Cultural Barriers in Outsourced Customer Service

Cultural Barriers in Outsourced Customer Service

With a globalizing industry, businesses are expanding their operations across borders, seeking cost-effective solutions and access to diverse talent pools. One of the most common strategies employed by companies to manage customer service efficiently is outsourcing. However, while outsourcing customer service can offer numerous benefits, it also presents a unique set of challenges, chief among them being cultural barriers.

Understanding Cultural Barriers

Cultural barriers refer to the differences in norms, values, beliefs, and communication styles between individuals or groups from different cultural backgrounds. These barriers can manifest in various forms, such as a lack of relatable role models in senior positions, communication problems, cultural misunderstandings, language barriers, differences in communication styles, varying attitudes towards hierarchy and authority, and diverse approaches to problem-solving and decision-making. Unconscious bias arises from a lack of exposure and comfort with individuals from diverse backgrounds and leads to discomfort in both parties. These biases involve making associations between different qualities such as gender, race, and culture without conscious awareness, which can lead to automatic stereotyping or judging.

Adapting to Cultural Differences with Outsourcing

When outsourcing customer service to a different country or region, businesses must proactively honor and adapt to cultural differences to ensure effective communication and service delivery. This adaptation involves understanding and respecting the cultural nuances of both the outsourcing destination and the customers being served. It requires investment in cultural training for outsourced staff, implementing cross-cultural communication strategies, and fostering a culture of sensitivity and inclusivity within the organization.

Cultural Barriers in Outsourcing

Despite efforts to adapt, cultural barriers can still pose significant challenges in outsourced customer service. One common issue is miscommunication due to language differences or cultural nuances in communication styles. For example, a direct communication style prevalent in Western cultures may be perceived as rude or confrontational in Eastern cultures, leading to misunderstandings and customer dissatisfaction.

Moreover, differences in work culture and attitudes towards customer service may impact the quality of service delivered. For instance, employees from cultures that prioritize hierarchical structures may struggle to take ownership of customer issues or make independent decisions, resulting in delayed resolutions and frustrated customers.

Additionally, cultural differences can affect the perception of time and deadlines. In some cultures, punctuality and adherence to deadlines are highly valued, while in others, a more flexible approach may be the norm. This mismatch in expectations can lead to delays in response times and service delivery, eroding customer trust and loyalty.

Addressing the Barriers

Several strategies can be implemented to address cultural barriers in a customer service outsourcing project. Based on the cultures of the service providers and customers, proactive, conscious efforts can help comfort individuals from different countries/continents, races, and genders:

Communication Strategies

Establish clear communication protocols, provide cross-cultural training, and test the knowledge of overseas staff before customer-facing positions. This ensures that team members understand cultural differences and communication styles, enabling clear and effective communication.

Bilingual Staff

Employ bilingual staff who are fluent in both the client’s language and the local language to bridge the communication gap. Bilingual employees can assist with translation, interpretation, and cultural adaptation, ensuring effective communication and understanding between the client, service providers, and customers.

Building a Strong Relationship

Foster a relationship based on trust, respect, and open communication with the service providers. Regular communication, including small talk to build rapport and a robust Service Level Agreement (SLA), can help clarify expectations and address any issues that may arise.

Leveraging Technology

Utilize collaborative tools such as video conferencing, instant messaging, and project management software to enhance communication and transparency within the team. Employing technology can streamline processes, minimize errors, and overcome time zone disparities, ultimately boosting efficiency and fostering collaboration.

Adapting to Cultural Differences

Integrate cultural differences into the workflow by modifying communication styles, accommodating different working hours, and celebrating local holidays. For example, modifying communication styles to be more indirect and polite, as per the cultural norms in the regions served, can facilitate clear and effective communication.

Ensuring Cultural Competency

Offer cultural awareness workshops for team members to foster an understanding of diverse cultures, discourage reliance on stereotypes and presumptions, and cultivate adept communication techniques. Such workshops are instrumental in enabling team members to engage in productive communication and establish robust relationships founded on mutual regard.


Through the adoption of these measures, businesses can adeptly tackle cultural obstacles in outsourced customer service endeavors, resulting in enhanced communication, cooperation, and client contentment.

How can Infosys BPM Help Overcome Cultural Barriers in Customer Service Outsourcing?

While cultural barriers pose significant challenges in outsourced customer service, proactive measures such as cultural training, cross-cultural communication strategies, and technological innovation can help mitigate these challenges and foster successful partnerships between businesses and outsourcing providers. By embracing cultural diversity and leveraging it as a source of strength, organizations can unlock new opportunities for growth and differentiation in the global marketplace.

Infosys BPM invests in comprehensive cultural training programs for its employees, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to navigate cultural differences effectively. This includes language training, cross-cultural communication workshops, and sensitivity training to foster empathy and understanding towards diverse cultural perspectives. Leveraging technology and data analytics, personnel at Infosys BPM streamline processes and improve efficiency in customer service delivery across cultures. By implementing multilingual chatbots, language translation tools, and sentiment analysis algorithms, Infosys BPM enhances communication effectiveness and captures valuable insights into customer preferences and behavior across diverse cultural contexts.

With its extensive experience in global outsourcing and deep understanding of cultural nuances, Infosys BPM can play a pivotal role in overcoming cultural barriers in customer service outsourcing.

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