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Does offshore mean bad service?

Some news items seem to be ringing the death-toll for offshoring. But should the debate be about “offshore vs onshore” or about management competence? Remote servicing is challenging even without differences in time zones, languages, cultures. The lack of technical or any other sort of individual competence shouldn’t be added to the mix. And that goes for both (onshore) management and (offshore) support staff.

News items seem to be ringing the death-toll for offshoring (Here’s one from the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/10/AR2008121003574_pf.html.)

Job transitions across borders are an emotive issue at any time, certainly even more so during times of economic upheaval such as now.

But should the debate be about “offshore vs onshore” or about management competence?

A management team whose effort isn’t structured well enough to deliver on their customer’s expectation of a good product (service included) could also find many things on which to pin the blame for poor service, including the geographical location of the support engineers, their native language or what they had for breakfast.

(Or, maybe we should reword the old saying: success has many fathers, but failure is the neighbour’s baby.)

My experiences of phone support around the world range from the superlative to the abysmal, sometimes within the same day in the same country. Painting in broad brush strokes and generalizations (“onshore is high quality and prompt, offshore is low quality and frustrating”) totally miss the point.

The best illustration is when you walk into two brick-and-mortar retail stores on the same high street, and receive dramatically different levels of service. In any country.

To my mind, it is senior management that drives service – vision, culture and the processes. Senior management is responsible for creating the environment, and for creating the hiring and training standards. If you are encultured for fantastic service, your location or origin on the globe is immaterial.

Remote servicing is challenging even without differences in time zones, languages, cultures. The lack of technical or any other sort of individual competence shouldn’t be added to the mix. And that goes for both (onshore) management and (offshore) support staff.

Lastly – followers of BBC sitcoms may be the only ones with whom this might ring a bell – Fawlty Towers should be on the must-watch list for anyone who has anything to do with customer service. Especially if they are part of the management.

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