Is Quality Trumping Cost as Call Center Jobs Return Stateside?

Have you noticed that you’re talking to more call center agents in the United States lately?

I personally have – which is a big change from the ’80s and ’90s. Back then you were much more likely to get an agent in India or the Philippines – especially if you had an easy question.

For corporations, it was a bottom-line no-brainer: tech-savvy support at a fraction of the cost. For nearly everyone else, it became a cultural touchstone, marked by equal parts frustration and humor.

Today, the National Association of Call Centers reports there are more than 66,000 call centers in the U.S. — and the number continues to grow.

What’s bringing these call center jobs back home?

I’ve identified at least 5 trends that are making stateside contact centers more attractive.

  1. More Self-Service Options
    The Internet and other technologies have made it easier for customers to resolve issues with self-service tools. Increasingly sophisticated automated phone systems, frequently asked questions (FAQ) pages, user forums, and other online resources are just a few examples. Social automation is poised to impact the customer service industry in a huge way in the coming years.As a result, self-service has become a more cost-effective path to resolving many of the questions that were easiest for offshore agents to handle. Today’s call center agents typically field more complicated calls – requiring a stronger understanding of the callers’ language and customs.
  2. Happy Customers Increase ROI
    We’ve all heard customer complaints about not being able to understand what agents say. But did you know communication barriers also affect the likelihood of a successful customer resolution?A recent CFI Group study found that customer issues are resolved 88% of the time if an agent speaks clearly and is easy to understand. If the agent isn’t understood – however – the issue is only resolved 45% of the time — nearly half as often. That’s a significant hidden cost that can quickly erase the “savings” of outsourcing. If the customer experience is hampered, it can also affect their loyalty and repeat business.
  3. Economic Gaps Are Closing
    Prices overseas are going up. Though low, India’s per capita income has grown by more than 10% in recent years. Salary increases in the Philippines are projected to hold steady at 7% this year alone. These rising prices, coupled with increasing calls for native-speaking agents in the U.S., are gradually making the business case for overseas agents less attractive.
  4. Virtual Agents Are Reducing Costs
    Technology has taken the front line and pushed it into home offices around the country. Increasingly sophisticated virtual agents are helping to reduce the need for brick and mortar locations. This holds down real estate costs for domestic call centers, making U.S.-based front line agents more affordable.
  5. Nonprofit Training Initiatives
    Nonprofit organizations like Jobs4America are making it a priority to recruit, hire and train U.S. contact center agents to fill the growing number of domestic positions. Started by Matt Zemon – Chairman and founder of American Support (a U.S.-based call center outsourcer) – Job4America’s current goal is to add 100,000 more call center jobs to the 176,000 jobs they’ve already created. (CSR Inc. is proud to be a contributor to Jobs4America’s skills training effort.)

Are you reaching more U.S.-based call center agents when you make customer service calls? Is your business  bringing more call center jobs back into the country?