No Jewel In Anyone's Crown

MyCustomer.com

I had my first real taste of Indian offshore call centres last week - and it wasn't fun. First came the cold call from a financial services firm, from someone calling himself James. He said he was calling from a well-known UK firm, but the two second delay in his answers rather gave away his location as somewhere in the region of Bangalore. As did the very badly scripted UK-friendly chat he was given to read out.

Days later I had to chase up an unpaid invoice from a company. The phone number I rang was in the North of England; the person who answered the phone was in Delhi. Moreover, quite apart from the bad connection and the poor quality of the line, she was singularly ill-briefed to run an accounts payable hotline. My clue here came when she didn't know what VAT meant...

Now, clearly that's not her fault, she just hasn't been trained properly and that could have been equally true had she been based in Doncaster rather than Dehli. But after having to ring back twice before finally being passed to someone in London, my impatience was enormous and my perception of this particular company's customer service was at an all time low.

With uncanny timing, that same day a report from research firm ContactBabel hit my in-box claiming that while companies gain cost efficiencies from offshore outsourcing, they simultaneously lose out in terms of poorer customer service.

There's an increasingly important national debate to be had about what is looking like a tide of outsourcing from the UK to India. It's one that's not being addressed by bland comments from the Prime Minister about how sorry he is that thousands of Norwich Union employees are about to face redundancy in the run up to Christmas. Or in the improbable prediction from eEnvoy Andrew Pinder that somehow the exodus of jobs will end up being good for the UK economy.

In the US, the debate has started and predictably enough is being taken to extremes as that country's post 9/11 protectionist mentality exerts itself with the blessing -
nay, encouragement, of an administration that's been ready to risk a trade war with its European partners and break global trading laws in order to pick up a few votes from steel workers back home.

So it's hardly surprising to hear the cries coming from many US states for penalties to be imposed against companies that outsource jobs to the sub-continent or for visa regulations to be manipulated in order to make such decisions impossible to enforce.

Such cries border either on an incipient xenophobia or a patriotism overdose, but they do not belong as part of a rational debate. The current UK government first came to power proclaiming "education, education, education". All these years later, that remains their only response to the current crisis facing UK call centre employees. It's not good enough frankly and the price may yet end up being paid at the ballot box.

But that'll be too late for thousands upon thousands of UK workers... and hopefully for greedy companies which choose to pursue cost cutting at the expense of customer relations.

About mycustomer.newsdesk

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12th Jan 2004 23:29

Local Government in our region has recently created chaos by pursuing its blinkered goal of having a Call Centre in place within X number of months.

Councillors have claimed until they are blue that public opinion was sought and heeded, but the upshot of it is that they rushed a plan into being in order to fulfil impossible Government targets. In doing so, they are managing to alienate their existing workforce and mightily brass-off their customer base (which, I might add, cannot exactly go elsewhere for its services) by employing managers with no idea of how to run such a vast industrial workforce and paying them huge sums for the priviledge of messing things up.

All of this chaos is down to bad management. All of which, the rate-payers of the borough are paying for. I think that they, the public, (and I include myself in that demographic) would be a little bit sharp-tongued in response to the previous comment about learning curves and improvement.

This system should have been tested and double tested before implementation. Right now, capable employees are leaving Local Government employment in their droves after finding their new working circumstances impossible to tolerate. After a couple of years the whole scheme will be abandoned in favour of some new Pet Government Scheme. It is an abominable waste of the tax-payers' money.

Surely any businessman knows that before you implement such vast changes in how your business is run, you make sure that it works like the proverbial Swiss Clock. Anything else is a waste of time and resources.


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By admin
05th Dec 2003 20:52

One only has to review recent headlines to know the lever for this exodus is plainly rooted in economics and politics. With routine tax increases and employers costs now connected directly to the size of their workforce, like the increase in National Insurance, there is absolutely no incentive for companies to remain loyal to the UK.

More recently, the European Courts have determined the UK must comply with all elements of the EU treaty - particularly with its treatment of tax. This is effectively backdoor tax harmonisation which means more red tape, more cost, more tax for UK business. Not less. Part of the reason why France and Germany are economic basket cases is due to labour markert inflexiblity and high employment taxes. Our government appears hell[***] bent on making the UK into a good European which means we are destined for the same degree of economic grief.

So it might be a better to look at the underlying issues before leveling abuse at companies trying to make the best of a bad situation for their owners...capital will always find a way of protecting itself from systemic abuse.

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By admin
08th Dec 2003 10:45

Just read your article "No Jewel" etc and I felt the urgent need to ask a question. What was the point? I read nothing which gave me any new information, you offered no solution, tentative or otherwise and I really don't see any point in re-hashing "old news". The tabloids are filled with writers(?)repeating old tales, lots of which by dint of repetition become self fulfilling prophecies. Use of a Forum such as this should surely generate more succint comment, followed by
suggested courses of remedial action or am I in the wrong place?

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08th Jan 2004 19:17

Hi,

I think the whole quality problem is about "outsourcing", not "offshore outsourcing" - and it's about "management" as such.

When companies consolidated their service from a local to a centralised - call center - environment, a lot of issues came up: motivational, process knowledge (new processes), customer insight/ knowledge (which was in the heads of the service reps before like "Mrs. X always complains, but don't give her a discount"),incentives/ career path, etc. Most of the issues I saw at several utilities clients had an origin of changed or more management capabilities, which were not implemented.

Service levels were bad also before the call center age, but no-one knew, as this information was not available. And customers didn't complain, as they often had a personal "relationship" with the service rep. With a call center in place, their expectations on basic services (answering the phone, sending brochures as agreed, ...) went up.

Thus call centers as such got a bad image. But I think it's part of the learning curve anyway, and under normal circumstances after a couple of years these problems will disappear.

The next thing is outsourcing. While internal call centers have more peer pressure not only to make the service levels defined, but also work in the "best interest of the company", service level agreements and service pricing with outsourcers sometimes doesn't set the right incentives. To define services correctly and set the right incentives is also a management issue for the company outsourcing work. They'll get what they pay for. If you pay per call, you'll get shorter calls, but probably unhappy customers calling over and over again. If you pay per minute, you'll get longer calls, but will you get better service? Most contracts lack real cooperation and common goals. In a cooperation you could define "reduction of calls per year and per 1,000 customers" as an incentivised goal. Again I think management is the problem.

If you go offshore, some of the general things you expect as given might not be there, if you dont ask for. Look at the VAT example before. But in the end, it's again a management issue to define, what you want. I think it's a question of organisational maturity - the reasons why to offshore make it a strong business case. But you have to go through a hype, then a valley before companies really get the benefits. But companies, who start learning early, will definately be the winners in the end because of their learning curve.

From decentral service reps to call centers to outsourced call centers to offshore outsourced call centers you will get new areas, where you cannot expect things as given as before. Not to go this way is definatly not the answer, when competition is tough.

The answer is better management, which sets the right service levels and incentives. (And you should select the right outsourcing partner, which wants to really cooperate with you.)

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08th Dec 2003 11:50

Victor,

Victor,
Thanks for your comments. Stuart's wire has generated a lot of interest and comment from our global membership. We have a vast information resource related to offshore and onshore call centres which you can access through the knowledge store. If you check the links in the email newsletter under "related resources" to the right of the lead article you can access our selection of this detailed content. If this doesn't hit the mark let me know what you are looking for by adding another comment to this piece. I've started a discussion here (Are offshore call centres good for business?) if you would like to learn about more about what the members think of offshore call centres

Kind Regards

Jeremy Brown
Customer Management Director
InsightExec

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By admin
04th Dec 2003 22:53

Hi,
Is it fair the label the entire call center industry by just by a few experiences? Like any industry in Call center industry has a few good players and a few bad players. I don't think its fair the label that the entire pond is dirty just because you get a bad fish.
I have seen independent verifications companies such as HyperQuality (www.HyperQuality.com) give India call centers a higher rating than their western counterparts.
What’s important for British companies to realize there are good and bad players in the market and be careful in their vendor selection.
I have such project move successfully over a period of time and they have surpassed the clients’ expectations (in fact their clients swear by them). Its sad to say "No jewel in anyone's crown".
We have statically valid results to prove that the quality of "good" Indian call center supercedes anyone’s exceptions.
Let us not let our emotions overrule our decision capacity.
Sandip
www.callcentersindia.com

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avatar
04th Dec 2003 22:48

In my last job as CRM Manager for a large software vendor, I'd get at least one call a fortnight from an irate customer who'd say "I want to speak to an Australian!". The parent company had chosen to save [several million US$] by centralising the call centres in SE Asia (not India), Costa Rica and Scotland. Those decisions are not made lightly - what's the "cost" of upsetting shareholders this quarter versus upsetting a small number of customers over a longer time frame?

I suspect that technical support lends itself better to BPO in Asia than does customer service for customers with strong, regional accents. I have seen on TV how the Indians make their CSAs watch The Bill (and similar shows with a mix of accents), but we all know that nothing beats having local support.

I have met some Indian BPO brokers and they tell me that some US companies ask for rates as low as $1-$5/hour all-up -- they get what they pay for.

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By admin
19th Dec 2003 01:04

This article should come as no surprise to many people in this country. I have a neighbour who has personally reported receiving as many as seven cold calls from such companies in one day whilst she remained at home to wait for a plumber to call and fix a leak in her hot water cistern.

(The plumber himself took several days to raise and at finish only came out when he did because she rang and threatened to take her custom elsewhere.)

I have been pestered at home by people who ask for me by name and then proceed to try and sell me things when all I want is to relax after a hard day. I have been polite but firm and I have been rude.

Ultimately I have abandoned my landline altogether save for internet use.

The truth of the matter is that the lack of investment in companies in the UK has reached such a dramatic level of decline that the self-employed skilled workforce has us over a barrel and the rest of us are swimming about trying to cling onto the driftwood in their wake.

So long as government continues to reward fat cats for doing nothing more than protecting their share prices this kind of outsourcing will continue and no home telephone line will be safe from it.

Nuisance calls based in this country & Europe can be easily halted using call-barring facilities but such tactics are useless against calls from outside the EU, possibly another reason why they are so popular with less scrupulous companies.

I would suggest that you write to your MP and to Central Government and tell them that you intend to withdraw your support from any business or telephone company that fails to take action against poor service and unwarranted intrusion into your private life, and furthermore that you have no intention of supporting a political party that refuses to tackle the situation.

The tide of public opinion is turning. Government and Businesses would be well advised to take heed.

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By admin
04th Dec 2003 18:51

After decades of preaching free-trade, it seems surprising why developed countries are finding it hard to believe their cost structures are not conducive to tough economic conditions, and that the developing countries have a competitive advantage in the knowledge age.

To say that companies utilizing outsourcing are 'greedy' is laughable indeed. And so is the contention that lowering costs equals lowering the value you place on your customers. There are hundreds of thousands of documented instances where customer service in UK, US, Canada, or any other developed country has been pathetic, to say the least.

One can gloss over ground realities in favor of sweeping generalizations, but one thing is clear - countries like UK and US are increasingly adopting protectionist measures in order to safeguard their home turf. But they do not realize nothing can stem this tide. If China is the manufacturing center of the world today, countries like India will be the hub for Knowledge workers, and Business Process Outsourcing in the times to come. If someone believes this can be stopped, please seek professional help!

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By admin
04th Dec 2003 19:21

It is also worth mentioning that India call-centers replace those £3.5 per hour customer service specialists in the UK. Which is a laugh if you compare with lip-service about customer focus. As the name of the game is to get cost down India is the next logical step. And quality does not matter.
The true question is whether quality in customer service pays at all? And if so, why nobody bothers to achieve customer satisfaction at call centers? If it was really important few companies would dare to outsource its key competive advantage.

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By admin
05th Dec 2003 10:04

The comment by Jakub says it all. To some companies service does not matter one cent (or rupee).
The imperative seems to be "get the calls answered at the lowest price and damn[***] the customer".
My own experience with offshore call centres is poor. (BT charging premium rates to speak with a poorly trained agent whose intent seemed to be make the call last as long as possible without giving answers).

It doesn't matter to me one jot where the centre is located as long as my needs as a customer are serviced.

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By admin
05th Dec 2003 09:05

The author is mixing and comparing poor training with poor customer service. Customer service is about attitude and if he thinks the general attitude to service in the UK is anything to applaud he needs a reality check. I can tolerate staff who are poorly trained or poorly informed as long as they show a desire to help me. What I can't abide is the service person who doesn't want to be there. Either start paying service personnel a wage that attracts the type of person you want to be talking to your customers, or suffer the consequences of a poor service reputation.

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By admin
05th Dec 2003 04:11

The issue in this note are two
1. Job loss - Yes there will be job losses in UK. Did someone raised a hue and cry in UK for job losses in US when call centres moved to Scotland?
2. Poor customer service. Is author claiming that there is no poor service in UK? Over a perioid of time the service is bound to improve in the company that author is referring to.

If there are problems why is this wave catching up?
a. Stakeholder value. If my company can save UKP 30 million by cost cutting. And if P/E for my company is 15. The market capitalisation of my company goes up by staggering UKP 450 million. Tell me which CEO will not like to increase the stakeholder's value?

b. This wave is inevitable. This is akin to Japanses Car manufacturers entry into US. It did not kill the car industry in US it improved it. It gave better choice to the consumers.

There would be teething problems on the way but if UK does not outsource these jobs the cost structure will make UK products more expensive and UK may loose to its competitors across Atlantic and in Asia.

Like every change this change will be painful for some but good for UK as a nation.

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By admin
05th Dec 2003 01:01

Working for a company that looks into developing insource/outsource capabilities for other companies, it is interesting to read the contents of this article and the rejoinders from some of my fellow members. In general, companies that are looking to outsource key functions such as Customer Service or any other customer-facing operations is one that hasn't figured out how to grow their own business and is relying on cost savings to boost their bottom line. As anyone can tell you, this is a very short term strategy. The implications on customer satisfaction/loyalty is generally detrimental. Based upon the general agreement that repeat customers contribute more towards a company's bottomline, does this not make you wonder what the company's strategy is? Furthermore, companies tend to think they can shave off 50% of costs by outsourcing without investing the necessary time and money to train the partner properly. In helping our customers look for outsource partners we sometimes do come across ridiculous prices being bandied about and generally try to give them a more realistic TCO and ROI without impact to operations. In an effective outsourcing strategy, a phased approach is definitely preferable, and if customer service is to be outsourced, it would make more sense to adopt a follow-the-sun approach and set up a call centre in the US, Europe and Asia to cater to the respective time-zones.

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avatar
05th Dec 2003 11:12

The subject of offshore outsourcing of customer service processes is both of global interest and of national importance. I would like to run an online debate with our members about this topic. Please contact me if you would like to take part either speaking in support of offshore outsourcing or against it. Also mail me if you would like to attend the online/phone debate. My email address is on this page http://crm.insightexec.com/help/contact.html (its encoded to prevent spidering!)

Jeremy Brown
Customer Management Director
InsightExec

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avatar
By admin
05th Dec 2003 10:47

I also had a bad experience with an Indian call centre. I ordered an item from the Franklin Mint in July this year and I have just received it. I had to make many calls to the call centre to chase up the delivery of my item. There was always an excuse as to why it had not been despatched. Iwas told that there was a problem with my credit card, they had not taken the number down correctly. I was told that I had to pay a deposit, I had already given them my credit card details telling them that I wanted to pay in full. I was told that there was a problem with the delivery address but I had just received a catalogue with the same address on it. After lots of calls I agreed with the supervisor that the post and package charges be waived. This she agreed to do and I was told that the item, as on each occasion, would be despatched within 10 to 14 days. Needless to say this did not happen and when I called again I was told that I had only paid for the item and not the post & package. I was then offered a £10 vocher that could be used against any further purchase from them. I assured them that I would never purchase anything from them in the future. Again they apologised and said that it would be despatched but it wasn't. All this time nothing had shown up on my credit card statement. Eventually I received a letter from a London address saying that my order was ready for despatch and that I was to complete and return a payment slip with my credit card details for the cost of the item plus the post and package and the order would be despatched. That very same day I received my credit card statement which showed an entry for the item, thankfully minus the post and package cost. I ignored the letter only to receive a reminder a couple of weeks later. In the meantime I managed to send an e-mail to a contact in the US. I also wrote to the address in London. Eventually the item arrived but on the package was an invoice with the amount I had to pay. Of course I have ignored this invoice.
The operators at the call centre are very polite but I don't feel that they really understand what they are doing and don't appreciate the ways of the west. It really concerns me that more and more British jobs are being lost to the Indian call centres. The government seem to be readily accepting this trend which I think is a disgrace. I even rang 118 118 and was I am sure put through to an Indian call centre and now Norwich Union are to move 30,000 jobs to India. This can not be good for the country.

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By admin
05th Dec 2003 11:42

Regarding the charge towards moving call centre jobs offshore, it's been done with the same foresight, planning and intelligence that lead to the charge at Balaclava.

Research sponsored by one of the clearing banks revealed that one disgruntled customer can disaffect up to 16 others. Why then the lack of attention to customer service? Because the same customers perceive that there is a uniformity of bad service, so why undergo the pain of moving accounts. Maybe for reasons of social responsibility customers will now become more promiscuous.

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avatar
By admin
05th Dec 2003 10:47

I also had a bad experience with an Indian call centre. I ordered an item from the Franklin Mint in July this year and I have just received it. I had to make many calls to the call centre to chase up the delivery of my item. There was always an excuse as to why it had not been despatched. Iwas told that there was a problem with my credit card, they had not taken the number down correctly. I was told that I had to pay a deposit, I had already given them my credit card details telling them that I wanted to pay in full. I was told that there was a problem with the delivery address but I had just received a catalogue with the same address on it. After lots of calls I agreed with the supervisor that the post and package charges be waived. This she agreed to do and I was told that the item, as on each occasion, would be despatched within 10 to 14 days. Needless to say this did not happen and when I called again I was told that I had only paid for the item and not the post & package. I was then offered a £10 vocher that could be used against any further purchase from them. I assured them that I would never purchase anything from them in the future. Again they apologised and said that it would be despatched but it wasn't. All this time nothing had shown up on my credit card statement. Eventually I received a letter from a London address saying that my order was ready for despatch and that I was to complete and return a payment slip with my credit card details for the cost of the item plus the post and package and the order would be despatched. That very same day I received my credit card statement which showed an entry for the item, thankfully minus the post and package cost. I ignored the letter only to receive a reminder a couple of weeks later. In the meantime I managed to send an e-mail to a contact in the US. I also wrote to the address in London. Eventually the item arrived but on the package was an invoice with the amount I had to pay. Of course I have ignored this invoice.
The operators at the call centre are very polite but I don't feel that they really understand what they are doing and don't appreciate the ways of the west. It really concerns me that more and more British jobs are being lost to the Indian call centres. The government seem to be readily accepting this trend which I think is a disgrace. I even rang 118 118 and was I am sure put through to an Indian call centre and now Norwich Union are to move 30,000 jobs to India. This can not be good for the country.

Thanks (0)
avatar
05th Dec 2003 11:12

The subject of offshore outsourcing of customer service processes is both of global interest and of national importance. I would like to run an online debate with our members about this topic. Please contact me if you would like to take part either speaking in support of offshore outsourcing or against it. Also mail me if you would like to attend the online/phone debate. My email address is on this page http://crm.insightexec.com/help/contact.html (its encoded to prevent spidering!)

Jeremy Brown
Customer Management Director
InsightExec

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
05th Dec 2003 11:42

Regarding the charge towards moving call centre jobs offshore, it's been done with the same foresight, planning and intelligence that lead to the charge at Balaclava.

Research sponsored by one of the clearing banks revealed that one disgruntled customer can disaffect up to 16 others. Why then the lack of attention to customer service? Because the same customers perceive that there is a uniformity of bad service, so why undergo the pain of moving accounts. Maybe for reasons of social responsibility customers will now become more promiscuous.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
04th Dec 2003 18:51

After decades of preaching free-trade, it seems surprising why developed countries are finding it hard to believe their cost structures are not conducive to tough economic conditions, and that the developing countries have a competitive advantage in the knowledge age.

To say that companies utilizing outsourcing are 'greedy' is laughable indeed. And so is the contention that lowering costs equals lowering the value you place on your customers. There are hundreds of thousands of documented instances where customer service in UK, US, Canada, or any other developed country has been pathetic, to say the least.

One can gloss over ground realities in favor of sweeping generalizations, but one thing is clear - countries like UK and US are increasingly adopting protectionist measures in order to safeguard their home turf. But they do not realize nothing can stem this tide. If China is the manufacturing center of the world today, countries like India will be the hub for Knowledge workers, and Business Process Outsourcing in the times to come. If someone believes this can be stopped, please seek professional help!

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
05th Dec 2003 04:11

The issue in this note are two
1. Job loss - Yes there will be job losses in UK. Did someone raised a hue and cry in UK for job losses in US when call centres moved to Scotland?
2. Poor customer service. Is author claiming that there is no poor service in UK? Over a perioid of time the service is bound to improve in the company that author is referring to.

If there are problems why is this wave catching up?
a. Stakeholder value. If my company can save UKP 30 million by cost cutting. And if P/E for my company is 15. The market capitalisation of my company goes up by staggering UKP 450 million. Tell me which CEO will not like to increase the stakeholder's value?

b. This wave is inevitable. This is akin to Japanses Car manufacturers entry into US. It did not kill the car industry in US it improved it. It gave better choice to the consumers.

There would be teething problems on the way but if UK does not outsource these jobs the cost structure will make UK products more expensive and UK may loose to its competitors across Atlantic and in Asia.

Like every change this change will be painful for some but good for UK as a nation.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
05th Dec 2003 09:05

The author is mixing and comparing poor training with poor customer service. Customer service is about attitude and if he thinks the general attitude to service in the UK is anything to applaud he needs a reality check. I can tolerate staff who are poorly trained or poorly informed as long as they show a desire to help me. What I can't abide is the service person who doesn't want to be there. Either start paying service personnel a wage that attracts the type of person you want to be talking to your customers, or suffer the consequences of a poor service reputation.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
05th Dec 2003 10:04

The comment by Jakub says it all. To some companies service does not matter one cent (or rupee).
The imperative seems to be "get the calls answered at the lowest price and damn[***] the customer".
My own experience with offshore call centres is poor. (BT charging premium rates to speak with a poorly trained agent whose intent seemed to be make the call last as long as possible without giving answers).

It doesn't matter to me one jot where the centre is located as long as my needs as a customer are serviced.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
04th Dec 2003 19:21

It is also worth mentioning that India call-centers replace those £3.5 per hour customer service specialists in the UK. Which is a laugh if you compare with lip-service about customer focus. As the name of the game is to get cost down India is the next logical step. And quality does not matter.
The true question is whether quality in customer service pays at all? And if so, why nobody bothers to achieve customer satisfaction at call centers? If it was really important few companies would dare to outsource its key competive advantage.

Thanks (0)
avatar
04th Dec 2003 22:48

In my last job as CRM Manager for a large software vendor, I'd get at least one call a fortnight from an irate customer who'd say "I want to speak to an Australian!". The parent company had chosen to save [several million US$] by centralising the call centres in SE Asia (not India), Costa Rica and Scotland. Those decisions are not made lightly - what's the "cost" of upsetting shareholders this quarter versus upsetting a small number of customers over a longer time frame?

I suspect that technical support lends itself better to BPO in Asia than does customer service for customers with strong, regional accents. I have seen on TV how the Indians make their CSAs watch The Bill (and similar shows with a mix of accents), but we all know that nothing beats having local support.

I have met some Indian BPO brokers and they tell me that some US companies ask for rates as low as $1-$5/hour all-up -- they get what they pay for.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
04th Dec 2003 22:53

Hi,
Is it fair the label the entire call center industry by just by a few experiences? Like any industry in Call center industry has a few good players and a few bad players. I don't think its fair the label that the entire pond is dirty just because you get a bad fish.
I have seen independent verifications companies such as HyperQuality (www.HyperQuality.com) give India call centers a higher rating than their western counterparts.
What’s important for British companies to realize there are good and bad players in the market and be careful in their vendor selection.
I have such project move successfully over a period of time and they have surpassed the clients’ expectations (in fact their clients swear by them). Its sad to say "No jewel in anyone's crown".
We have statically valid results to prove that the quality of "good" Indian call center supercedes anyone’s exceptions.
Let us not let our emotions overrule our decision capacity.
Sandip
www.callcentersindia.com

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
05th Dec 2003 01:01

Working for a company that looks into developing insource/outsource capabilities for other companies, it is interesting to read the contents of this article and the rejoinders from some of my fellow members. In general, companies that are looking to outsource key functions such as Customer Service or any other customer-facing operations is one that hasn't figured out how to grow their own business and is relying on cost savings to boost their bottom line. As anyone can tell you, this is a very short term strategy. The implications on customer satisfaction/loyalty is generally detrimental. Based upon the general agreement that repeat customers contribute more towards a company's bottomline, does this not make you wonder what the company's strategy is? Furthermore, companies tend to think they can shave off 50% of costs by outsourcing without investing the necessary time and money to train the partner properly. In helping our customers look for outsource partners we sometimes do come across ridiculous prices being bandied about and generally try to give them a more realistic TCO and ROI without impact to operations. In an effective outsourcing strategy, a phased approach is definitely preferable, and if customer service is to be outsourced, it would make more sense to adopt a follow-the-sun approach and set up a call centre in the US, Europe and Asia to cater to the respective time-zones.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
05th Dec 2003 20:52

One only has to review recent headlines to know the lever for this exodus is plainly rooted in economics and politics. With routine tax increases and employers costs now connected directly to the size of their workforce, like the increase in National Insurance, there is absolutely no incentive for companies to remain loyal to the UK.

More recently, the European Courts have determined the UK must comply with all elements of the EU treaty - particularly with its treatment of tax. This is effectively backdoor tax harmonisation which means more red tape, more cost, more tax for UK business. Not less. Part of the reason why France and Germany are economic basket cases is due to labour markert inflexiblity and high employment taxes. Our government appears hell[***] bent on making the UK into a good European which means we are destined for the same degree of economic grief.

So it might be a better to look at the underlying issues before leveling abuse at companies trying to make the best of a bad situation for their owners...capital will always find a way of protecting itself from systemic abuse.

Thanks (0)
avatar
08th Dec 2003 11:50

Victor,

Victor,
Thanks for your comments. Stuart's wire has generated a lot of interest and comment from our global membership. We have a vast information resource related to offshore and onshore call centres which you can access through the knowledge store. If you check the links in the email newsletter under "related resources" to the right of the lead article you can access our selection of this detailed content. If this doesn't hit the mark let me know what you are looking for by adding another comment to this piece. I've started a discussion here (Are offshore call centres good for business?) if you would like to learn about more about what the members think of offshore call centres

Kind Regards

Jeremy Brown
Customer Management Director
InsightExec

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By admin
19th Dec 2003 01:04

This article should come as no surprise to many people in this country. I have a neighbour who has personally reported receiving as many as seven cold calls from such companies in one day whilst she remained at home to wait for a plumber to call and fix a leak in her hot water cistern.

(The plumber himself took several days to raise and at finish only came out when he did because she rang and threatened to take her custom elsewhere.)

I have been pestered at home by people who ask for me by name and then proceed to try and sell me things when all I want is to relax after a hard day. I have been polite but firm and I have been rude.

Ultimately I have abandoned my landline altogether save for internet use.

The truth of the matter is that the lack of investment in companies in the UK has reached such a dramatic level of decline that the self-employed skilled workforce has us over a barrel and the rest of us are swimming about trying to cling onto the driftwood in their wake.

So long as government continues to reward fat cats for doing nothing more than protecting their share prices this kind of outsourcing will continue and no home telephone line will be safe from it.

Nuisance calls based in this country & Europe can be easily halted using call-barring facilities but such tactics are useless against calls from outside the EU, possibly another reason why they are so popular with less scrupulous companies.

I would suggest that you write to your MP and to Central Government and tell them that you intend to withdraw your support from any business or telephone company that fails to take action against poor service and unwarranted intrusion into your private life, and furthermore that you have no intention of supporting a political party that refuses to tackle the situation.

The tide of public opinion is turning. Government and Businesses would be well advised to take heed.

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By admin
08th Dec 2003 10:45

Just read your article "No Jewel" etc and I felt the urgent need to ask a question. What was the point? I read nothing which gave me any new information, you offered no solution, tentative or otherwise and I really don't see any point in re-hashing "old news". The tabloids are filled with writers(?)repeating old tales, lots of which by dint of repetition become self fulfilling prophecies. Use of a Forum such as this should surely generate more succint comment, followed by
suggested courses of remedial action or am I in the wrong place?

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08th Jan 2004 19:17

Hi,

I think the whole quality problem is about "outsourcing", not "offshore outsourcing" - and it's about "management" as such.

When companies consolidated their service from a local to a centralised - call center - environment, a lot of issues came up: motivational, process knowledge (new processes), customer insight/ knowledge (which was in the heads of the service reps before like "Mrs. X always complains, but don't give her a discount"),incentives/ career path, etc. Most of the issues I saw at several utilities clients had an origin of changed or more management capabilities, which were not implemented.

Service levels were bad also before the call center age, but no-one knew, as this information was not available. And customers didn't complain, as they often had a personal "relationship" with the service rep. With a call center in place, their expectations on basic services (answering the phone, sending brochures as agreed, ...) went up.

Thus call centers as such got a bad image. But I think it's part of the learning curve anyway, and under normal circumstances after a couple of years these problems will disappear.

The next thing is outsourcing. While internal call centers have more peer pressure not only to make the service levels defined, but also work in the "best interest of the company", service level agreements and service pricing with outsourcers sometimes doesn't set the right incentives. To define services correctly and set the right incentives is also a management issue for the company outsourcing work. They'll get what they pay for. If you pay per call, you'll get shorter calls, but probably unhappy customers calling over and over again. If you pay per minute, you'll get longer calls, but will you get better service? Most contracts lack real cooperation and common goals. In a cooperation you could define "reduction of calls per year and per 1,000 customers" as an incentivised goal. Again I think management is the problem.

If you go offshore, some of the general things you expect as given might not be there, if you dont ask for. Look at the VAT example before. But in the end, it's again a management issue to define, what you want. I think it's a question of organisational maturity - the reasons why to offshore make it a strong business case. But you have to go through a hype, then a valley before companies really get the benefits. But companies, who start learning early, will definately be the winners in the end because of their learning curve.

From decentral service reps to call centers to outsourced call centers to offshore outsourced call centers you will get new areas, where you cannot expect things as given as before. Not to go this way is definatly not the answer, when competition is tough.

The answer is better management, which sets the right service levels and incentives. (And you should select the right outsourcing partner, which wants to really cooperate with you.)

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12th Jan 2004 23:29

Local Government in our region has recently created chaos by pursuing its blinkered goal of having a Call Centre in place within X number of months.

Councillors have claimed until they are blue that public opinion was sought and heeded, but the upshot of it is that they rushed a plan into being in order to fulfil impossible Government targets. In doing so, they are managing to alienate their existing workforce and mightily brass-off their customer base (which, I might add, cannot exactly go elsewhere for its services) by employing managers with no idea of how to run such a vast industrial workforce and paying them huge sums for the priviledge of messing things up.

All of this chaos is down to bad management. All of which, the rate-payers of the borough are paying for. I think that they, the public, (and I include myself in that demographic) would be a little bit sharp-tongued in response to the previous comment about learning curves and improvement.

This system should have been tested and double tested before implementation. Right now, capable employees are leaving Local Government employment in their droves after finding their new working circumstances impossible to tolerate. After a couple of years the whole scheme will be abandoned in favour of some new Pet Government Scheme. It is an abominable waste of the tax-payers' money.

Surely any businessman knows that before you implement such vast changes in how your business is run, you make sure that it works like the proverbial Swiss Clock. Anything else is a waste of time and resources.


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