However, if your firm decides to offshore a key business function such as call handling, this implies that it will be working with an overseas rather than a local partner. Now that the semantics are out of the way, the really important question you should be asking yourself is whether offshoring or local outsourcing is the best choice for your organisation. To answer this question, we need to look at various aspects of your business:
- Who Are Your Target Customers? – If you are selling products or services to customers all over the world, the geographical location of your customer call centre may be of little consequence. If, however, you are targeting customers in one specific country or continent, location may be far more important. Consumers often feel more comfortable dealing with people from the same country as they are from.
- What Is the Nature of Your Business? – What your business does will play a major part in your decision as to whether to offshore or outsource key business functions. For example: if your company provides a 24-hour emergency service for UK homeowners, you will almost certainly want to have incoming calls handled by telephone answering professionals in the same country. A homeowner faced with a flooded kitchen will not want to have to deal with any language difficulties caused by having their call for help routed through an overseas call centre.
- What Type of Public Profile Does Your Company Desire? – Companies that wish to trade on their geographical location should obviously choose outsourcing rather than offshoring where customer-facing business functions are concerned. If you are selling Cornish ice cream in the West Country, for example, your customers will not expect their telephone enquiries to be answered by a call centre agent in another country. While such agents are often very efficient, the simple fact that they are not in the same location as your corporate headquarters could have a negative impact on your public profile.
- What Are Your Future Ambitions? – If you wish to lead your company in a direction that will place it firmly in the public eye, where every business decision you make will be scrutinised and debated, the location of your outsourcing partners could be critical to your long-term success. Many companies have had to deal with negative publicity after outsourcing certain business functions to parts of the world where labour is much cheaper, as the general public saw their actions as mercenary and not in keeping with organisations that claimed to be compassionate and caring. Local outsourcing could be your best choice if you want to make sure that your customers view your firm as an ethical, principled entity.
- Are You Willing to Deal with Foreign Exchange Risk? – Should you decide to offshore your call handling functionality to an overseas partner, you will almost certainly have to pay that partner in their local currency. A deal that looks very attractive at today’s exchange rates could look very different in a few months’ time so you need to be ready to accept this risk if you choose to offshore. Whilst it is possible to hedge against movements in currency exchange rates, such financial operations can be rather onerous for smaller businesses and unless you have in-house experts to handle the necessary transactions, you will need to pay consultancy fees as well. With all the complications that can arise from dealing with call centre operations located overseas, outsourcing is often seen as far simpler than offshoring and easier to control.
- How Will You Handle Political Risk? – Rapidly moving exchange rates are one issue that may need to be dealt with when offshoring rather than outsourcing but, as mentioned above, it is possible to take preventative measures to protect your business from such risk, given access to the necessary financial expertise. Political risk, on the other hand, is a completely different proposition and one that no amount of expert guidance can truly negate. If you decide to offshore your call handling to a company that is based in a completely different part of the world, a part where governments may be less stable than at home, you will need to accept the fact that changes in local politics could have a dramatic effect on your business. Contingency plans will need to be drawn up and your firm should be ready to put then into action at a moment’s notice.
As you can see, the decision to offshore rather than outsource locally is not one to be taken lightly as it could affect your business in a number of different ways, some of which may not be immediately apparent when making your decision. The one big factor that has persuaded UK companies to offshore in the past is of course cost. However, when evaluating your options, you need to consider not just the short-term cost of working with local or overseas business partners but the long-term implications of your decision and the cost of any possible complications that may arise in the future.
UK Business Partners for UK Businesses
For companies that wish to avoid the political and financial risks associated with offshoring and who trade on the geographical location of their production facility or service centre, outsourcing to a UK firm simply makes more sense than offshoring. The competitive rates charged by local call handling service providers such as ourselves means that nowadays it is possible to work with UK outsourcing partners without having to accept a massive increase in costs. Ease of communication, an understanding of the business conditions in which you are operating and a lack of cultural barriers are other benefits associated with local outsourcing.