There is a significant shift in customer experience management in Europe as more brands shun traditional offshoring destinations in favour of customer contact centres closer to their customers. In an increasingly competitive global market, organisations are seeking to boost revenue and profits by strengthening customer relationships and using customer service to gain competitive advantage. As a result, there is a greater desire from brands for their customer service operations to be in closer proximity to the consumer due, in part, to the effect of culture, time difference and language as customer experience continues to play an increasingly important role in business success. This shift towards a customer experience focus is seeing Europe, a large and diverse area, slowly turn to nearshoring. Europe is known for its high proportion of highly-skilled, second- and multi-language personnel and while there are cultural similarities between markets, there are also interesting dynamics which determine how customers approach their customer experience management. For example, a number of Sitel’s assignments blend teams from the Nordics and the UK as customers look to maximise efficiency and cover a broad spread of languages, whereas others may look to mixing on-, near- and offshore destinations, particularly if the customer journey involves a broad mix of frontline contact and back office processing. Customer journey as a driver for nearshoring Nearshoring is becoming increasingly important as an efficiency driver and ultimately, a vehicle for better customer experiences. While in the past the established wisdom was an unrelenting focus on cost, recent times have seen a shift to considering how brands can improve the entire customer journey. In the customer journey context, questions for businesses now centre on how best to deliver an exceptional and seamless customer experience. Operationally, it means deconstructing the journey into steps and looking at the best way to solve a customer issue in the fewest possible steps. This shift in focus will also change the tone of the brand’s relationship with the customer since achieving customer experience objectives requires a strong partnership with any external customer care providers and clear metrics. However, it is not as simple as a blanket shift of contact centres closer to the consumer, or a complete swing away from offshore to nearshore. It is advisable for any business looking at nearshoring to map out the entire customer journey before issuing an RFP for a nearshoring programme as it’ll be vital to look at all the channels customers interact with the business prior to determining the programme. The traditional approach to engaging an external expert for customer care focused on mapping contact channels like voice, and functions such as recordkeeping, to locations according to cost. But with social channels becoming increasingly important, customers now expect a response from a brand within minutes, they want to speak with informed experts outside of office hours and they want fast issue resolution. This change in customer expectation is slowly reducing the emphasis on cost and increasing the emphasis on customer service. Brands are recognising that a good customer experience builds brand affinity, customer loyalty and, inevitably, increases revenue. Who, what and where? Interest in nearshoring is on the rise in organisations from across the full spectrum of industry sectors. All companies that require added value services for their customers, whether in technical support, customer care or sales, in one or multi-language engagements can benefit from a nearshoring programme. However, in the current market, nearshoring is proving most popular with verticals such as retail and telecommunications as brands in these markets are generally high-profile consumer brands and are supporting customers who expect fast, accurate and any-time responses. They offer products and services which may require technical support capabilities and customers aren’t shy about heading online to voice discontent when they’re not happy. Given these characteristics, understanding the customer journey is vital for these brands because customer experience tends to be a key differentiator in the marketplace. Whilst local market dynamics across Europe help to determine destinations for clients looking at nearshoring, as a general rule, customer managers should work with their external partner to map contact touchpoints to location based on the customer journey rather than the other way round. In this context, the UK is proving popular as a destination, particularly for Nordic brands, where cultural fit, time zones, languages and cost are important. We’re also seeing a lot of interest in European destinations like Lisbon and Bulgaria given the high proportion of multilingual personnel and robust infrastructure in these markets. Customer experience is king As customer expectations change across Europe and consumers demand rapid resolution of customer service queries, brands will be compelled to place more stock in providing a seamless customer experience across the entire customer journey. The availability of an educated and skilled workforce afforded by nearshoring in Europe, in addition to the multilingual capabilities, will see nearshoring continue to gain in prominence across Europe in 2016. In addition, nearshoring will prove to be an ideal support solution for brands that require a combination of locations to cover the full range of functions they may require. All this means that organisations seeking competitive advantage through superior customer service in the future must start considering their nearshoring programme today.
About the Author Karl Brough is general manager UK, Ireland & Nordics at Sitel, a position he has held since 2014. During over 25 years at Sitel, Karl has held a number of senior management roles including regional director for UK, Ireland and Nordics, senior site director at Sitel contact centres in Copenhagen, Newcastle and Stratford-upon-Avon and operations manager and business development manager. Karl graduated from Coventry University with a degree in Computer Studies.