Why do companies outsource customer service abroad?

Why do so many companies outsource customer service abroad? I just had an unpleasant experience of using my phone network’s live chat service. I had to end the chat before I became incredibly frustrated.

They didn’t understand my message and kept telling me information that was in no way relevant to what I was asking. I couldn’t also understand the following message they sent me as it didn’t make any sense and then told me the customer service is based in India.

It’s like last year when I went travelling, I called the airline’s UK dedicated support line and the operator complained they couldn’t understand my English accent, which is no where near strong as some areas as they’re Dutch and I couldn’t understand them either.

I love other cultures and learning about them, but I really don’t understand the logic behind putting people in customer service roles when they can’t communicate effectively in the customer’s language or understand what they’re saying.

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I had exactly the same problem earlier, phoned up to downgrade my package as I’m going to be travelling and don’t need to pay £60 a month, the advisor came back and offered me a deal for £59 a month, because my base package is listed as £74 so thought I was getting a bargain.

I wasn’t going to accept a £1 saving, she put me through to cancellations I explained I didn’t want to cancel, explained what I wanted, five mins later it went from £60 a month now to £35 all because the Scottish guy I spoke to understood what I wanted.


It does seem to be the case that you have to escalate to cancellations/retentions.

I’ve had to do this twice recently with Virgin Media. The first time when they were putting the price up (in my view unreasonably) and the second when they’d messed up the ‘long term customer discounts’ from the first call.

In each case, the first person to answer (I would guess from India or Pakistan) had something of a script and seemed to be the ‘try and put them off with as little as you can get away with’, also with some communication difficulties on both sides.

Retentions (as VM call it) was someone with a British accent and authorised to actually do something more reasonable.

The biggest problem is she couldn’t understand why I was only paying £60 when my package clearly is £74 a month, even though I explained it all clearly, and after looking she could see.

So she was looking for a saving based on my package price, not the price I was actually paying I reckon.

I’m happy with the end results £35 a month for the remainder of my contract, then phone back in January to negotiate a new contract. It shouldn’t be as complicated as it is.

So the cost saving of using call centres abroad, isn’t really a cost saving, if you have to be transferred to someone else. So that’s two people dealing with one thing.


I was lucky to get someone in their overseas call centre who understood what I wanted. He actually told me to call back and ask for the retentions dept. or go through to the “leaving” option as I would get someone in Coventry who would be authorised to do more. In fact he almost insisted and said “make sure you do it as they have more options”.

Each year since I’ve done exactly that and managed to get a loyalty discount.


It’s a bit frustrating that this is even necessary. I suppose that’s why I’m attracted to a business, such as Mondo, that says it wants to be different and fair to the customer. It’s a shame when they eventually revert to type to exploit the consumer.

You’re right. Customer loyalty is not rewarded, it’s generally fleeced.

That’s why it’s so important to shop around, threaten to leave etc etc.

But annoying and time-consuming.


It’s not usually the offshoring that’s the issue (though there are sometimes communications issues in terms of accents) it is outsourcing your customer service to the lowest bidding third party call centre operator.

This third party is then only interested in training their staff to follow a rigid script, not actually training their staff in the product(s) that they are actually supporting - this removes all autonomy from the people on the phones to help or deviate from a script. They’re therefore unlikely to really understand what you’re asking them beyond trying to match up what you’re saying with a set of scripts - and even if they do understand, if what you’re asking doesn’t exactly match a script there’s little they can do other than pick the closest and go with that.

You get many of the same problems with outsourced on-shore call centres (including issues with accents!).


4 posts were merged into an existing topic: Mobile Phone Provider Recommendations

In theory, it’s cheaper. Either cheaper than it currently costs you to do it onshore, or cheaper to add things you can’t currently do (like going from 10x5 to 24x7 support, or expanding call centre staffing quickly), or both.

Of course the reality is that it’s rarely that simple. I’d love to see a study comparing expected savings versus actual savings (or costs) across outsourced initiatives, but nobody will share that kind of data.

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