More organisations in Australia and other developed economies are turning to offshore contact centres to help manage their customer service operations. As we all know, offshoring offers a range of benefits, including cost savings and access to a large pool of skilled employees. However, it also presents its own challenges, particularly regarding cultural alignment between onshore and offshore teams.
Cultural alignment is necessary to achieving the best results with offshore outsourcing. The more your customers and contact centre staff relate to one another, and share similar cultural touchpoints, the easier it will be to deliver a consistent and relevant customer experience (CX) across all your channels.
It’s also important that your offshore teams are able to work closely with their onshore colleagues and peers. Plenty of functions end up getting split between onshore and offshore teams, so they have to be able to work together as one, despite any geographical and cultural separation. The same is true of onshore managers and the offshore staff who report to them.
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What is cultural synergy?
Cultural synergy comes down to getting two all-important elements just right. The first is to ensure consistency in your company’s core values throughout its different departments and operations. This includes how to engage with customers and represent your brand values.
The second element concerns ensuring that your offshore employees comprehend the intrinsic cultural differences of the region your customers are calling from. This involves understanding the cultural disparities between your customers’ region and your offshore employees’ own culture. In addition, if your offshore team have gaps in their cultural knowledge, it becomes particularly challenging if they are servicing customers from multiple regions.
A process of cultural alignment is needed to ensure offshore contact centre advisors are familiar with the culture of both the company and its customers. This involves both emotional intelligence training, linguistic education, general knowledge learning, and – where possible – direct transfer of knowledge and experience imparted by onshore management and training teams travelling to offshore sites to support integration of teams.
How cultural synergy can benefit your contact centre
Cultural synergy is at the heart of a successful offshore operation, and critical to delivering the right customer experience. Providing adequate assistance to a caller with the right level of empathy is only possible with an understanding of the customer’s culture. Implementing a process of cultural alignment can bring vast benefits to your contact centre, not least because it’s the foundation to success. These include:
- Brand consistency: By training your employees and forming a consistent communication strategy for an offshore team, your brand will be represented in the same way with every customer interaction. This facilitates the creation of your brand and its reputation, and ensures consistency throughout your company.
- Relevance: Call centre agents can interact with customers in a way that’s relevant and appropriate to them in their current circumstances. This leads to increased satisfaction levels and quicker resolution times.
- Alignment with business goals: Bringing your company culture to a consistent level across the board will ensure everyone is working towards the same goals. This drives the success of your business and ensures transparency among workers.
- Enhanced Employee Experience: When agents communicate and connect well with customers, customer are more likely to respond positively. Improving not only CX but giving agents more confidence and satisfaction in their work. An improved employee experience also leads to higher levels of employee retention.
The barriers to cultural synergy
Aligning your onshore and offshore contact centre culture can be challenging. It’s often assumed that major efforts are made right from the onboarding process, both in onshore and offshore contact centres. This, however, is rarely the case.
In truth, changing circumstances and customer behaviour trends make producing a company-wide cultural alignment difficult, especially for your offshore team. To deliver the best possible customer experience (CX), contact centres and call centre outsourcing teams need proactive and reactive cultural alignment plans. This will be handy when things change in one or the other country, or in your particular market, as they undoubtedly will.
We will look below at what proactive and reactive efforts organisations can make to improve cultural alignment. With strategic planning, contact centres can improve their operations and your customers can receive the best, most productive support possible.
Be proactive to prevent problems
Proactivity is key to getting your cultural alignment strategy right. When establishing an offshore team, at the start of your contact centre outsourcing programme, it’s important to plan a comprehensive strategy to minimise any issues.
This is commonly done through training during the onboarding process. Team members need to understand the language, nuances, and demographics of the region they will be working with. After all, customers want to be understood so their problems can be resolved – something that’s particularly relevant among vulnerable customers.
But it’s not just about training frontline staff. Management also needs a considerable understanding of the culture to ensure they direct their team appropriately. For instance, TSA’s call centres in the Philippines are led by the This maximises the chances of successful cultural alignment in your contact centre.
It can also be a good idea to start with simple programmes or campaigns to ease the team into new markets, helping to build confidence and reduce the risk of cultural missteps.
React to resolve issues as they arise
Cultural norms and values are fluid; they can fluctuate and drastically change at any time in response to key events and circumstances. This means that companies need to be reactive to ensure they respond with changing cultural values and behaviours to maintain a high level of cultural synergy.
In its most basic form, a reactive solution is to keep up to date with current events on a global and local scale. This facilitates an understanding of what type of conversations your offshore agents should be having with your customers and allows your advisors to become more emotionally intelligent and empathetic to the political or geographical climate of the customer’s country.
Maintaining an insight into the level of skills and knowledge of your offshore team members is another way to keep on top of any cultural alignment issues. Use real-time analytics to assess the skills of your call centre staff, as offshore team members are not able to participate in frequent face-to-face evaluations. Speech analytics, monthly assessments, and knowledge-based tests can all help identify gaps and areas of improvement.
Your subsequent training sessions can be tailored around these insights, giving your offshoring team the best chance of aligning their practices to those of the target culture. You can also adjust your training according to customer feedback, taken from surveys and questionnaires, to create successful cultural alignment throughout your company more appropriately. For example, you can ask customers questions around the relevance of the conversation they had with an advisor, and gauge the level of comprehension of the conversation on both sides: Did the customer understand the advisor, and vice-versa, or were there any misunderstandings?
Cultural synergies the key to success
Our world is always in flux, which means that attitudes and values can change in an instant. As such, a comprehensive cultural alignment strategy is needed with contact centres to ensure the customer experience delivered is the most productive and satisfactory possible.
By being proactive and reactive in your approach, you can ensure that your onshore and offshore teams are delivering a consistent brand voice, engaging customers in the correct way, working efficiently, and, most importantly, delighting your customers.
TSA are Australia’s market leading specialists in CX Consultancy and Contact Centre Services. We are passionate about revolutionising the way brands connect with Australians. How? By combining our local expertise with the most sophisticated customer experience technology on earth, and delivering with an expert team of customer service consultants who know exactly how to help brands care for their customers.