The Verdict is Out: Americans Prefer American Call Center Agents

My first article on this topic seemed to bring about a good number of discussions in various LinkedIn groups. So, I aggregated all of the comments across multiple LinkedIn group discussions, our web site and a few other sites where we post. There were 41 total responses and here’s what I found:

Of the people that made comment, it was clear that the overwhelming majority determined that Americans prefer to speak to American Call Center Agents. Nearly 64% felt this way, while 27% disagreed. While these results would not be considered conclusive evidence obtained from a wide spread study utilizing responses across various genders, age groups and nationalities, it is still a viable indication of opinion from people in our space. Ironically, the numbers seem to be in line with a recent (hot off the press) study conducted by CFI Group just a few days ago, citing the move of call center agents back to the United States for the second year running. In fact, CFI Group outlined that “The biggest argument for repatriating a call center is the almost unprecedented level of dissatisfaction associated with offshore agents. The study finds that call center satisfaction is only 58 out of 100 when the call is handled by an offshore agent, compared to 79 for U.S.-based agents.”  The Sample size from CFI Group is much larger, but the results are obviously in sync.
Additionally, I broke down the responses by source and found some interesting data. I’m not certain that any conclusions can be made from it, but found it to be interesting that certain LinkedIn groups swayed in different directions. Here’s what I found:
  • The Customer Experience Management group comments clearly sided on there being a preference toward Americans: 67%,
  • In the Customer Service Professionals group, the split was 50/50,
  • And finally, in the Worldwide Contact Center Professionals group, 75% disagreed that American’s prefer American agents.
In each of these cases, the response rate was at least 8 respondents. Again, not a large sample size by any means, but interesting data nonetheless.
The second half of my analysis covers feedback from the population of responses. In addition to claiming yes or no on the preference, there were opinions as to why this is the case or what can be done to offer a better overall experience to the customer. It was apparent in all of the discussion threads that the following list of items would increase the probability of offshore agent acceptance:
  1. Better overall employment screening.
  2. More training to the agent on products, processes, language and culture.
  3. Hiring individuals without an accent, or at least one that matches the locality of the customer.
Point #2 hits squarely to the findings by CFI Group which states that “U.S. agents are 34% more likely to resolve the problem on the first call than those handled offshore.”

So, in conclusion, I’m not alone in my past experiences and opinion of the matter. I do want to make it clear that an outstanding customer experience can be achieved regardless of where the agent is located or what language they speak. However, it is a growing debate that is gaining press in all forms (fall TV series), attention by the masses, and a move back to the U.S. by major organizations looking to increase their overall customer experience.


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