We talk a lot in this blog forum about partnership and who you should choose as an outsourced contact center partner, but where you choose to outsource to is almost as important an element in the procurement process. Consider this post your GPS guiding you to the best location for an outsourced center using four points of directional reference: cultural alignment, labor force, business climate, and accessibility.
TL;DR – When it comes to contact center location, make sure you’re aware of the cultural alignment, labor force, business climate, and accessibility before partnering with an outsourcer.
Agents must be able to speak the same language as your customers – and not only in a literal sense. Fluency and inflection are essential, but so is a native understanding of casual phrases and idioms that fit naturally into a conversation. Can your chat agents LOL along with a customer? Can your voice agents share TGIF sentiments with a caller? Equally important is a grasp of common pop culture references, favorite sports teams, or the latest blockbuster hits – it’s these small details that turn everyday interactions into exceptional customer experiences.
And it goes further than just being able to talk about these things in casual conversation – active listening provides a powerful opportunity to connect with a customer on a deeper level. Catching passing comments or picking up on tone of voice is key to personalizing the experience – and it’s often only possible when there is a strong cultural alignment between the agent and the customer.
The local labor force for any contact center partner you’re considering is a key element because it determines the quality of the agents who’ll be representing your brand and the size of the available labor pool. Elements of the labor force to explore are the local unemployment rate, average education levels, and overall demographics.
Unemployment rates give you an idea of how difficult it will be for your outsourcer to fill open positions. A high rate is indicative of a struggling economy, while a so-called “zero” unemployment rate means those open roles may sit unfilled for too long. Many regions in the US are currently experiencing this zero-unemployment landscape. This makes many Canadian urban centers attractive – with rates that are neither too high nor too low.
Education is indicative of the skill level of the local talent pool. Halifax, for example – home to our Blue Ocean offices – has one of the highest post-secondary attainment rates in North America. That means with our combined unemployment rate around 5% and our education rate (more 70% of adults in Halifax have completed a post-secondary program), we can access agents who are the right fit to support clients with complex service scenarios.
Local economics are often a direct reflection of the health of local businesses. Make sure you check out the general trajectory of the regional business landscape in any area you’re considering for your outsourced center. That includes a look at the political climate, tax rates, and overall community infrastructure. These elements will have a long-term impact on the quality of agents your partner can hire, the price you pay for your outsourcing, and the business decisions your partner makes over the years that will directly affect your project.
Another key consideration is how far your dollar will go. Though the quality of the customer experience trumps most arguments about price, ROI is still important to your business. That’s why it’s important to understand how the inherent differences between city- and rural-based contact centers will impact your bottom line – thriving metropolitan areas can come with a higher price tag, but what are the turn-over implications and costs in a rural location? Does a rural-based center have the talent pool to scale and sustain their workforce alongside your growth? Can they easily replace quality talent lost through attrition?
Also, consider factors like minimum wage and currency conversion. You can access an onshore program at a discounted rate if you are a US-based company just by looking north of the border where the American dollar is equivalent to 1.33 Canadian Dollars. That difference creates an exponential uptick in your ROI without any sacrifice to quality or cultural alignment.
We’re huge proponents of getting on-site at your outsourcer’s offices both before you make the final decision (we even recommend a visit before you even go to RFP) and also throughout the ongoing lifetime of the partnership. In-person visits help establish a stronger relationship and give you a window into exactly what’s going on behind the scenes. But if it takes a full day of travel plus 2 connecting flights and a 3-hour drive from the airport just to get there, is it really worth it? Just a few visits may be a lot of wasted days spent on travel. Plus, in the rare occasion of an emergency where you need to get on-site fast, extensive travel is going to perpetuate the problem.
Ease of accessibility is essential. Rural contact centers may seem like a great choice, but being hard to get to is what makes them rural. That’s why somewhere like Halifax, Nova Scotia, is actually ideal, with daily direct flights to most major US cities. With at least four flights a day to and from Newark in two hours, it’s as easy to access as any major US city on the eastern seaboard.
It’s not uncommon for location to be one of the last considerations in your process of determining a contact center partner. Most likely you’re more concerned with a partner’s range and quality of services, their industry experience, training programs, and performance rates. But even when it’s a last thought, the location of your outsourcer plays a massive role in your partnership. That’s why we advise that you keep these four points of consideration in mind.
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