Outsourcing is a common business practice—but is it a good one?
While outsourcing offers many benefits for the company outsourcing, including more affordable labor, scalable teams, increased service hours, flexibility and more, there’s not always as many clear benefits for the workers providing those services. Some companies may wonder if working with an outsourcing company—especially in another country—is even ethical. Sure, it may be more affordable, but is it a good idea?
In this article, our team—with over 40 years of experience managing call centers in dozens of domestic and international locations—outlines the ethical considerations of working with call center outsourcing companies, and how to ensure your partnership is beneficial for everyone involved.
Ethical Challenges in Call Center Outsourcing
Of course, call centers—like any business partnership—introduce some ethical challenges to consider, for instance:
- Workers rights and fair compensation
- Job security and stability
- Working conditions
- Employee well-being
- Environmental impact and sustainability
These can be especially difficult to manage when working with international companies, as elements such as fair compensation and good working conditions can vary from culture to culture and location to location. This is true even in the US—a fair wage in Iowa may not be the same as a fair wage in New York, even if the work is similar.
That said, companies who work with outsourced call centers do need to consider these and other factors and determine what makes sense for both their internal and external teams. We’ll get into the details of each of these challenges in the sections below.
What to Consider When Creating an Ethical Outsourcing Partnership
As with many aspects of outsourcing, there’s no one right answer when it comes to creating an ethical outsourcing partnership. Of course, some elements are non-negotiables, but many other elements can vary in terms of what’s fair for everyone involved. Here’s what to think through to ensure you create an ethical partnership when outsourcing.
Transparency and Honesty in Operations
Transparency is one of the biggest cornerstones in creating an ethical outsourcing partnership. For example, simply being transparent among employees, and even customers, when relevant, about your outsourcing locations is a good first step transparent relationships.
This goes for call center outsourcing providers as well. Clients should be fully aware of where your teams are located and what agents are working on their accounts. At Global Response, we have teams located around the world, from the US to Mexico, Tunisia, South Africa, the Philippines and beyond.
That said, transparency should be a key factor in all areas of your call center operations, not just locations. For example, call centers should aim for radical transparency in:
- reporting and deliverables
- process management and timelines
- performance metrics
- other operational practices
If you’re looking for a call center provider, a good one will provide transparent reporting and performance metrics, as well as clear insight into their processes and operations. For example, at Global Response, we work together with clients to deliver transparent and open reporting and performance metrics that allow you to make data-driven decisions and gain insight into business intelligence from our team. We also keep clients up-to-date on process efficiency, operational metrics and other aspects of internal performance that impacts their results.
The Cultural and Socio-Economic Impacts
Aside from operational transparency, considering the cultural and socio-economic impact of your outsourcing operations will go a long way in determining how to have an ethical partnership. Three things to consider carefully:
The impact of your call center on local economies. Outsourcing to another country and culture can have a major impact on the local economy. Working with an established, reputable and long-standing call center outsourcing partner can help you ensure that your outsourcing will support, rather than harm, local economies. But so can being mindful of what cultural and economical differences there are between your culture and that of your call center, and doing what you can to provide a safe and ethical work environment for your team.
Cultural sensitivities in communication. When communicating cross-culturally, keep in mind that many things can “get lost in translation,” so to speak, even if you’re speaking the same language! Be mindful of how things may be interpreted by an international audience who isn’t familiar with the same cultural references, sayings or expectations of your own culture. And get familiar with the culture of your outsourced team as well, adjusting communications as needed.
Ready to perfect your CX?
Strive for diversity and inclusion. “But isn’t having a call center in another country promoting a diverse workforce?,” you may ask. In some ways, yes. But simply outsourcing some of your tasks to another location doesn’t mean your workforce—or your outsourcing partnership—is inclusive. In fact, some elements of creating an inclusive workforce get more difficult when outsourcing. For example, consider that some blockers to having a diverse and inclusive workforce—such as safety and transportation needs—may be more pronounced in other geographies.
At Global Response, we often provide secure and reliable transportation for our employees to get to and from the office to reduce blockers and provide more equitable access to our teams. We also ensure that physical offices have multi-layer entrance protection to ensure all employees feel safe at work.
Employee Training and Ethical Work Culture
Ethical work culture goes beyond things like providing cultural training or understanding how other cultures operate in the office. At its core, it’s about doing the right thing for all of your employees, no matter where they’re located.
Employee training—especially for outsourced teams—should include cultural and communication training to ensure that everyone is on the same page and to reduce misunderstandings. Instead of focusing on hard skills only during trainings, be sure to also focus on:
- cultural understanding
- communication skills
- empathy and emotional intelligence
- collaboration and cross-cultural communication skills
- company values and policies
Creating an ethical work culture also goes beyond simply giving your employees some time or ensuring that compensation is fair for both the work provided and the geographic cost of living (although those are also essential).
An ethical work culture also ensures that your call center employees are not overworked or understaffed, have the tools they need to get their jobs done well, are provided with safe spaces to take breaks, have a positive work environment with realistic rewards and motivators, and so on. Some of the specifics of making this happen may vary from culture to culture, but the key is ensuring it does happen—and happens for your outsourced teams as well as internal staff.
Client Relationships and Ethical Conduct
When vetting a call center, you obviously want to work with one who provides an ethical client experience as well. Here’s what to look for:
- Transparent pricing with clear pricing models and no hidden charges
- Flexibility and scalability in your partnership and packaging
- Openness about service offerings and operational limitations
- Ongoing honesty and transparency in your communications
- Clear answers to all of your questions
As previously discussed, an ethical call center partnership maintains a foundation of honesty and transparency. Your client relationship should also have the same level of transparency and honesty that you offer back to your call center provider, and your customers.
Data Security and Privacy
Obviously, data security and privacy is another important aspect of ethical conduct to consider. While your call center provider should be handling customer information carefully and with integrity—a key area of ethical conduct—there’s other layers to consider.
For example, call centers abroad should adhere to global data privacy laws, including US laws when working with US businesses. In any case, they should be upfront about:
- the certifications they do or don’t hold
- their data privacy practices
- the regulations they adhere to
- their processes for compliance and upkeep
In addition, call center providers and clients should work together from the start to ensure a plan is in place for handling any potential data breaches or other privacy concerns or problems. While a good call center will have policies and processes in place to prevent this from happening, a core facet of an honest and ethical partnership includes having a plan in place for when things, well, don’t go according to plan.
Choosing an Ethical Outsourcing Partner
When you’re looking for an ethical outsourcing partner, considering the values and conditions above are crucial. But you should also consider:
- how your potential provider treats you during the vetting process
- how clear and transparent their onboarding process is (often an indicated of overall transparency)
- what certifications they maintain (i.e. PCI compliance and SOC-2 compliance are two good ones to look for)
- what ethical standards they maintain (i.e. what can they show you about how they manage the above factors?)
- their testimonials and reviews—do their past or current clients align with their own promises of their call center?
As you carefully evaluate all of this, you’ll be able to clearly see which providers are committed to maintaining ethical call centers and which may not have as high of standards.
Not sure where to start? Our team at Global Response is here to create the call center or BPO package you need to get results for your team—while maintaining an ethical outsourcing practice. We’re always transparent about where your work gets done, and we take the utmost pride in caring for our employees and supporting your brand.
When you’re looking for customer support powered by human-centered expertise and empathy, Global Response is here. Connect with an expert from our team today to see how we can help transform your call center.