Of call centres, service quality and wages

Contactbabel, a research firm has concluded that Indian contact centres suffer from poor service quality

The report will say that monthly labour costs for staff answering inquiries in Indian contact centres are about one-ninth those of their British equivalents.

However, British staff answer 25 per cent more calls an hour on average, and resolve 17 per cent more of those calls the first time round. British agents deal with calls more quickly because customers can explain their problems more easily and need to repeat themselves less.

The survey of 290 British and 44 Indian contact centres also shows that British agents are more experienced.

They stay in their positions for an average of more than three years, compared with about 11 months for Indian agents.

Contactbabel’s Mr Steve Morrell said: ‘The Indians don’t yet have the management skills or the experience to increase efficiency to British levels. People are having to call back more and that damages the brand.’ [Straits Times]

It looks like the British industry is making another sloppy effort to discredit Indian contact centres with a surprising lack of class. The whole lot of allegations about poor quality of Indian contact centres is an urban myth. Even if an average Indian call centre has poorer quality of service than an average British call centre, it does not mean that outsourcing to India will lead to quality problems. In a free market, cost conscious customers will choose a low cost supplier, brand conscious customers may choose a high quality supplier. The reality is that in any given segment of the contact centre industry, you can find an Indian company that can do just as well as a British (or American) company at lower costs. Talk about poor working conditions, low wages (as Jivha comments) and poor service quality is just protectionist talk.

But outsourcing follows a domino effect. Once a company is able to improve its competitiveness by virtue of a lower cost structure brought about by outsourcing, its competitors are forced to follow suit. Protectionism-motivated negative press reports and consultancy studies cannot shake the fundamental advantages of outsourcing to India. I’d worry less about changing the minds of people in the US and Europe and instead concentrate on making the experience beneficial to the MNCs how have already decided to outsource to India. Nothing works like a good bottom line.

Update: The British Government votes for the free-market

Amidst the backlash against outsourcing from India in UK, Britain has ruled out any protectionist measure for its domestic industry.
“We are a supporter of a free market economy, we will not take any protectionist measure. Britain also benefits from outsourcing,” British Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs, Mike O’Brien said in an interview.[ExpressIndia]

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