We are all quite aware of the wholesale transfer of call centers and customer service jobs to overseas operations. And we are all aware of the anecdotal evidence that this can be not so pleasant for the average consumer. But I am not so sure we, as business professionals seeking ever more efficient and less costly processes have discriminated when and where this sourcing is appropriate. Like everything in business, the details matter.
A relative of mine found herself in the middle of the road (in Fairfax County no less) without a functioning car. She is a faithful AAA member and relies on the single call responsiveness of the organization. Her call was an hour long ordeal with the person on the phone. It seems the other person on the phone had no idea where Vienna, VA was. Or what state it was in. Or what city was near. In fact, the customer service person had no way of deciphering the location even with a mapping system because they had no point of reference. How could they? They were tens of thousands of miles away.
Contrast that episode with a recent event: After spending a few minutes on-line searching for business lists tied to geographic metro areas, I decided to stop and check other sources. Not 3 minutes went by before I got a call from a customer service representative asking me if I would like further assistance. I told her that I was a bit confused about the search tool. She helped me get through it AND helped me better define my geographic search criteria. I spent less money and was more satisfied with the quality of my list.
If you are outsourcing processes for customer service or lead generation follow-up, DON’T do it if the process requires knowledge of U.S. geography.
- If it requires knowledge of geography, keep it in the U.S.
- If your product has a service component, and it should, make sure your service personnel can relate to the needs and motivations of your customer on multiple levels, not just in specific product knowledge
- If responsiveness provides a strategic advantage and requires a coordination of resources on the ground in specific geographic areas, you might consider keeping the process chain coupled in the region.
- If your product is pioneering a new category or technology, leveraging local knowledge facilitates market penetration and optimizes the feedback channel necessary to evolve the product to mainstream acceptance
- The backside of market homogeneity is specialization. Geographic niches are excellent sources for expansion revenue if the product lends itself to any specialization and if local support backs the value proposition.