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Sick And Tired Of Xenophobia In Offshore Outsourcing Discussion

It's inevitable. We post a story about offshore outsourcing, and the comments section quickly fills with several or more postings about those damn foreigners taking our jobs. My multi-story package on entering the second decade of offshore outsourcing has attracted quite a few.
It's inevitable. We post a story about offshore outsourcing, and the comments section quickly fills with several or more postings about those damn foreigners taking our jobs. My multi-story package on entering the second decade of offshore outsourcing has attracted quite a few."I'm sick of talking to foreigners about my problems on a support line & hearing the apathy in their voices," says one post. Says another: …"am I the last sane human on the planet here, or has the bar really been lowered so low that we'd outsource to the mentally challenged if their price was right? Hey, I hear dolphins & whales are pretty smart & they work for fish! Surely, dolphin's ability to read/write/speak English is about at the same level as most of the Chinese tech workers. Well!? It's true."

I'm sick--sick and tired--of such xenophobic comments, which are pretty easy to hide behind when using a made-up user name. Typically they loop back to a common theme: foreigners taking away jobs from Americans. But in-between the hateful barbs I do pick out a few comments that actually have some logic, like this one: "…[we should] stop rewarding greedy corporations for their total insensitivity & lack of concern about the quality vs. the quantity." If a company hires inexpensive yet poor quality customer service help--whether it's poor because of a language barrier with the company's customers, rudeness, or inability to understand the problem--than the customer should seriously consider taking her business elsewhere. Only then will a company learn. As one post says, "If there is a thinking that 'customer service' in a company exists because of morality or ethics, I can only call it 'naïve'. … 'customer service' is a competitive weapon to increase profits, not an 'ethics' or 'moral' responsibility. If and when that competitiveness depletes, irrespective of the ethics or morals, companies will move away from outsourcing or offshoring." You'll see in my story, for example, an instance of a company moving some call-center work back from India to the U.S. because it wasn't working for them.

Indeed, anyone who believes any U.S.-based company owes them a job simply because they were born in America is delusional. First off, the term "globalization" is real: more U.S. companies are becoming multinational and selling to more regions throughout the world, and hiring and contracting more people globally. Of course they are going to look for the lowest cost resources they can. But that doesn't make them bad companies. I like the analogy in this post: "If the supermarket on one corner of your block sells you your weekly groceries at 10% less than the one on the other corner, where are you going to go? At 10% cheaper, you may also consider issues of quality, variety etc when deciding - but what happens when there's a 20%+ difference, and you're on a tight budget this week because your car needs a new set of tyres or you have your summer holiday to pay for? If you decide to buy your groceries from the cheaper place, does this make you, as an individual, immoral? (After all, the cheaper guy is probably paying his staff a little less than his competitor is - that's how he can afford to undercut his prices.) This gives you exactly the same decision to make that companies face when they want to invest in more plant, more modern processes etc - the money has to come from somewhere and controlling costs is one important way of getting it."

But if companies do make bad choices globally in an effort to cut costs, it will come back to haunt them, and if they're smart, they'll do something about it. Otherwise, they'll lose customers or cost themselves more money, and the end result will be lower profits. There were many lessons learned in the last decade of offshore outsourcing, and smart companies accordingly made adjustments.

Readers also discussed how my story shows that companies are getting more involved with their offshore suppliers, helping them develop plans to deal with the talent shortage in India, for example. Says one post, " If a company has to pay that much attention … where's the break-even point that says 'Hey, we're spending so much time (and therefore money) managing and administering these contracts - and really hacking off a substantial number of our customers who feel that the overall service they receive is now worse than before - what's the point?'"

Exactly. Free-market economics will run its course, and companies who've sacrifice quality for cost (whether that's in choosing low-cost employees who can't do their jobs or using cheap materials to make products) will eventually suffer through lost customers.

But if you deplore offshore outsourcing because you feel uncomfortable with or dislike people from another country or race, or think that a U.S. company "owes" you a job, then I'm sorry. I can't help you, and neither can anyone else. You'll have to struggle with those demons on your own.