The Race to Reshore: 4 Predictions on the Companies that Will Come Last

The decision for any business to reshore their operations is often prompted by changes in cost factors and other circumstances. In the wake of COVID-19 and lingering uncertainties, reshoring one’s customer service operation seems logical, but is it that easy, and is it sustainable?
While there are valid reasons to race to reshore, inevitably someone is going to come last. Consider your customer experience centre(s). Without careful planning and preparation for what’s next, and finding the right balance between people and technology-led customer experiences, creating a lower cost to serve AND increasing customer lifetime value is a monumental task. 
The quest to reduce costs and accelerate new or existing revenue channels will never cease. CEOs, CFOs and CMOs will continue to be on the search for what’s next, quick wins for today, and long term sustainable seeds for the future.

Avoid the landmines. Here’s what we predict and how to avoid them with a smarter approach. 

Prediction #1: Companies will race to reshore as it ‘will’ provide a better experience for their customers.

Hiring locally may remove some cultural barriers and close gaps between your agents and your customers, but it won’t necessarily increase productivity, efficiency and drive better outcomes.
Onshore contact centres typically have higher recruiting, hiring, and training costs than other outsourced delivery options. And don’t forget about the cost of hiring new employees versus training existing staff. Hiring also includes advertising costs, time spent on interviews, as well as onboarding and training expenses— without a clear connection to increased productivity. It’s great to have ownership and control, but the likelihood is that it’s taking away the focus from your core business, and what’s the cost of that?

Prediction #2: It will be assumed that workers already have what they need to operate onshore and at home.

Brand ambassadors interact with customers across a wide variety of channels, from voice and messaging to email, social, and apps. Seamlessly engaging with customers across different channels requires organisations to adopt forward-thinking strategies and disciplines. However, this requires the coordination and integration of people, processes, and technology across the business.

Woe to the company whose IT systems encounter delays or repatriated employees who lack the right training and resources to deliver upon customer expectations, especially when call volumes take off again. Companies that don’t have a reliable digital strategy will fail to meet their customers’ expectations. It doesn’t take a ‘digital transformation strategy’ to overcome this. My colleague, Jonathan Lerner, wrapped this up nicely in his blog, Coronavirus Halted “Digital Transformation” Projects. That’s a Good Thing by writing, ‘Digital transformation isn’t a one-off big spend. Rather, it’s a state of mind that continually evolves as organisations adopt new digital solutions to solve business problems over time.’

Prediction #3: Onshore retention will be fine —until we get back to work and the recruitment pools dry up.

Although contact centre associate talent is abundant right now, as our economy picks up, expect competition for workers to increase as well. Additionally, it’s likely that many people will go back to their previous jobs in other industries and attrition will spike. Most metro recruitment pools are saturated today, the companies that ‘come last’ likely would have overlooked areas such as regional Australia for the short, mid- and long-term viability of their reshore operations. Delivering relentless consistency in virtual customer experiences doesn’t require a centralised geo strategy.

Prediction #4: Investments in remote digital learning and training will determine whether a reshoring strategy sinks or floats.

Labour experts, pundits, and analysts agree: Remote work is part of the new normal. However, the companies that will fail in reshoring their customer experience strategy will likely not have invested in their remote digital learning and employee engagement programs. A well-developed remote learning and training plan is essential to give employees the resources and information that they need to successfully support customers outside of the traditional training methods in a brick-and-mortar contact centre. Without it, holes will quickly become apparent in an organisation’s CX if it doesn’t have an efficient way to train and manage remote employees over the long-term. A lack of strong employee engagement for distributed workforces is another area that, if executed poorly, will undermine employee performance and affect customer advocacy.   

A smarter approach

The winners will have a plan B and an eye for technologies that enable fast, effortless services and the ability to understand and act on customer needs. They would have considered investment in cloud, omnichannel, Voice of Customer analytics, AI and automation. Those who don’t have a digital-led and CX strategy within their reshore plans will (or may have already) failed.
At the same time, there will always be a place for outsourced nearshore and offshore support. Remember the predictions of the ‘death of the contact centre because the bots are coming’ only a few years ago? The world has changed, but many of the same expectations and demands will return. The CFO’s demand for cost reductions and the CEO’s demand for revenue growth will remain for infinity.

The future-proof strategy of a well-blended onshore/nearshore/offshore plus brick and mortar/at-home model plus labour and technology-led interactions remains the best way to meet your CEO and CFO CX demands. All of which is to say, there is no single shore strategy that will guarantee success, but opportunities abound for companies that choose meet and deliver on their customers new expectations.