News this week that Aegis, one of the world’s largest outsourcing businesses, is setting up a 2,500 strong contact centre in Glasgow, provoked a flurry of headlines declaring it a case of ‘coals to Newcastle.’

The phrase (alluding to the fact that Indian conglomerate Essar is the parent company of Aegis), sparked fresh debate on whether it signifies a new definition of homeshoring and a turning point in outsourcing trends. Some argue that it indicates that the Indian outsourcing market is on the wane, losing competitiveness to rival locations such as the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Business, Innovation & Skills Secretary Vince Cable waxed lyrical about more jobs ‘coming home’ to the UK, citing Hornby train sets and Pot Noodle (the latter is somewhat ironic given that noodles are Chinese and the jobs are relocating from China).

There have been a number of recent high profile instances of businesses relocating contact centre work from India to the UK, including Barclays and RSA. A common approach is to repatriate roles requiring direct voice contact with customers which tends to involve complex and emotional issues where establishing trust via skilled listening and a clear, professional and yet ‘human’ response is important.

For Aegis, the Glasgow move is not about simply relocating work from one geography to another, nor should it be read as a statement on comparative labour costs. It already has 55,000 agents in 56 global locations, including Manchester. It is based on a belief that British customers will have a ‘cultural affinity’ with agents answering the phone in the UK.

The web abounds with critical comments on customer forums about frustrations dealing with agents who speak heavily-accented English and companies are becoming more aware of a casual link between making life hard for customers and losing their business. We have recently published new CCA research which sheds new light on the importance of customer effort in partnership with Capita. To register your interest in this research click here.

Companies that ‘get’ customer effort have developed enterprise-wide methodologies to ‘keep it simple’ for customers. The same relentless focus on making things easy for customers played a part in EE & Eishtec winning the 2013 CCA Excellence Award for Best Outsourcing Partnership.  To find out more about CCA Excellence Awards click here.

In an omni-channel contact and service environment we need to find new ways to define and measure a successful contact centre. CCA expert groups are leading the way on this, including the BPO Users Strategy Group whose members manage outsourcing partnerships with a collective value of billions of pounds.

There has never been a clearer need for an expert forum of this sort as momentum to outsource is intensifying, driven by a need to deliver both cost efficiencies and innovative technology solutions, and also to raise the bar on service delivery.

According to Deloitte, the global contact centre outsourcing market grew at between 7% and 8% in 2012 and is worth an estimated $65 billion to $70 billion. A number of major deals have underlined the extent to which the outsourcing sector itself is changing following consolidation that has led to the emergence of fewer but larger and more powerful players.

As the dust settles on the last big M&A phase, the issue of partnership working warrants fresh examination, from the procurement phase down to disputes over service level agreements.

It is critical that partnerships are mature and in particular, the procurement process must be seen to be fair and transparent - there is no more vital procurement than that of customer service for your organisation. Consider the current legal battle between BT and NHS Scotland over a procurement process dispute.  Read more.

Maintaining a constructive yet challenging working relationship is vital to the success of a long-term partnership, with true alignment of goals seen as a prerequisite for this. Agreeing a strategy for which customer functions are best handled on and off shore should be part of that.

The pendulum has swung backwards and forwards in the contact centre sphere between onshore, nearshore, offshore and increasingly homeshoring options. I think it is high time to revive use of the term ‘rightshoring’, which simply means that a company takes the ‘right decision’ on service locations not based purely on cost but on what will deliver the best service for customers. It sounds a deceptively simple approach - but as our outsourcing award winner Eishtec says on its website some things just work better together.’