Companies that wish to outsource their contact center and customer support functions have a dilemma today. They know from previous experience or the experience of others that contact center services can be contracted offshore for costs lower than what they pay in the U.S., largely due to lower salaries. But they also know from experience (and the experience of others) that foreign contact center agents with accents are intensely disliked by many Americans. Communication problems aside, many Americans resent the idea that a company is shipping jobs offshore during a time of high domestic unemployment.
The ideal for many companies would be to find American-sounding agents in an offshore location. India hasn’t been ideal for this: Indians who speak perfect English are likely to speak perfect British English. The Philippines became an attraction for a while, as that nation is a former American colony and its inhabitants are generally taught American English, though accents are often still detectable.
But in a bid to keep costs down, including travel costs (scurrying to and fro a contact center on the other side of the world has its disadvantages), many companies have turned to “nearshore” options, which means Mexico and the Caribbean. Mexico is attractive as it offers a ready supply of Spanish-speaking contact center agents to help service Spanish-speaking Americans. But another group in Mexico is proving ideal for companies looking for offshore costs with American accents: deportees.
According to a recent article by Seth Freed Wessler on Aljazeera America, companies such as American call center outsourcing giant TeleTech (News - Alert) are hiring young Mexicans who grew up in the U.S. but were ultimately deported as undocumented immigrants. Many of these young people speak English with no accent and are culturally tuned into the U.S. Last year alone, about 250,000 were deported back to Mexico. A large portion of these people spent all or part of their childhoods in the U.S.
TeleTech, which is based in Colorado, runs a Mexico City facility that employs 2,000 people. According to Wessler, between one third and two-thirds of the workers at that contact center used to live in the U.S. Ivana Jovic, TeleTech’s executive director for operations and regional lead for Latin America, told Aljazeera America that the call centers look to returnees as a valuable labor pool.
“We do need people who have good English and (they are) a good option; why not use it?” said Jovic.
Mexican contact center workers are paid, on average, about a third of U.S. contact center workers: about $750 a month. India, of course, hasn’t been taken out of the equation completely. Increasingly, companies are outsourcing non-voice channels to countries such as India and China where accents can be a problem. Accents, of course, don’t come through on chat sessions or email.
The danger to all of this is that as companies increasingly find it necessary to pursue an “omnichannel” strategy to service customers via whichever media they choose (sometimes multiple media for the same issue), keeping the channels geographically fragmented can begin to interfere with that goal.
Edited by Cassandra Tucker