June 26, 2009, 12:00 AM

Customer service takes on greater importance in tough times

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While the hourly rates in North America may be higher, conversions at those call centers are higher than offshore, and agents can handle calls more quickly, he says. As contact centers typically charge by the time an agent spends, the fact that an agent doesn’t have to repeat herself to be understood can reduce the cost of service. While his service might cost 40% more than an offshore service, if his agents can handle 30% more calls because of their better command of English, that reduces the actual price differential to 10% or 15%, Fettes says.

Shooster of Global Response agrees that a lot of contact center work is coming back to the U.S., especially from India. “Indians are very smart people and great at back-office work, but speech has been a struggle,” Shooster says. “Americans more and more want to speak to Americans. It’s just a matter of understanding the idiomatic expressions and the lingo.” All of Global Response’s contact centers, three permanent centers and a temporary facility that operates during the holiday season, are in the U.S.

Whatever a retailer decides on the onshore-offshore or in-house versus outsource issues, the survey results show that online retailers are paying greater attention than ever to providing quality customer service.

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