight when I got redirected to a USA rep, I asked again to make sure—and yes, she was from Fort Lauderdale. Imagine what would happen if every US citizen insisted on talking to only US phone reps from this day on. Imagine how that would ultimately impact the number of US jobs that would need to be created ASAP.

If I tell 10 people to consider this and you tell 10 people to consider doing this—see what I becomes an exercise in viral marketing 101. Remember—the goal here is to restore jobs back here at home—not to be abrupt or rude to a foreign phone rep. You may even get correct answers, good advice, and solutions to your problem—in real English.

If you agree, please tell 10 people you know, and ask them to tell 10 people they know....etc...etc.”

Not True

Well, it turns out, it isn’t the law. According to, the claim that “U.S. companies operating overseas telephone service centers must transfer customers to U.S.-based representatives upon request,” is false. It is a proposed law—a bill called the Call Center Consumer’s Right to Know Act (HR 3621), which also includes a requirement for call center employees to disclose the physical location. The bill doesn’t seem to have much momentum at this time. The last action taken was in September 23, 2009, when the House Committee on Energy and Commerce: referred it to the subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection.

However, according to, “Although the practice is not yet legislatively mandated, some U.S. companies have established policies and procedures of their own that instruct foreign call center operators to transfer calls back to U.S.-based reps upon customer request.”


It is a sad fact that many American jobs have been lost to overseas employees and to outsourced foreign customer service agencies. However, the mere fact of laying off local employees and sending the jobs to other countries probably won’t significantly hurt the companies that have done so. Oh, there will be bad PR and hurt feelings. A very small number of activists for U.S. products and jobs might embargo the company. But most of us will remain loyal to the provider if we like the products and services offered and they still sell us what we need.

Bad Offshore Service Is a Deal Breaker

We will remain loyal, that is, if the offshore customer service is done well and meets customers’ expectations. When customers call for service, they are looking for quick and competent assistance. They also expect to be treated well and to have their problems understood. Whether your call center is manned in the U.S. or somewhere else, the same level of excellence is demanded by customers. And, while we may not abandon you because you moved jobs out of the country, we will run as fast as we can if we have bad customer experiences. And, too often, the quality of service does suffer when it goes offshore, especially when it is outsourced to another company (see “Overseas Contact Center Worst Offenses” below).

Sending your support overseas isn’t a license to forget about the customer experience. As customer-focused executives, you need to keep a close eye on the policies and practices that are being followed in these contact centers. Too often, the core competency of the offshore provider and the compensation model you both agree to, results in providing quick and scripted (inexpensive) support rather than on truly solving the customers’ problems and reinforcing the customer relationship.

Manage Your Outsourced or Offshore Partners/Employees

Someone in your corporate environment—a senior executive in charge of customer experience, for example—needs to take responsibility for managing the relationship with those now in charge of providing service. The key is to discuss, agree upon, and monitor the policies that the management of the outsourced organization (or the offshore manager of your remote contact center employees) foists on its agents.

Yes, you are going overseas for customer service to save money. But the policies of customer service that you used to have in place domestically should still be in effect. Don’t outsource or offload and forget about it. Have a high-level corporate representative responsible for ...

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