Onshore, nearshore or offshore? What to look for in a customer experience outsourcing destination

Learn what key attributes to consider when selecting the right contact center location for your brand.

Posted May 16, 2018

Delivering a seamless and satisfying omnichannel customer experience that meets consumers’ high expectations has never been more important than it is today. But between the ongoing demand for voice-based customer support and the need for diverse communications, language, and technical skills, finding qualified, talented agents can be a challenge.

Many companies turn to an outsourcing partner to find workers with the specialized skills they want, and to gain valuable existing industry expertise. The right fit can offer critical digital services like chatbots, AI-enhanced analytics and omnichannel capabilities, along with years of extensive customer service experience.

Besides partnering with a trusted vendor, it’s vital that you determine which type of outsourcing destination is right for your business and brand. From locations right here in the U.S., to nearshore and offshore options, here’s what you should keep in mind as you make your choice.

Onshore

According to King White, CEO of location advisory firm Site Selection Group, there’s a lot to think about when you’re deciding where to set up shop. “Typically, site selection is a filtering process. Once you understand a company’s overall business drivers — whether there are business continuity concerns, geopolitical risk factors or cost constraints — you can drill down to various global geographies,” he says.

The advantages of using local labor are numerous. In Nevada, for example, businesses can capitalize on what the Las Vegas Review-Journal has called “a gold mine of talented labor.” Besides its large number of bilingual workers fluent in both English and Spanish, the large nature of this state’s travel and hospitality industry means many employees are accustomed to 24-hour customer service delivery.

Timezone is another consideration when considering a contact center destination. Locations on both American coasts are a good match for businesses that service European countries for business continuity. Couple that with the ability to meet onshore geographic and/or data sensitivity mandates, and it’s clear why locations in North America are an appealing option.

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Nearshore

With its close proximity to North America, Central America is fast becoming a go-to choice for companies. Recently, Site Selection Group released its Call Center Location Trends Report for 2018, which stated that Latin America has become “a serious contender in the site selection game over the last decade.”

Central American countries offer a range of advantages, from political stability to bilingual workers. “American companies often focus on Central America, mostly for voice, due to the large number of English and Spanish speakers,” White says. Familiarity with American culture is also a factor, as it can have a positive impact on the customer experience. In El Salvador, locals have a strong understanding of American culture and even use the United States dollar as their official currency. The more agents know about their customers, the better equipped they are to keep them engaged — and that can boost brand affinity, loyalty and trust.

Offshore

While Site Selection Group reports that the U.S. saw the most growth last year with 215 new contact center projects announced, Asian destinations that include the Philippines and India created close to 56,000 jobs, resulting from a combined 47 new projects in these offshore regions.

White explains that in terms of geography, the Philippines is one of the clear leaders. “The scalability of that market is pretty incredible, in the sheer volume of English-speaking people there,” he says. The Philippines, White adds, provides “access to intellectual capabilities and language skills,” and is maturing rapidly with a strong focus on non-voice related work like chat and claims processing.

Companies looking to invest in offshore customer care would be remiss not to consider Europe as an option. Global management consulting firm AT Kearney outlined some of the benefits of Europe as an offshore destination in its 2017 Global Services Location Index report titled The Widening Impact of Automation, which examines both the effects of automation on outsourced service jobs and the shift toward a higher-skilled labor market. The company ranked 55 countries worldwide based on criteria like financial attractiveness, people skills, and availability and business environment.

According to AT Kearney’s report, Central and Eastern Europe is “a strong region where many of the top players are now converging.” Among those that rank highly on the index are Bulgaria and Romania, both of which were in the top 20. In financial attractiveness, Bulgaria beat out countries like China, Malaysia and Brazil, while Romania offers a business environment superior to that of China, Mexico and many others.

In Europe, as elsewhere, language plays a key role. “Lots of decisions are driven by skill sets from a language perspective,” White says. “Every country has a unique language base, so you have to (consider) what each has to offer.”

Countries like Ireland and England are particularly attractive because of their strong English language skills but also offer technical advantages. “You have to look at who has the language you need, and factors like dialect,” White says. Both countries also offer technical expertise for efficient, high-quality technical support. Based on factors like technology, favorable corporate tax rates and innovation, Forbes ranked Ireland and the United Kingdom as two of the top places to do business last year.

There’s much to consider when deciding where to outsource, and quite literally a ‘world’ of excellent destination options. Whether you select an onshore, nearshore or offshore customer experience delivery center, matching your business objectives to each location’s strengths will ensure the right choice for your brand.

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