Promoting Local Call Centers: Xenophobia or Good Business?


Several British companies, including energy supplier Powergen and financial services company NatWest, are promoting the fact that they only use call centers based in the UK, reports CIO Today. So is this xenophobia or just good business?


A consultant interviewed in the article says that offshore call centers "feed into the perception that companies aren't interested in their customers." Powergen's decision was motivated, at least in part, by a drop in customer satisfaction levels after it sent some 10 percent of its customer service work to India.


Similar motivation prompted AT&T to move some of the customer support positions it had offshored to India back to the U.S. U.S. Bancorp also eschews outsourced call centers in favor of five U.S. call centers that employ 1,400 agents.


All call centers suffer from a negative public perception, based on a recent YouGov survey that found that just 4 percent of folks reported positive experiences in dealing with call centers. But offshore centers fared especially poorly, with 44 percent of respondents saying that contacting facilities was their biggest peeve.


Offshoring was also cited as a key complaint by U.S. customers seeking help with PC support issues, according to CFI Group's Call Center Satisfaction Index.


While cost savings is probably the biggest reason for moving call center work offshore, an oft-cited 2004 study by consulting firm ContactBabel found British agents could answer 25 percent more calls per hour than their Indian counterparts and resolve 17 percent more problems during an initial call, according to the CIO Today article.


Not only that, but ContactBabel estimated that the total savings from shifting 1,000 call center jobs from the UK to India could easily vanish if the move led one-third of 1 percent of a (hypothetical) company's customers to take their business elsewhere.


Still, the CIO Today article concludes that companies can't completely ignore the financial benefits of sending customer support work offshore. As in other areas of business, many companies will likely devise an approach that will utilize a combination of onshore, nearshore and offshore resources in customer-facing positions.


Some already do. British Airways and HSBC bank, for example, now offer British call centers for customers with complex queries and Indian centers for simpler questions, the article says.