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UK call centres outperform India

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14th Jan 2004
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New research suggests that performance from UK call centres is significantly better than from Indian counterparts but is that likely to be enough to stem the tide of UK companies opting for the offshore route?

The research carried out by ContactBabel on behalf of the DTI found that UK workers answered 25 per cent more calls than Indian staff and resolved 17 per cent more queries first time. While Indian workers answer the phones more quickly, researchers found their calls last longer, possibly because of language or cultural difficulties.

Moreover staff turnover at Indian call centres is worse than at UK operations, with Indian graduates only willing to stay in a job for an average of 11 months, compared with three years in the UK.

But the report also revealed that overseas call centres are cheaper to run as Indian workers are paid less than 12 percent of a typical salary of their UK counterparts. The report said the average starting salary for a worker in India is just £1,500 a year, compared with £13,000 a year in the UK.

Steve Morrell, author of the report, said the difference was a "shock", especially as Indian staff typically worked six hours a week longer than those in Britain. "Indian agents are very quick to pick up the phone but it takes them more than a minute longer to complete each call and more than a third of customers have to call back later to get a satisfactory resolution to their inquiry. This can be extremely frustrating,” he said.

Morrell added that the decision to move offshore was typically cost-driven more than anything else. "These figures show what we all knew anyway - businesses moving their call centres to India are doing it to save their salary bill, not to improve their quality of service, regardless of what they say," he claimed, but added that it potentially a false economy. "It's hard to ignore salary savings like these, but if customers get a worse service and end up going to a competitor with a call centre in the UK, then these cost savings will soon disappear."

Trade union Amicus leapt upon the survey results to demand that DTI minister Patricia Hewitt - who has openly praised offshore outsourcing and claimed that the exodus of jobs actually benefits the UK economy - investigates further the results of her own department’s survery.

"We already know the answer to any survey that the government has commissioned and so do the British consumers," said David Fleming, the national secretary of Amicus. "Services will suffer, cost savings will not be transferred to the consumer, poor business decisions will be made in pursuit of short-term cost savings and company brands will be damaged by outsourcing."

But the ContactBabel report comes only days after another government sponsored study from the Health and Safety Executive which found that low wages, poor working conditions and repetitive tasks were common in UK call centres. Workers in telecoms and IT call centres showed the poorest job satisfaction and highest levels of depression.

"People felt very depressed and demoralised," said Christine Sprigg, the report's author. "Not all call centres are 'satanic mills'. Some do merit that description, but the best do not. The task facing organisations that use call centres is to match their aspirations for high service for their customers with high quality of working for their staff."

Nevertheless the UK’s biggest building society Nationwide has pledged to stay in Britain and back this up with plans for a new centre in Sheffield. The Society says it will open a new call centre in Sheffield in the Summer, initially employing around 60 people but with plans to expand to 180 over the following three years. It is also completing a major refurbishment of existing centres in Swindon and Northampton, where 775 employees currently field an average 18,500 customer contacts a day.Approximately 20% of all Nationwide sales are made through the Society's call centres

Philip Williamson, Nationwide's chief executive, said: "Call centres abroad may suit some of our competitors but they are not the right option for Nationwide and we are aware of some commentators concerns that some countries may not have the same level of data protection for consumers that exists in the UK."

His comments were met with approval by unions. Tim Poil, general secretary of the Nationwide Group Staff Union said "With so much media focus on financial services providers switching jobs away from the UK, this news will remove any fears that our members may have had about their own job security."

Replies (13)

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By admin
19th Jan 2004 07:51

Regarding the viewpoint "if customers get a worse service and end up going to a competitor with a call centre in the UK, then these cost savings will soon disappear."

In my view point a call center is a support service and customers are not going to leave if they have to talk a minute extra over telephone.

On the other side the arguement, one by third of the custmores has to call again for satisfactory information does not mean that the quality of the information given by the call center is low. It could be that the customer has not understood his or her problem very well before making the call.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
28th Jan 2004 15:29

In response to the story on Call Centres, as a consumer who has quite often been connected to a call centre, I have on 90% of these occassions, been frustrated with the broken English and understanding of my needs, which I myself am fully aware of, unlike Tony Jones comment regarding customers who don't really know what their problems are before making the call. I know I am not alone in this frustrated state of affairs as many family, friends and colleagues scream the same frustrations, particularly with the cold calling outsourced Cost Centres who appear not to have picked an understanding for the phrase "No Thankyou". I would love to see a list of companies who have outsourced their call centres so that I know who to avoid!

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
25th Feb 2004 10:39

Sorry for missing out few points last time in a hurry.
Personally I have been calling customer services of mobile service providers/others here in UK. Some of the people are helpful and intelligent enough to understand the problem. Some of them are really frustrating as they do not seem to look up to right data before informing you. For example, 'It will be done tomorrow Sir' sometime does not get done even next week!!
This does not have to do anything with India/UK. It is about personnel. As far as english accent is concerned, not all here speak correct and clear english. This can be a debatable issue though!!
But this a fact that most of the people should agree.
Finally speaking, companies should be careful while recruiting people, be it offshore or in UK.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
01st Mar 2004 12:42

I dialled a tollfree number to call a technician to troubleshoot my computer. To my surprise the Call landed in lndia and the technician is very kind enough to get the info about the PC and resolved the issue in 15 minutes.Though they speak little slower in neutral accent they were able to understand my issue and finally resolved it.I am satisfied with the service.
I don't think outsourcing should be made a big issue as long as we are comfortable over phone. I rate their service better than the one that's exist in the US!

mike

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
01st Mar 2004 12:50

Do we need to Outsource? Are we that bad in finance. Hey, we ruled the world!!!

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
25th Feb 2004 10:32

This statement would be easier to digect with a proper statiscs. Also, a brief overview of how this percentage was calculated, would have given a better idea about the process that has been followed. Arriving at any percentage is totally unacceptable, unless supported by proper data and methodology. This leaves scope for biased comments rather than proper 'studies'.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
14th Jun 2004 06:42

It is my own experience that indian executives are more friendly, professional and respecful than in our country.They accept their ignorance before esclating to their higher authorities than just bluffing without knowing the gravity of the problem as done in US or for that matter in Uk(my nation).

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
28th Jan 2004 15:29

In response to the story on Call Centres, as a consumer who has quite often been connected to a call centre, I have on 90% of these occassions, been frustrated with the broken English and understanding of my needs, which I myself am fully aware of, unlike Tony Jones comment regarding customers who don't really know what their problems are before making the call. I know I am not alone in this frustrated state of affairs as many family, friends and colleagues scream the same frustrations, particularly with the cold calling outsourced Cost Centres who appear not to have picked an understanding for the phrase "No Thankyou". I would love to see a list of companies who have outsourced their call centres so that I know who to avoid!

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
25th Feb 2004 10:32

This statement would be easier to digect with a proper statiscs. Also, a brief overview of how this percentage was calculated, would have given a better idea about the process that has been followed. Arriving at any percentage is totally unacceptable, unless supported by proper data and methodology. This leaves scope for biased comments rather than proper 'studies'.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
25th Feb 2004 10:39

Sorry for missing out few points last time in a hurry.
Personally I have been calling customer services of mobile service providers/others here in UK. Some of the people are helpful and intelligent enough to understand the problem. Some of them are really frustrating as they do not seem to look up to right data before informing you. For example, 'It will be done tomorrow Sir' sometime does not get done even next week!!
This does not have to do anything with India/UK. It is about personnel. As far as english accent is concerned, not all here speak correct and clear english. This can be a debatable issue though!!
But this a fact that most of the people should agree.
Finally speaking, companies should be careful while recruiting people, be it offshore or in UK.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
01st Mar 2004 12:50

Do we need to Outsource? Are we that bad in finance. Hey, we ruled the world!!!

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
01st Mar 2004 12:42

I dialled a tollfree number to call a technician to troubleshoot my computer. To my surprise the Call landed in lndia and the technician is very kind enough to get the info about the PC and resolved the issue in 15 minutes.Though they speak little slower in neutral accent they were able to understand my issue and finally resolved it.I am satisfied with the service.
I don't think outsourcing should be made a big issue as long as we are comfortable over phone. I rate their service better than the one that's exist in the US!

mike

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
14th Jun 2004 06:42

It is my own experience that indian executives are more friendly, professional and respecful than in our country.They accept their ignorance before esclating to their higher authorities than just bluffing without knowing the gravity of the problem as done in US or for that matter in Uk(my nation).

Thanks (0)