the Cost of Offshore Outsourcing About to Go Up?
Stockford, Research Director, National Association of Call Centers and
Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research, [email protected]
In what is
being touted as a means of keeping jobs in the U.S., Senator Charles
Schumer (D-NY) has proposed legislation that will require companies to
inform their customers when their calls are being transferred to a
location outside of the U.S., then will charge those companies an
excise tax of $0.25 per call for each call transferred. The net result
of the bill, according to Senator Schumer, will be to keep call center
jobs in the U.S. as well as provide incentive for those companies that
have already outsourced jobs overseas to bring those jobs back home.
This proposed legislation is highly reminiscent of similar legislation
introduced in April of 2006 by Senator John Kerry (D-MA). Senate Bill
S.2553, the “Call Center Consumer’s Right to Know Act of 2006,”
introduced legislation that required employees at a call center who
initiate or receive phone calls to disclose their physical location.
The bill also required contact centers to offer a domestic alternative
to an offshore customer service agent. In other words, the bill
required that callers be told that their call was being transferred to
an offshore facility but they had the option of speaking to a domestic
customer service agent. The consumer trade-off was expected to be
timeliness versus security. The queue to speak to an offshore agent was
expected to be much shorter than the queue to speak to a domestic
Senate Bill S.2553 was introduced in response to growing public concern
about identity theft and the risks of providing private and financial
information to offshore contact centers where U.S. law was neither
applicable nor enforceable. Despite public pressure for more
legislation to protect private information, Senate Bill S.2553 never
became law. The bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on
Commerce, Science and Transportation where it languished. Sessions of
Congress last two years and at the end of each session all proposed
bills and resolutions that did not pass are cleared from the books.
On March 29, 2007, a similar bill was introduced in Congress. “H.R.
1776: Call Center Consumer’s Right to Know Act” was worded almost
exactly the same as Senate Bill S.2553. H.R. 1776 was brought before
subcommittee for hearings in September 2007. Testifying at that hearing
was the NACC’s Executive Director, Dr. David Butler. Following the
initial hearings the bill failed to be referred to the House for vote
and similar to Senate Bill S.2553, H.R. 1776 was eventually abandoned.
The bill introduced this week by Senator Schumer may stand a better
chance of a positive outcome. With unemployment in the U.S. hovering
around ten percent, contact center jobs have a great deal of appeal.
The reason behind the current legislation is much more compelling than
the fear of identity theft by foreign nationals, which was the primary
motivator behind Senate Bill S.2553. Senator Schumer may find himself
with the power of popular support behind this bill. With the right
media spin and sufficient public dissemination of the potential
benefits of this bill in terms of U.S. employment, offshore outsourcers
may soon be forced to rethink pricing strategies in order to remain
competitive in the U.S. customer service market.
Bocklund-President – Strategic Contact, [email protected]
Somewhere near the top of the requirements list for every contact
center these days is “agility” or “flexibility” – and today’s
technology can deliver. But agility and flexibility come at the price
of complexity, and it’s killing us. It’s time to systematize contact
center technology deployment and support, and put all the right people,
processes, and tools in place to manage the complexity required to meet
today’s business needs.
be great, but…
Not to reminisce too much, but “call centers” used to be relatively
simple – both operationally and technologically – and that simpler time
made life easier for everyone. Centers were characterized by single
media (phone), rock solid voice systems (PBX/ACDs), and a few basic
tools (IVR, WFM, QM). System operations were fairly smooth and
The contact center technology world today, on the other hand, is prone
to problems. For example, we’re engaged in multiple projects on a
variety of vendor platforms focused on stability and resiliency. That’s
not a coincidence; it’s an outgrowth of wide-ranging technology options
and complex and highly interdependent architectures. Voice over IP
(with its heavy reliance on data networks), multi-site, multi-media,
enhanced performance tools, web integration, and more are essential
parts of the center’s ecosystem. Vendors and distributors have
responded by offering services to monitor the performance of their
servers, gateways, routers, etc. Such services are important
considerations in technology procurement. (You can’t just buy boxes and
The scale and options of network carrier services – another area that
used to be “simple” – compound the challenges. Companies experience
fiber cuts, over-commitment by carriers on what they can deliver,
timing issues, etc. With voice highly dependent on data networks,
companies applying best practices institute redundant, diverse
networks, yet vulnerabilities remain due to the greater
interdependency, complexity and scale in what those networks entail.
Issues can be wide-ranging and wreak havoc on centers and customers.
Combine these environments with the lean staffing today and you’ve
created a monster. Most centers’ operational leadership has little or
no time to plan for the next thing as they are consumed with the
day-to-day operations and challenges. IT/telecom doesn’t have enough
time or bandwidth either. They frequently wind up reacting to trouble
rather than proactively managing these complex environments. No one
sees the reason to do the extra things with technology, tools, or
processes until something (or many things) go wrong… then it’s a
scramble to stabilize and put remedies in place quickly.
If you think “this can’t happen to our center,” let me present some
interesting statistics from IQ Services, a company that specializes in
contact center technology testing and monitoring. They send hundreds of
thousands of calls a month into centers all over the country, hitting a
variety of voice platforms and carriers. They find that 4-5% of these
calls encounter an issue such as ring no answer, busy signals, tens of
seconds of silence, unexpected greetings, host unavailable issues,
calls that are unexpectedly disconnected, and unexpected responses.
Most centers aren't even looking at these customer-impacting issues.
Ignorance is NOT bliss. Centers need to be in tune to the problems that
are occurring or could occur. That means testing and monitoring tools
and/or services, and a commitment to identify and resolve issues
We’ve got to address the agility/complexity dilemma to meet centers’
needs while providing a stable, robust environment. There are two
important ingredients to success: getting your “house” in order, and
committing the resources to do it right.
Execute clear and consistent processes routinely and thoroughly for
both technology deployment and support. Find ways to build redundancy,
diversity, and resiliency into your architecture so that the systems
and networks take care of themselves as much as possible. With this
type of infrastructure in place, you prevent problems in the first
place and recover quickly when problems occur. Leverage in-house,
vendor/distributor, or third party services for monitoring and testing
– of premises equipment as well as network services.
Most companies are too lean in their technology support domain.
Technology stability and resiliency suffer due to lack of focus on
proactive optimization and management. Make the case to staff up,
redefine roles and responsibilities, and solidify processes. This
charge includes a focus on non-contact center technology and
application changes. For example, IT must have processes in place that
consider the impact on the contact center when making router changes on
the data network. Review all technology support and management
processes and the tools to enable them – especially for things like
proactive technology monitoring and testing, and problem/incident
identification and resolution.
Do it now
Agility and flexibility are here to stay as standard requirements for
centers, so we’ve got to find ways to deliver and support those
characteristics effectively. Much like disaster recovery and business
continuity, it is difficult to muster the time, energy, resources, and
investment dollars to put things in place to prevent problems you can’t
see or anticipate, or consider unlikely (it won’t happen to us!). Use
business requirements for agility and flexibility to drive a new look
at the technology, processes, resources, and tools you need to make
that complex environment stable and agile, and always available and
responsive to business needs.
Want to learn more about contact center technology testing and
monitoring best practices? Email Lori at [email protected] to
gather some ideas on what to consider for your environment.
Are Shifting Economic Values Affecting Contact Center
Stockford, Research Director, National Association of Call Centers and
Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research, [email protected]
As the U.S.
business and consumer cultures seems to be pulling back the reins on
the fiscal debauchery of the last decade, it appears to me that contact
center technology vendors are also shifting their values and
priorities. If you take a minute to reflect on what has happened to the
contact center vendor community over the past few years, it is
mind-boggling. Not only have we seen some of the biggest names in the
industry disappear; I believe we are also seeing tangible evidence of
the beginning of decay in other companies that have long been
considered industry leaders.
Out of the ashes of the economic devastation of the past two years
there is a Phoenix rising in the form of companies that are determined
to be successful the old fashioned way – through hard work, innovative
products and exemplary customer service. Compare this to many companies
of the past decade that only came into existence with the singular
objective of being acquired and turning a quick profit for the
investors. While some of the companies that were acquired over the past
ten years continue to support their products and customers there are
many others that lost their management and, consequently, their focus
on customer relationships. Customers were left out in the cold as old
relationships disappeared and product development and support plans
In recent months I have come across many companies that have told me in
no uncertain terms that they are not interested in being acquired and
that they intend to grow organically, through their own sales efforts,
rather than growing via acquisition. This is a refreshingly different
attitude from that of the past few years where we have watched ruthless
management do whatever it takes to show a bottom line that makes their
company an attractive acquisition target, employees and customers be
I have been an industry analyst for the past 21 years and have
personally met and followed the careers of many great leaders and
managers. What made these managers different from so many others that I
have met in more recent years was their genuine concern for making an
excellent product and ensuring long-term customer satisfaction. The
managers I have met in more recent years seem to have lost touch with
the humanity and humility that made their predecessors respected and
admired among their peers.
Don’t get me wrong. There were also plenty of jerks in the previous
generation of managers too. I recall having breakfast with one such
manager – the president of a multi-billion dollar telecommunications
company. The majority of our conversation consisted of him talking
about his collection of Corvettes and how nervous his daughter was
because Martha Stewart was going to be at her wedding. But managers
like him were not as prevalent a decade ago as they have been over the
past few years. The business culture and attitudes of the previous
decade definitely worked to bolster the jerk-as-manager quotient.
Next generation managers and leaders will be different. They have to
be, and we are already seeing evidence of these new leaders in the
customer service industry. Innovation and a drive to succeed have
replaced greed, and current economic circumstances mean that egos must
be checked at the door. Industry gunslingers are being replaced by
heads-down hard work and employees who look at a job as more than just
a weekly paycheck.
I am interested in knowing if you, the buyer, are also seeing changes
among contact center vendors and invite you to share your experiences
and opinions with me and with David Butler. My e-mail is at the
beginning of this article and David’s e-mail is
[email protected] I’m interested to know how your
impressions compare to mine.
NACC members are also invited to contact either David or me if you
would like to discuss any of these up-and-coming vendors and
technologies or talk about which companies we see as having the
potential to be the industry leaders of the future.
Call Center Comics!
If you like
this comic and would like to see more write Ozzie at
[email protected] and visit his website at http://callcentercomics.com/cartoon_categories.htm
or just click on the comic to take you to his page. The NACC
appreciates Ozzie letting us use some of his comics in our newsletter.
Your company logo here. To find
out more, contact David Butler at
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2010 National Association of Call Centers