The hallmarks of customer experience management have evolved over the past thirty years.  And, while various advantages have been highlighted at different points in time, client priorities change in tandem with those of the end-user.  As a result, it is also clear that any provider that refuses to modernize and chooses instead to differentiate itself based on antiquated requirements or outdated solutions is doomed to fail.

Looking back, it is fascinating how BPO executives choose their competitive differentiators.  Before the pandemic, it was difficult to find an operator that did not lead their value proposition with strong appeals to technology. Pitches were spiced with references to AI or automation.  Equally, over the past several months, it seems that customer experience agent capabilities have been the selling point for operators eager to capitalize on worries about the impact of poor interactions during the ongoing period of economic uncertainty.

A time continuum that lines up CX selling points in the recent past would surely deliver some interesting results.  Going back to the early 2000s, savvy observers would find that marketing efforts centered around the outsourcer’s ability to provide linguistically adept offshore agents who did not have noticeable accents and that shared cultural awareness with the end user.  To be fair, at that point in the development of offshoring, some destinations were laggards in this regard.

Now though the dynamic has changed.  This is why it is somewhat incredulous that there remain providers that still seek to make accents and language skills the centerpiece of their competitive differentiators in 2022. There are several drawbacks to this strategy.

Right off the top, any player wishing to be competitive for nearshore/offshore business must demonstrate quality CX management from their location.  This is customer experience table stakes. The days of a contact center in the next country or across the world throwing somebody with substandard language skills or an unintelligible accent onto a voice or digital platform are as outdated as the neon-colored ski jackets that typified the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988.

Today, clients demand native or near-native fluency for any type of interaction.  As a consequence, credible operators that wish to win long-term, margin-friendly contracts already work in tandem with local authorities in the offshore and nearshore to ensure high degrees of linguistic adeptness among recruits in these jurisdictions.  Such steps have ensured that countries such as Honduras and Egypt can compete on a level playing field against South Africa or Jamaica for English-language delivery contracts.

And this is an essential investment for any outsourcer.  As noted in the 2022 Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office CX Omnibus Survey, buyers of BPO CX services place a priority on an overseas location’s language skills. In fact, this was ranked as the second most important attribute for a foreign delivery point (eclipsed only by modern network connectivity). Thus, unless a provider aims to support clients that hawk products or services of dubious quality, the emphasis on solid linguistics and comprehensibility will be paramount in maintaining relevance in a competitive global market.

Then, there is the issue of accent quality. While certainly important for voice-driven calls, it should not be forgotten that customers are migrating to digital interaction channels than ever before (the above-mentioned Front Office CX Omnibus Survey shows that less than 2-in-5 captive workstations support voice exclusively).  Further, end-users are more willing than ever to deal with an agent that may have a different accent than there own, provided their issue is resolved.  For any outsourcer to overstate this perceived accent advantage is counter-productive.

Therefore, rather than focusing on stale catchphrases and slogans from the era when Netflix mailed out DVDs, outsourcers should take a more rounded approach to win new business. Concentrate on providing a balanced offering of professional agents who can deliver consistently excellent interactions, enabled by the right tools that drive more efficient workflows.  Any enterprise engaging with a BPO that has capacity in non-domestic confines should anticipate that front-line language skills will be of the highest standard possible. As such, outsourcers need to compete on higher-value ground.

Image provided by Gunner Bothner-By under Creative Commons license