We've heard anecdotal evidence for years that U.S. consumers prefer to talk to customer service representatives who speak their language without a heavy accent and have the best understanding of the customer's service issues. Yet, in pursuit of higher customer satisfaction, major brands have had to weigh the cost of having call centers in the U.S. with the cost savings that can be achieved by having those centers halfway across the world.
Now, according to a story in the Detroit Free Press, companies are beginning to bring those jobs and call centers back to the U.S. The trend appears to be driven in part by rising overseas labor costs, customers demanding improved service, and the fact that consumers are prone to vent on social media when they have a bad experience.
According to the Free Press story, an organization called Jobs4America says that 180,000 call center jobs were created in the U.S. in 2012 and 2013. The National Association of Call Centers says there are now 66,000 call centers in the U.S., and the number is growing.
Companies with higher-ticket sales may be more likely to base their call centers to the U.S. because of the higher significance of each call. General Motors is among the large companies moving call centers here, based in part on an effort to resolve issues on the first call rather than just documenting them and escalating them to a higher level. Whirlpool services all U.S. customers via domestic call centers, employing 1,500 domestic call center reps and support staff. Online daily deal retailer Zulily and home improvement chain Lowe's were cited in recent news stories as opening new U.S. call centers, providing a combined total of 1,900 new jobs.
Of course, having a call center based in the U.S. doesn't necessarily solve all ills, as recently proved by the recording of a Comcast customer's travails trying to cancel his service, which has gone viral. An excerpt of the conversation, as per Slate:
Rep: I'm just trying to figure out what it is about Comcast service that you don't want to keep.
Customer: This phone call is actually a really amazing representative example of why I don't want to stay with Comcast.
Rep: OK, but I'm trying to help you.
Customer: The way you can help me is by disconnecting my service.
Rep: But how is that helping you! How is that helping you! Explain to me how that is helping you!
Will moving call centers back to the U.S. improve or decrease customer service?