Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Call Centre Growth in India Faltering – The Beginning of the End for Outsourced Contact?

According to new research the call centre industry in India, from a position of prominence is now faltering in the wake of companies wishing to move their operations back to the UK and to countries in South East Asia.

The reasons behind this stalling are multiple. As always customer difficulties with the Indian accent have been presented, despite extensive ‘neutral accent training’ at Indian call centres. Adding to the problems for Indian call centres however is the decreasing kudos of call centre jobs within India and the result of rising living costs in cities such as Mumbai and Delhi.

There are now an increasing number of companies bringing their call centre operations back to native shores. One is Santander, the Spanish owned bank which now has a contact centre within the UK; another is Aviva, which has moved part of their operation to Norwich.

These developments can be seen as part of a wider u-turn made by many companies who originally outsourced to India and other off-shore centres primarily to save money. At the time their perception was that customer service and experience levels would be maintained but in many cases that proved not to be the case.

The resulting customer frustration has often arisen because of the inability of off-shore agents to converse with customers ‘naturally.’ Cultural differences, language barriers and rigid, scripted call structures have all led to a general feeling of dissatisfaction amongst UK consumers. Eventually this reflected poorly on the brands which jumped on the off-shoring bandwagon.

Recently however this bandwagon is faltering and both Aviva and Santander form part of a growing trend for “on-shoring,” or bringing call centres back to the UK. This trend actually began some time ago with a number of brands now using the fact they are returning as both a USP and a positive PR story.

Rather than the spin associated with this PR however, the real reason why such companies are coming back to the UK is that they have finally realised hanging on to customers during tough economic times is as important as cutting costs. Providing a good customer experience is now a priority ... something which in many cases was not paramount in the off-shore model.

Is it the beginning of the end for off-shore call centres? Perhaps in the Indian example it may be, although ultimately it is the realisation that a good customer experience is the most economically viable way to retain customers which will signal the death knell for off-shoring.

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