A Word is a Powerful Thing
By Peter L DeHaan
seems that “outsourcing” has been politicized. Once
a word becomes politicized, as outsourcing was in the 2004 United
States presidential campaign, all reasonable thinking stops and logic
becomes, well, illogical. Rhetoric steps in and
common sense is relegated to lesser important things. Think
of any major societal issue and it has likely been politicized by a
one word rallying cry. Regardless of what the word
is, or it’s original and true intent, proponents hold it up high as
a emblem of virtue and all that is good, while opponents decry it as
indicative of evil, being characteristic of what is wrong in the world
years ago, the word telemarketing was coined to put an apt and
descriptive label on a nascent and promising industry; one that used
the telephone to cost-effectively promote products, better service
customers, and provide companies with a competitive advantage.
But then that simple and benign word became politicized and now
few people use it. Those who still do
telemarketing, have long since adopted a less emotionally-laden label
for fear of verbal retaliation or psychological retribution.
While those who vehemently object to telemarketing’s
practice, wield that word as an offensive slur to convey their
frustration against all they find unacceptable in businesses.
In short, it is no longer politically correct to engage in
telemarketing. A word is a powerful thing.
emotion and rhetoric aside, what is outsourcing? In
it’s broadest, most general sense, outsourcing is having another
company to do work for you that you could do yourself. This
occurs at both the business level and a personal level – and more
frequently then you might think.
common business outsourcing examples include: payroll, bookkeeping,
human resources, building maintenance, cleaning services,
telecommunications management, public relations, executive search, tax
accounting, information technology, and, call processing. On
the personal level, we outsource as well. Consider
the dry cleaners, car washes, tax accountants, lawn services, car
mechanics, maid services, pizza delivery, catering, and so forth.
In fact, anyone who provides a service is actually an
outsourcer and we are all, in one way or another, consumers of
this imply that outsourcing is a manifestation of laziness?
Although that may be the case in some limited instances, the
far more common and general reasoning is that outsourcing can reduce
costs, save time, or result in higher quality. Sometimes
outsourcers can provide two of these results or maybe even all three.
Another oft-stated justification for outsourcing is that it
allows organizations to offload nonessential tasks, thereby permitting
them to focus limited resources (which is a reality for every
organization limited resources) on their core competencies.
Some organizations have found it beneficial to even outsource
their core competencies. Why not if it can be done
cheaper, better, or faster by a specialist?
we can correctly conclude that the entire service sector provides
outsourcing services, that we all use these outsourcing services, and
that there are many wise and beneficial business reasons to do so.
So why all the flap over something that is so common and so
the word “outsourcing” is the moniker that has been villainized,
this is a grossly unfair and ignorant generalization. What
the focus and outcry is truly about is offshore call center
outsourcing that is done badly. Offshoring
is not outsourcing, but rather a small subset of it. In
fact, the majority of call center outsourcing today is reportedly
intra-country, that is, it is companies located within the United
States, outsourcing call processing work to call centers located within
the United States. Yes, there is an increasing
trend towards offshore call center outsourcing, and it may one day
represent the majority, but for the near future it embodies a minority
of call center outsourcing, where it is projected to remain for the
next several years.
is in no way to imply that I am against offshore call center
outsourcing per se. I am, in fact, a hard-core,
free-market, laissez-faire idealist. At least until
my phone call is answered by someone who I can’t understand, be it
due to a heavy accent or words that are used in a way that simply
doesn’t make sense. While such a result may be
indicative (but not necessarily so) that a call center is located
outside the country, it is critical to point out that the converse
should not be assumed either. That is, every agent
who speaks with clear and comprehensible English, is not automatically
US-based. Just as lucid and concise communication
can occur with agents in other countries, severe communication hurdles
can exist with agents located within our borders. The
original and true frustration was not with the location of the agent,
but quite simply with their ability to effective communicate in
understandable and conversational English.
saw this frustration as a safe and universally acceptable cause on
which to campaign. They made the false assumption
that it was a location issue, put a wrong label on it (outsourcing
versus offshoring), vilified it, and promoted themselves as the ones
who could solve the problem they defined. That’s
next step was to feed the fire by adding fuel to their argument.
National security issues were brought into play, as was
personal privacy concerns, since information was leaving the country
to reside in a foreign-located database. The
exporting of jobs was denounced, as was the harm that this was causing
to the U.S. economy. By the time the politicians
were done, “outsourcing” (or more correctly, offshore call center
outsourcing) was portrayed as a threat to all that is American.
It was the enemy and it had to be stopped. Rhetoric
is persuasive and as such, a word becomes a powerful thing.
results of all this are sad, but predictable. First,
people learned that is was okay to be intolerant of agents who spoke
with an accent or hadn’t yet fully mastered the English vernacular.
Unfortunately, some people went beyond intolerance, with their
attitudes spilling over into hatred, bigotry, and abhorrence.
Secondly, we were taught that any form of call center
outsourcing – in fact, all outsourcing – is an increasingly
unpatriotic and unacceptable act.
and most dangerously for the industry, is a spate of bills that were
introduced on the national, state, and local level to control, limit,
or restrict the inbound call center industry. Although
the intent of these bills are ostensibly focused against the offshore
call center, their broad and inclusive language is all-encompassing,
covering all call center outsourcers (remember that U.S.-based call
centers handle the majority of US outsourcing work) and has widespread
ramifications for the in-house call center as well.
anyone misunderstand what I am saying or the way in which I
is not synonymous with offshoring.
support outsourcing as good, beneficial, and necessary and I am
passionate about the importance and value it.
outsourcing is here, it is real, and the marketplace should decide
its position in the global economy.
real enemy is legislation, which if left unchecked will forever
and detrimentally change the entire call center industry, be it
outbound or inbound, outsource, or in-house, as well as offshore.
love the USA – it’s the politicians that drive me crazy!
a word is a powerful thing – and I try to choose mine carefully.
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