As many of us already know, most of the major companies based here in the US have outsourced their call centers to foreign countries. The two most popular countries for support call centers are India (with an estimated 350,000 agents) and the Philippines (with an estimated 400,000 Filipinos manning the call center phones).
Armed with this knowledge, it makes sense that some of us have experienced how difficult it can be to understand the person on the other end of the computer support hotline. This is annoying not only for the caller, but also for the agent; when discussing a complicated or technical computer problem, the language circumventing the issue is difficult enough for the average person to comprehend. So, while both parties may have done their best to resolve the problem requiring the agent’s area of expertise, the frustration on the part of both parties can result in both the caller and agent being highly critical of the other when later discussing the conversation with their peers.
Despite this issue, though, I don’t believe that this is the only problem faced by Americans when it comes to foreign call centers. To me, one of the most critical areas of concern is the outsourcing of American jobs. However, I don’t believe that this subject is one that can be addressed by political standards when it comes to who we elect to office since it doesn’t take a conservative or a liberal, a Democrat or a Republican, to see what is happening. In actuality, it only takes an educated American to see how this has affected the job situation for all of us since numbers indicate that Americans have lost approximately 750,000 jobs to overseas markets. So you may be asking yourself why companies would choose to move their entire support operations out of the United States and relocate them to a foreign country. The theory is that companies have chosen to outsource these jobs to foreign countries because these countries don’t require a minimum wage and the company still gets its regularly expected tax break, regardless of where its operations are located. While this might be great for the companies who have increased their profits, how is it affecting the US economy that continues to struggle with an unemployment rate that has been difficult to lower? One might think that patriotism alone would suggest that some of these companies might consider bringing some of these jobs back home.
To force some of these jobs back to America, some folks in congress have been tossing around the idea of punishing companies that use foreign countries to provide their technical support via call centers. I don’t personally believe that this is the right way to to handle the situation. Instead, I feel that we need to go back to our country’s earliest foundations and concentrate on creating and manufacturing a superior product that the rest of the world has either a need for or just simply has a desire to own due to its quality. That literally means that we, as a nation, need to return to our earliest work ethics as well as develop a better understanding of our role in the relatively new global economy. Once we accept and garner support for this knowledge, we will gain the insight that we can no longer isolate ourselves from the need to change our focus to one that is more competitive when it comes to any business, including call center support.
This concept is nothing new as several years ago I watched a Discovery Channel program concerning the Honda automobile company, in which it took the viewer through Honda’s history. In the documentary, Honda was depicted as being able to create a winning strategy and product that beat out its American competitors. The company’s goal was a no-brainer; it simply chose to build a superior quality automobile at a lower price.
Fortunately for American workers, not only has Honda’s successful strategy kept it at the forefront of modern day car sales, but it has also continued to create American jobs. Honda’s quality has allowed it to charge a premium price so that it could continue to maintain assembly plants in the United States. In fact, the documentary presented the viewer with a tour of the new Honda automobile assembly line that the company had constructed in Greensburg, Indiana. So, while this is the newest in its efforts to be competitive, this is by no means its only plant in the United States as it has others located in Ohio and Alabama.
What fact surprised me the most was the way these plants work. To stay competitive, the Japanese have the parts for their vehicles shipped from Japan, they assemble them here in the states, and then they ship them back to Japan to be sold. This common procedure is also used by other foreign companies, like Toyota, BMW, Fiat, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, and Subaru, which also manufacture cars in the US. That makes me ask the question: If foreign companies can stay competitive using this process, why can’t American owned companies do the same?
I believe that this same philosophy should be applied to customer support call centers. There has to be a way for companies to bring the jobs back home and still be competitive. It may take, however, the American workers’ compliance to accept lower wages. So, while that may mean we can’t have all the Gucci or other high-priced items we feel we can’t live without, it might actually give us jobs that will put food on the table and a roof over our heads. This should be enough for us, but is it possible that we, as a nation, have become so spoiled with our ability to buy the newest and greatest gadgets that we won’t condescend to lower wages despite the fact that this basically prevents us from gaining a competitive edge in the marketplace. Part of the problem also revolves around our demand for cheap goods (most often made in China), which means that it is almost impossible for us to balance our trade deficit — a problem that can only be resolved if we begin to take pride in our workmanship and find a way to bring companies back to America.
To do this, I believe that we need to offer incentives to make it worthwhile for companies to relocate their businesses back to the United States rather than penalizing them for doing business overseas. Additionally, I believe that we need to create new courses of action that will create a demand for American made products to make us once again competitive in this new global economy. First and foremost, this will require an effort on the part of American companies to create incentives for American workers to produce quality products in a timely and affordable manner. It will also require the government to provide incentives for these companies to hire American workers and to bring jobs back to the US. We, as a country, then need to retrain our workers to meet the demand of these new jobs so that we can get America back to work.
This is my opinion on what needs to be done. What do you think?