As anyone who has lived in another country can attest, different cultures can have different views in life. 

Even in the United States, we have varying approaches to life according to where we live. People from the North, South, East, and West all have their stereotypes for being uniquely themselves according to their region.

And, let’s be honest, we don’t need to be from different countries to have contradicting opinions on how to load a dishwasher or which way to put toilet paper on the roller.

I’ve lived in many different states and one different country (hi, Russia!) and have learned that it helps to understand the people in the area you are working in. 

You need to understand what motivates them, how they work, and what their expectations are in order to have a successful relationship. That goes for both personal and professional relationships.

When it comes to outsourcing your call center overseas, it can be a struggle at first to get your BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) on the same page with you. 

Time zone differences, distance, and technology can all get in the way of successfully working as a partnership. But if you are aware of the challenges and can prepare for them, then the challenges don’t cause as many inconveniences. They are just part of the now smooth process. 

Working for ScreenSteps — a knowledge base software company — I’ve seen how having a plan and software that can support documentation and training can ease the transition into a new partnership. 

Here are six challenges we've seen companies face when they use a BPO. If you're aware of these challenges, you can better plan for a smoother transition in your partnership.

Rebecca Lane

By: Rebecca Lane on June 2nd, 2021

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6 Challenges to Prepare For When Outsourcing Your Call Center Overseas

1. Understanding and communicating your expectations

Talk about uncomfortable conversations. But discussing your expectations on both your and the BPO’s side is a crucial conversation.

These expectations should be outlined in your BPO contract.

Each BPO company will have different arrangements for what they offer. Before hiring a BPO, you’ll want to understand what services they include. The assumption is your enemy here. You don’t want to assume something is included.

Some BPOs handle all the hiring, training, and operational tasks. Other BPOs have you hire, train, and manage everybody. Essentially, the reps at the BPO serve more like contractors. There can be a range of involvement between those two approaches. 

For example, some BPOs will screen applicants and then let you pick your agents in the final round of interviews. You’ll want to understand your involvement and outline those details in your contract. 

To help set expectations for the BPO, it’s important to develop a good scorecard. A scorecard is meant to measure a BPO’s performance. How are the BPO agents performing? Are they making mistakes? 

These scorecards hold both parties responsible for their roles.

2. Deciding who to hire

As stated above, some BPOs will allow you to hire the BPO agents for your overseas call center. 

If you or your BPO don’t have a handle on hiring, you are going to bring on the wrong kind of talent and you’ll have problems.

Just like you would look for specific skills and have a vision for the type of agent you would want for your internal call center, it is helpful to have a list of requirements for your BPO agents. If you hire the right type of people, the onboarding process will go smoother.

What are the bare minimum skills that your hires need to have?

Not just anybody can walk in and handle calls. They need to have a specific skill set. And it helps if they have the right personality type. That, of course, depends on your business’s industry. Some of those traits include they:

  • Want to be helpful
  • Aren’t drained by talking to people
  • Follow instructions
  • Problem solvers
  • Bonus: Have a basic understanding of your industry
While your new hires don’t need to be an expert in your field, it is helpful if they know something. For example, if you are a technology company and they will be answering calls about troubleshooting devices, it is helpful if they know the basics of technology (ie: power buttons, plugs, connecting cords, etc.)

3. Planning your training

Training reps at an overseas BPO is different from training reps in your call center or even at a domestic BPO. That is because of different cultural approaches to learning and training. 

Different aspects of training can seem like roadblocks. However, when you plan for these interfering factors, then it is easier to train your BPO.

Virtual onboarding

Virtual training

In many situations, you will be training reps at a BPO virtually. This introduces many variables that you need to consider:

  • How to outline an engaging training course
  • How to monitor engagement
  • How to practice on-the-job scenarios

To help your BPO agents master your processes, you’ll want to have a virtual platform where you can break into groups for practice. Whether your agents are remote or you are remote or both, you can still provide an interactive training experience that prepares your agents to hit the ground running.

Shipping equipment

You’ll want your business’s equipment at the location where your BPO is training. This way, the overseas agents can have hands-on learning to understand how your product work. So if your company makes suitcases or medical equipment, you’ll want to ship it to the training location.

And you’ll also want to send the resources they need to plug in any electronic equipment (ie: converter plugs). 

Shipping may seem like a simple task, but not all postal systems streamline the delivery process. Some packages can get stuck in the country and held for days or weeks before being delivered.

How and when will you ship your product overseas? Make sure you plan so your training isn’t held up because your equipment hasn’t been delivered yet.

Providing Feedback

Some cultures receive feedback differently. One group may want more direct feedback while others want it stated differently.

It’s important to know how to provide feedback that will inspire the change you need the BPO call center agents to make.

4. Encountering environmental challenges

In certain parts of the world, the infrastructure isn’t always reliable. Some cities experience rolling blackouts frequently.

You’ll want to have plans for different scenarios in case your BPO agents become unavailable. Who will handle the calls if you need to shut down your overseas operations for a day or week?

If your BPO allows their reps to work remotely, make sure the reps have a space to allow for that. Not everyone lives alone. Many reps will live with family or with several roommates and that may make it difficult for them to have a quiet space where they can work. 

It also creates challenges if they don’t have the right equipment (two monitors, fast computer, fast internet). Not to mention, they may not have the private space to work according to compliance standards.

Plan for the unexpected

With COVID-19, many countries have shut down at one point or another. In May 2021, India was experiencing a huge pandemic that was affecting call centers. Reps were out sick or out because they needed to take care of family members who were sick. 

Tropical StormNo one could have predicted this, so you should consider what your continuity plan will include in case something like this happens.

This could happen anywhere. For example, a tsunami or tropical storm could knock power out in the Philippines or South America. An unstable government could create disruptions. 

All of these things may be low in the likelihood of happening, but when they do your BPO will come to a screeching halt. Once again, it is important to be aware and have a plan for how you will handle a situation where your BPO call center may be unavailable.

5. Dealing with cultural differences with coaching

Some cultures may not receive coaching feedback the same way your team does in your town.

Our Customer Success Advocate Jonathan DeVore, has seen this firsthand as he’s helped companies use ScreenSteps to train BPO agents in other countries.

He’s observed that groups from the Philippines, India, and South America all have a different culture around performance and expectations. You’ll want to be aware of those as you plan your training.

If you are outsourcing your call center in the Philippines or India, the employees are eager to please authorities, so they do EXACTLY what you say. That sounds great, right?! Yes, it is great to have employees that listen and follow instructions, but it can also yield some poor customer experiences. 

Sometimes this can result in agents ignoring what the caller says because it wasn’t part of the script. They may come off as more robotic because they are rigid in doing what they were told. 

In the end, it isn’t good for employees to learn EXACTLY what to say. Instead, you want to train them on critical thinking skills.

Tips for coaching your BPO agents

Of course, these experiences aren’t an exact science. When using a BPO from a country overseas, take time to understand their learning styles. That way you can adjust training to hit on points they are weaker in and spend less time in areas that are their strengths.

During coaching sessions, you could lead with questions instead of telling agents exactly what they did wrong. “How did you feel about that call?” This will help agents develop critical thinking skills and understand what they could do differently.

6. Having incomplete and unclear procedures

While almost all call centers have procedures, most of the time those procedures are incomplete or slightly inaccurate. That is because someone who has worked for a company for a while is always around to answer questions and fill in the gaps. 

Many call center training programs require reps to make notes or memorize what to do. But that doesn’t work as well with BPOs. When you require BPOs overseas to memorize or take personal notes, you increase inconsistencies and the opportunity for mistakes.

If your agents need to print off your training documents and add notes so that they can follow your guides, then your guides are incomplete. To prepare to train your BPO call center, everything should be documented without needing to add notes.

When you are handing off internal procedures to an external call center, you want to have documents that are clear and provide ALL the detailed information your agents will need. After all, you don’t have an expert from your company there in person to help with questions.

It’s an art to learn how to completely capture a procedure. Make your procedures complete so that BPO reps can completely rely on them while handling calls.

How to prepare for training your overseas call center agents

Yes, there are challenges to having an overseas call center, but there are challenges to any project. The key to not being overwhelmed or feeling like hiring a BPO was a major mistake is to properly prepare for training your BPO agents.

At ScreenSteps, our knowledge base software helps quickly train call center agents while helping them avoid mistakes.

With clearly documented procedures, agents can follow the step-by-step guides while they are on the phone. Your documents become the expert aids when you can’t have an expert on-site. 

If you are hiring a BPO and outsourcing your call center, you’ll want to prepare to train your BPO agents. Click on the link below for seven tasks that will help your company overcome the challenges of outsourcing your call center. 

You’ll be prepared to train your BPO agents so that they can perform at the same level as your internal agents.

Prepare For BPO Training

About Rebecca Lane

Content Marketing Manager