Sure, it costs less to employ a contact center agent in India or the Philippines than it does in the U.S.
But those cost savings pale in comparison to the even bigger bucks companies can save by using speech recognition technology.
While companies can save up to 35 percent of a call's cost by offshoring it to India, according to a Datamonitor study, using speech recognition costs 75 percent to 85 percent less than the offshore call.
And speech recognition may be emerging as a threat to the offshore model, according to this CRM Today article, which cites British bank Lloyds TSB's recent decision to shutter a contact center in Mumbai because of the success of its speech-enabled self-service phone system.
Another success story: Hotel operator Travelodge conducts 7 percent of contact center transactions via a voice integration system, which integrates directly with the same booking and payment systems as its Web site.
Yet despite the Lloyds TSB and Travelodge examples, many customers do not like such systems. In fact, dissatisfaction with them led to the creation of a grassroots movement called gethuman.
According to its Web site, its objective is "to improve the quality of phone support in the U.S." One of its key tenets is that if a human is available to answer a call, a customer shouldn't have to be first routed through an IVR system.
This obviously makes no sense -- from either a financial or a customer service standpoint -- as this destinationCRM article points out. Live agents should be reserved to handle any problems complex enough to require human intervention.
Personal experience should tell most people that while they can easily check an account balance via an IVR (or better yet, a Web site), they may need the help of an agent to get a new credit card sent overseas to replace the one that was stolen.
A Datamonitor analyst quoted in the CRM Today article says that in the coming years, most companies will work to find an optimal mix of automated, offshore and onshore contact centers. Sounds reasonable to us.