It may not be a great surprise to learn that four out of five (81%) adults in Great Britain feel negative toward the trend of locating call centres overseas, with 55% saying they feel "very negative" about it, according to a consumer survey by Harris Interactive.
Being of the most concern to those businesses that currently outsource (or that plan to outsource) their call centre services, adults who have experienced an overseas call centre are far more likely to feel "very negative" toward this trend than those who have not yet dealt with an overseas call centre (62% vs. 42%).
Many of the 2,292 consumers surveyed by Harris Interactive had no trouble identifying specific companies that have or use overseas call centres. Approximately two out of five adults are aware of banks (43%) and telecoms firms (42%) that have overseas call centres, whilst 27% are aware of their use by specific utility companies, compared to 22% for insurance companies. Fewer adults indicated they are aware of outsourcing done by train (11%) and mail order (8%) companies.
Many adults reported negative perceptions of overseas call centres despite never knowingly having used one. Organisations that outsource may hope that these concerns are allayed once consumers have experienced the service provided. But while more than one-third (36%) of adults who have not dealt with an overseas call centre perceive UK call centres to offer a better service than those overseas, the figure rises to 49% for those who have actually used an overseas call centre.
Organisations that outsource call centres overseas may also have to contend with damage to their brand and reputation. Nearly half (47%) of adults have less respect for companies that outsource call centres overseas and a slightly larger percentage (50%) do not trust giving their details, such as financial details, to overseas call centres. Only very small percentages said that overseas call centre staff were more friendly (4%) or more helpful (2%) than UK call centre staff.
Savings or losses?
The potential cost savings to organisations that outsource call centres are huge. However, with over half (54%) of consumers believing that companies that outsource call centres will lose customers and almost a third (31%) stating that they have either refused to give their business to or have switched away from a company that outsourcers, these short-term cost savings could turn into long-term losses.
According to Frances Green, research director for Harris Interactive, "Call centres have become part of every day life but outsourcing call centres has caused some controversy. It represents the biggest change in the industry since the introduction of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menu-based systems. As long as companies adopt different stances on off-shoring, consumers will have a choice and they will most likely dictate whether overseas call centres become a part of daily life."