Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Case for Not Offshoring

Why do companies move certain functions offshore? Well, that's a pretty easy question.

  1. It saves money
  2. Labor laws are weaker if they exist, so they can often get people to work long hours with no premium
Obviously, there are more reasons, but those two are certainly pretty key. 

Since this is a benefits and compensation blog (usually), I want to focus on offshoring benefits or compensation administration. I'm going to make a pretty strong leap of faith here. If you are reading this and if you are employed, your benefits and your compensation are pretty important to you (if you disagree, you can stop reading). And, since they are pretty important, you really feel like your employer or the third party administrator that they choose should get this right.

From personal experience, I have dealt with call centers in the US and call centers in other places on the globe. In fact, this morning, I got to deal with a call center that was not in the US (I asked). Whether this was an HR issue or just general customer service with some company that I do business with in my personal life, I'll keep to myself, but I can tell you that I have had similar experiences with HR call centers in the past.

Here are my complaints about this call:

  • The rep that I spoke with had insufficient subject matter knowledge
  • The rep that I spoke with did not speak clear enough English that I could understand her without significant difficulty on my part
  • The rep that I spoke with could not answer my questions
  • The rep that I spoke with could not find me a supervisor
  • The rep that I spoke with promised me a call back within 5-7 business days
Now, let's suppose that this was a call about my healthcare benefits (I think that most of my readers would consider this to be an important benefit). How would I be at the end of this call?

  • I would feel like my employer (I don't know whether or not this is outsourced if I am a random employee) doesn't understand the benefit programs it sponsors
  • I would feel like my employer doesn't care about me
  • I might tell my co-workers about my experience
  • I would feel that 30 minutes of my time (thus far) had been wasted
  • I would be less productive that day and probably for several thereafter because of this
  • After I told my co-workers, some of them would be less productive
Perhaps this attitude change brought on by the call center would wind up showing itself to one of my clients or one of my co-worker's clients. Maybe that client is one that is already teetering on the edge of keeping us or firing us. Could this push them over the edge? Yes, it could.

Could this happen with a US call center? It could, but in my personal experience, it happens far more often with call center services that are offshored as compared to those that stay in the US. 

The perceptions of your employees matter. Happy employees are more productive. Happy employees treat their clients better. Offshoring HR administration doesn't do that.


  1. I agree that many businesses in the US seeks help from outsourcing companies because it's cheap and they can have hundreds of people working and taking calls or customer concerns, but sometimes they lack training and communication skills. Don't worry John you're not alone, I'm a victim too.

  2. Thanks Hollie. Personally, I am a believer that great customer service is the long-term winner, and offshoring typically does not accomplish this.

    Thanks for reading.