March 8, 2007 6:18 AM PST

Indian offshore call centers 'not doomed'

Offshore call centers are expected to continue growing, despite the fact that some companies are bringing their customer care services back home.

Last week, Lloyds TSB became the latest British company to decide to reduce its use of Indian call centers. But earlier this week, Barclaycard announced that it is moving more work to Mumbai, and Datamonitor contact center outsourcing analyst Peter Ryan said it is shortsighted to predict the end of customer service outsourcing.

Investment in offshore markets will continue for some time, as companies attempt to capitalize on lower costs and high-quality client care, Ryan said, predicting that more industries "than ever before" will be looking to adopt outsourced customer services.

This year "will be one of the most challenging in contact center outsourcing's history," Ryan said.

Ryan said, however, that call center operations will have to invest in Web-chat, SMS and e-mail technologies if they want to attract new customers. They also must offer systems tailored to specific vertically integrated industries, he said.

Companies will be looking for suppliers that can satisfy demand from multiple contact channels rather than just voice, he added.

Datamonitor predicts that outsourcers will start to focus on higher-value services--such as business-to-employee care and technical support--that are likely to lead to higher revenues and profits over the long term.

Steve Ranger of Silicon.com reported from London.

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10 comments

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Low cost - Yes. High quality - No.
I won't deny that the economics of outsourced call centers are attractive. That falls in line with the goal of the corporation to maximize wealth for the shareholder. But for the rest of us, the real people who have to actually [i]deal[/i] with technical support representatives in India and the like, the experience is borderline unbearable. I have never met anyone who enjoyed talking to outsourced tech support, nor did they feel that they were truly receiving any help worthy of what they paid for. It's a classic case of upper management being severely disconnected with the needs of the customer.
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
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I have had some quality help
I have had some quality help from and Indian call centers, but I
have also had some bad experiences. Same with domestic call
centers, neither are all good or bad.
Posted by Lee in San Diego (608 comments )
Link Flag
Quality? Where?
I would love to see a video of this Peter Ryan guy saying "Investment in offshore markets will continue for some time as companies attempt to capitalize on lower costs and high-quality client care..." to see if he was actually able to make that statement while keeping a straight face. High-quality client care. That's too funny.
Posted by Xtolyrexes (4 comments )
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Quality in recruitment
Indian Call Centers dont suck, if and when people are properly recruited and properly trained. But the whole "fast pace" fast buck attitude of some BPO and flooding of Indian market with Call-Centers have led to the scarcity of the few qualified to pursue better oppurtunities, which led to drastic fall in quality among recruited people.

I dont think all Call-centers are going to comeback, but it is mere adjustment after "bull-run", which is essential.
Posted by YankeePoodle (785 comments )
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so glad corps don't care about service
I find it extremely insulting when I call a company that I have already paid hundreds of dollars to for software or equipment and find I have to deal with someone who cannot speak the native language of the company's homeland. One time when calling Microsoft I actually had to talk to someone who identified himself, in a thick Indian accent, as Bill. Bill knew so little about the problem and had me do so many wrong things to my computer that I wound up having to reinstall the OS.
Posted by screamforme (2 comments )
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you may want to correct it to Homeland of the Customer
Dont sell me "Company's Homeland" and Lingua Franca stuff. According to your theory Nokia should provide excellent finnish support but can let go English calls. When would English speaking people realize that Non-English speakers also create stuff in the world :P.
Posted by YankeePoodle (785 comments )
Link Flag
NOTHING SAYS QUALITY
Nothing says "quality" better than hiring somebody who barely speaks the same language as your customers. If they do speak the same language as your customer, be sure they have a horrible accent instead.

Nothing says "I care" to an unemployed customer more than exporting jobs to another country so you can make more profit.
Posted by ToddWBeaver (1415 comments )
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Email yes, SMS maybe..
but they're forgetting the key feature that would entice companies to outsource would be communicating in a language both parties understand.

Actually I'm not being facetious.

Being competent with a foreign language doesn't necessarily mean each party will understand one another.

Trying to communicate complex ideas using colloquialisms as well as technical slang is essential and the main reason why this sort of outsourcing is a disaster.

The intended meaning behinds words used is often very different to the grammatically or dictionary correct meaning. Being able to seamlessly comprehend which meaning is being used in which instance is why technical support - especially technical support being used by technical people - should never leave your home shores.

Context is often everything. The only way this would stand any chance of working is if the call center employees spend significant time working within the countries they intend to service.

It's one of the reasons Gates wants the H1B visa constraints waived - and he's not alone.

They want to hire cheap labour, import it to the US - then continue to pay them peanuts while they gain a true understanding of the country for which they intend to provide support.

You wait - i'll bet almost anything that this becomes one of the sneaky addons to the new immigration law they want to pass. Amnesty for illegals, unlimited visa for the corporates. Everyone goes home with something - except the biggots who think we should impeach the president if convicted murderers of illegal aliens come to harm in prison.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
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That's a shame
They provide terrible service. Maybe companies should just shut down their call centers altogether and stop 'pretending' that they provide service.
Posted by fcekuahd (244 comments )
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Barrier to support
Many people call in and claim they are "computer ignorant," proving this by having trouble telling the difference between the computer itself and the monitor. Not only do many customers have a barrier to computer terms, for example, the difference beteen software and hardware, but they are given the added handicap of trying to understand someone in a far country with a different native language.

But maybe such barriers will stop them from calling, save the manufacturer support costs(our evil plan muh-ha-ha)?

Or will those customers just call in more, keep calling, and CALLING and COMPLAINING until their problem is solved ---(DOH)!
Posted by SteamChip (594 comments )
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