In search of every possible way to trim costs, U.S.-based companies long have sought to cut one of their biggest expenses – payroll – by tapping into markets where labor rates are lower than those back at home. But while hiring offshore outsourcers once was associated with compromising on quality, developing countries are going to great lengths to eliminate this reputation. Today, destinations such as India, the Philippines and Central and Latin America offer call center talent that is up to speed with what it takes to do business in the United States.

"They have tended more to a lot of the qualitative aspects of calls," says Jay Minnucci, vice president of consulting services at The International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) in Philadelphia. "In the beginning when people started off shoring, it was for price and price only, and some of the services reflected that. The better operators have realized that by adding a bit to the cost, they are still going to be well under other options, and now they will have less of a negative impact on the quality side of the equation."

While the obvious benefit to taking a call center offshore may be cost, there are other advantages – especially if your company serves a diverse client base requiring communications in various languages. "We see a lot of this with companies that are tapping into the Hispanic market," Minnucci says. "There are companies in the Dominican Republic and in Central America that are pumping up their call center industry to meet that need."

Chris Repholz, senior vice president at outsourcing firm Zenta in Philadelphia, notes that the level of job candidate in many offshore locations is very favorable. "If you are doing collections in India, the Philippines or South America, chances are the vast majority of those collectors are college graduates," he says. "They wouldn't have been interviewed for the position if they hadn't been degreed. That's something that you just can't replicate in the U.S."

Oxford Management Services, a collection agency based in Melville, N.Y., works with several near-shore and offshore partners. Peter Pinto, president and CEO, explains that when examining a potential working relationship with an offshore, the company applies the same process that potential clients would when considering a working relationship with Oxford.

"We look at it the same way a major creditor would look at doing business with us, and what they would look within our internal process as far as security, overall structure and technology – things that allow them to make a good, conscious decision of whom they want to partner with," he said. "We want to be as transparent to the creditor. When we look at an offshore or near shore partner, they have those same requirements."

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