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Outsourced Call Centers Losing Feasibility? 268

Posted by Zonk
from the people-need-to-eat dept.
Daniel Pronych writes "BusinessWeek is running an article about how outsourcing call centers in India are no longer an 'inexpensive option' for American companies. These shops are now striving for better outsourced work from the U.S. and Europe multinational companies; many are fed up with U.S. clients trying to continually lower prices. New Delhi-based EXL Services, for example, terminated a contract with Dell Inc. because EXL was losing money in the deal."
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Outsourced Call Centers Losing Feasibility?

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  • I wonder (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 29, 2006 @04:35AM (#15804781)
    If the call center jobs get moved to the US,etc... will Indians complain about their jobs being outsourced?
  • Might both lose (Score:5, Informative)

    by joe 155 (937621) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @04:37AM (#15804783) Journal
    In the UK we have had a lot of companies who outsourced their customer care to India, but because of this there has been a real backlash against companies who have done so at the expense of British workers. Now you often see in adverts people advertising that they have UK call centers only. I wonder if it is maybe becoming unworkable for both sides in these deals.
    • UK, india, timbouktou as far as some UK companies are concerned does not make the tiniest difference. Just read timeless classic [halloflames.com] (which is still valid today).
    • Made in America (Score:2, Insightful)

      by aplusjimages (939458)
      I'm amazed this form of advertising hasn't happened in the US. There is such a push for "Made in America" and supporting American made stuff that this would fit right in. Then again, Americans don't like many American products.
  • Feasibility (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cwalk (899502) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @04:48AM (#15804810)
    IHMO, Outsourced Call Centers were never feasible. They just seemed feasible.
    • IHMO, Outsourced Call Centers were never feasible. They just seemed feasible.

      On the contary, I think this is an idea that many people wish wasn't feasable.

    • Re:Feasibility (Score:5, Insightful)

      by umkhhh (971224) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @07:14AM (#15805100)
      in a sense you are right. It usually worked like this:
      1. a brilliant manager comes to a new cunning plan to save the company zillions of talars, grosh or whatever - there is this new fashion it is call eeeeee outsourcing let's outsorurce my dep. I do not need these lazy overpaid bastards anyway.
      2. proposal is being made everobody agrees after all even Wanker Weekly wrote about it
      3. majority of customer service engineers are freed fromtheir duties a new CC in Zamunda is opened
      4. Due to layoffs the share price of the corporation is higher than ever - the brilliant manager is rewarded according to his achievments and he has less duties: instead of talking to lazy bustards he has now only one manager in Zamunda to talk too in case of problems or free lunch.
      5. the customers stopped complainig - excellent the brilliant manager says: the new policy works we even have unpredicted profit - no complains. We saved zillions of tallars, got rid of complaining customers and improved the quality - all in one go - we are better than head and shoulders.
      6. unfortunately book keepers notice that orders fall as custmers are pissed off: they either cannot reach the CC or they can but after struggling with new voice manu they find out that the person on the other side of the phone does not understand a word or even if s/he does it serves no purpose as s/he does speak with accent so heavy as it were made of plutonium.
      7. the briliant manager is either given a golden hand-shake or promoted depending on clauses in his contract.

      Every new fashion in managment works the same way: short lived fascination and then covering arses of the responsible possibly declaring the whle excercsie as a big success. Downsizingworked the same way (was it not Amtrack that was so successfuly down-sizing that they did not have any body to drive their trains anymore?)

      Sombody was talking about silver bullets around here? It looks like one only the silver is faked.

  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @04:49AM (#15804815)
    It strikes me that the whole outsourcing issue could have been stopped in its tracks if Western governments had taken the opportunity to "reign in" the corporations much more than they have done.

    Corporations *should* have a social responsibility and conscience. Look at any big, sparkling technology park anywhere in the world and you see housing and transportation links springing up around it - purely because most people want to live close to where they work.

    Consequently, when these same corporations suddenly decide to move thousands of jobs overseas, offices close down and entire communities can be devastated through unemployment.

    The logical solution, therefore, should have been additional taxation on the corporations by government - very simply, each nation works out how much profit a company makes in their country (i.e. how much money it takes out) and compares it to how much money it spends on employing people in their country (i.e. how much money it puts back in). Then just subtract the second from the first and, if it's positive, tax the hell out of it.

    And before anyone flames me about being "anti-capitalist", I'd remind them that when people lose their jobs and, say, private health care benefits, they turn to the government for unemployment handouts and public healthcare - both of which are financed from our taxes.

    • by m0rph3us0 (549631) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @05:05AM (#15804851)
      The funny thing is all of your ideas ARE anti-capitalist. No one is accusing you of being anti-capitalist, you are simply proposing solutions that are anti-capitalist.

      Whether capitalism benefits or does not benefit us doesn't make your ideas any more or less capitalist. Just because people will turn to welfare if insurance doesnt exist, doesn't make welfare any less socialist. Welfare is simply one aspect of socialism in the American government. It doesn't make any sense to try and avoid socialism through more socialism. If the law that made tarrifs eliminated welfare then maybe you would have a point.

      At least most capitalists have the balls to call their ideas capitalism rather than trying to label socialism capitalism. Just say it, you like socialist policies. I don't in general, but it's a free country so no one is going to put you in the gulag or send you to be reeducated cutting sugar cane if you want to change a law.

      I don't need to "flame" you for being anti-capitalist its clear to anyone who can read and knows what capitalism means knows that the state using taxation to redistribute wealth is as anti-capitalist as it comes. Exactly which of your ideas aren't anti-capitalist?
      • Then perhaps my definition of capitalism is wrong - I can accept that.

        I'm happy to live in a society where I do a job, get paid for it and have a nice wedge of money at the end of the month to go spend on the nicer things in life. I'm happy to go looking and what's being offered to me, comparing one item of goods against another and buying the one I think offers me best value for money. I have a reasonable car, a good house and private healthcare where public healthcare is already available and if I had a

        • Or are you simply admitting that capitalism and social responsibility, not socialism, are entirely at odds with each other? They are. They always have been, but for a supporter of either side, one must recognize the importance in each. Basically, we need a little bit of both for a good society. We have seen capitalism at its very worse with no social benefits, and we have seen socialism in its purity and both cannot function without a little of each. The reason why socialism came to exist was purely du
        • Then perhaps my definition of capitalism is wrong - I can accept that.

          Probably not. Capitalism is about, and is only about, the private ownership of property. Any definition beyond that is a projection of someone's radical ideology.
      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @07:53AM (#15805178)
        At least most capitalists have the balls to call their ideas capitalism rather than trying to label socialism capitalism.

        Oh get real!

        All large businesses and plenty of small ones are constantly at the government's teat in the USA. Big Business in america is forever lobbying for more and more corporate socialism and calling it capitalism in order to justify it. Some entire industries are based on government subsidies - either direct money transfers like ADM gets or indirect subsidies as side effects of legislation like the big telecoms get.
      • Just because people will turn to welfare if insurance doesnt exist, doesn't make welfare any less socialist.

        Does it make insurance any less socialist?

        What you call welfare is insurance paid for by everyone through taxes, and with universal coverage.

        Insurance is welfare paid for through premiums but limited to a select membership.

        Participation in the "welfare" insurance plan is involuntary for taxpaying individuals, yes.

        Participation in the "insurance" welfare plan is somewhat voluntary (although less so tha
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 29, 2006 @05:06AM (#15804855)
      It used to be like that in many European countries. Americans called that socialistic or communistic.
      When a large company had problems, the government would take action like buying products from them, subsidizing research or construction, etc.

      It worked for a while, but then the first examples of fraudulous management who put the government money in their own pockets or their own adventurous projects appeared.
      It seems like greed will always win from responsibility.

      Now, we have the EU. Instead of moving jobs outside the EU, new low-wage low-welfare countries are added to the EU faster than you can imagine, and companies are encouraged to move their jobs there. This results in some fictitious good economic results, but of course when you are losing your job because of this, you'll look at it in a bit different way.

      Imagine that the USA would expand to include Mexico and middle-american states "because there are so many people there that want to work and expand our economy". That would be like what the EU does.

      Small wonder that those countries where the people were asked their opinion voiced a strong NO. However, it will take something stronger to really wake up the EU politicians.
      • Imagine that the USA would expand to include Mexico and middle-american states "because there are so many people there that want to work and expand our economy". That would be like what the EU does.

        We have. It is called NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).

        There are many instances of companies going "south of the border" to get cheap labor. In fact, many "American" cars are less american than the imported brands. So we lose good manufacturing jobs _and_ we still have to import a signifcant amount of
        • by scoove (71173) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:48AM (#15805728)
          saider mentions some good points...
          There are many instances of companies going "south of the border" to get cheap labor.

          My favorite comments for execs in companies that outsource is to say "Oh, you like to speculate on currencies too, eh?" The US economy is getting to where it's not easy again to manage things (companies, portfolios, hedge positions, etc.) When interest rates were at historical lows, it was pretty easy to pick stocks and not bonds, for instance. Financial management becomes much more challenging when conditions don't automatically pick the right answer for you. I'd swear this is the real reason the Fed uses its stick/carrot control of the Fed Funds Rate - more as a cue to the dumb managers out there to make the obvious decision.

          Firms outsourcing labor have had an equally easy job with respect to a significant risk they're incurring due to similar currency conditions: because the dollar has been comparatively strong to the yen, euro, rupee, etc., it was easy to just assume there was no exchange issue and foreign labor was incredibly cheap. That's changing. I've built a moderate international exchange-traded fund (ETF) position in anticipation of a weakening dollar (which will probably become a major decline as soon as enough inflationary pressure collapses the "Federal treasury bubble" - a less-than-polite term for the near constant demand for US Treasuries used to back unsustainable U.S. Federal spending). When that occurs, the international assets I hold will increase in value, but efforts to buy more of them will also become more expensive.

          Should U.S. firms outsourcing labor wake up and discover a moderate 10% decline in dollar, they're likely to have eliminated their outsourcing financial gain. Another risk now being realized is unmitigated outsourcing contract fee exposure - several firms I work with in the Midwest US have been surprised to learn that when they completely outsource an operation and lose that internal competency, the fees suddenly start to hike up. The company itself is no longer able to easily take that operation back in-house and the outsourcing firm that underbid the business knows this.

          I have to rely on my wits and keep my skills to the point where it would do the company more harm than good to outsource me. I make it a point to subtly remind my managers of this.

          That's really a critical point for all of us. If your cable TV becomes more expensive, less featured and less reliable than dish TV, people switch. The same goes for employees in companies.

          *scoove*
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 29, 2006 @09:30AM (#15805407)
        "wake up the EU politicians"

        You are forgetting that EU isn't only about economy, but about culture and security as well. The east-west division is unsupported by Europe's history.

        Not to jab at you, but it's funny how economists have hijacked all decision-making and ways of thinking. We might be better off with people from the other "angles" in gov't and media leadership. Now it's like a buncha mathematicians running all Science...

        Hope you get what I mean :-)
      • Small wonder that those countries where the people were asked their opinion voiced a strong NO. However, it will take something stronger to really wake up the EU politicians.

        Sorry, as a No-voter I must correct you on this: we voted against the EU constitution, not against the EU. Most people, like me, aren't anti-EU but would just want the EU to take it a bit more slowly. And you can't compare the US with the EU, NAFTA/EU is a better comparison. That was the main reason why most rejected the constitution

    • ...when people lose their jobs and, say, private health care benefits, they turn to the government for unemployment handouts and public healthcare...
      That's assuming that these things even exist. I can think of one well-known North American country where the former is minimal at best, and the latter is practically nonexistent.
    • On the other hand, the corporation could go out of buisness or lose large market share by being not price competative enough and devastate communnities like in Detroit.

      • I'm not American but I don't see the connection here.

        The Detroit car industry was devastated because of cheaper Japanese imports, was it not? Presumably all cars were manufactured in Japan and Asia and then shipped over to be sold in the US?

        Therefore, by my argument, if the Japanese auto manufacturers were selling cars in the US but not making them there, then the US government would have taxed them more (kind of like a heavier import duty). This would have kept the US car industry more competitive and

        • The Detroit car industry was devastated because of cheaper Japanese imports, was it not? Presumably all cars were manufactured in Japan and Asia and then shipped over to be sold in the US?

          No, the US auto industry was devastated by Japanese imports that were perceived to be better. The early Japanese imports were considered to be junk, and didn't make much of a dent in US car sales.

          The gasoline shortages in the late 70's and early 80's accelerated the market share of imports. Detroit was behind the cu

    • It strikes me that the whole outsourcing issue could have been stopped in its tracks if Western governments had taken the opportunity to "reign in" the corporations much more than they have done.

      The "outsourcing issue" started about 30 years ago when manufacturing jobs started to move to Asia. Do you advocate action to save blue-collar jobs, or just white? The logical solution, therefore, should have been additional taxation on the corporations by government - very simply, each nation works out how much

    • I see what you're trying to accomplish, but I think your maths are oversimplified. One thing you're ignoring is whether the things a company sells in the UK help the UK citizens be more productive, make more money, etc. Microsoft would argue (whether they're correct or not is a totally separate argument) that the money that UK companies/citizens/etc spend on Microsoft products is recompensed by the increased productivity gained by using their products. Is Microsoft still "taking money out of the UK" in t
      • You make a good point but you could apply that Microsoft argument to anything - the fact I'm at work happier and programming faster because I have a Led Zeppelin CD playing in the background might also be the case! :-) Besides, why would Microsoft care if someone was more productive using their products? Sure, they'd *say* that to sell more products but, like any other company, it's *just* about shifting as much product as possible for as much money as possible.

        As to your second point, that's a good one a

        • but you could apply that Microsoft argument to anything - the fact I'm at work happier and programming faster because I have a Led Zeppelin CD playing in the background might also be the case! :-)

          Indeed. That's entirely my point.

          I think the main source of disagreement here is that it sounds like you're assuming that the economy is a zero-sum game. In other words, one group/country/etc must lose money if your economy is gaining money, and vice versa. I don't think that's true.

          If a product I buy p

    • And before anyone flames me about being "anti-capitalist", I'd remind them that when people lose their jobs and, say, private health care benefits, they turn to the government for unemployment handouts and public healthcare - both of which are financed from our taxes.

      Err yes you are anti-capitalist. People lose their jobs all the time (hell I've been redundant twice, fired once) the key is whether the economy as a whole grows, which it has been. And the richer the poorer companies get the more they will n
    • Corporations *should* have a social responsibility and conscience.

      Providing jobs to a poor country seems like social responsibility to me. I don't see how it would need more conscience to instead give the jobs to a rich country with benefits, social security, and countless employment opportunities.

      A poor person in the West gets free housing, food vouchers, dole money, and jobs round every corner. A poor person in India starves to death. I applaud these companies for sending jobs to where they're needed the

    • Consequently, when these same corporations suddenly decide to move thousands of jobs overseas, offices close down and entire communities can be devastated through unemployment.

      The logical solution, therefore, should have been additional taxation on the corporations by government - very simply, each nation works out how much profit a company makes in their country (i.e. how much money it takes out) and compares it to how much money it spends on employing people in their country (i.e. how much money it puts b

    • Corporations *should* have a social responsibility and conscience.

      Let me rewrite that for you.

      Corporations *should* have a nationalistic responsibility and conscience.

      When a corporation outsources, the US might very well have some lost jobs. Whether or not those jobs are made up somewhere else is debatable, but what is not debatable is that somewhere someone much poorer then an American scores a job. If corporations are trying to be "socially responsible", outsourcing makes complete sense. Outsourcing
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @04:59AM (#15804833) Homepage Journal
    My worst offshore callcenter experience wasn't because the guy on the other line was incomprehensible it was because I couldn't hear him. They were obviously using very crappy VOIP technology and he would just keep on cutting out in the middle of sentences. Furthermore(this might not have been the VOIP but it probably was) I could hardly hear the guy. I turned the volume up on my phone and still couldn't hear him, but when he transferred me to the American call desk I damn near got my ear blown off because it was so loud. If they are going to cut costs on the workers they should at least spring for facilities that actually allow for decent voice quality.
    • True. And, it gets so eerily quiet who the person is not speaking.

      I also find that on the cellphone a bit but esp. VOIP where it's dead quiet when no-one is speaking.

      It's prudent to not send packets when no-one is speaking maybe on a squakbox on a videogame but on the phone is a different matter; esp. when you're paying by the minute!

    • Ever since he gave away our state secret about using big tubes to move information, the PVC market has gone nuts.
      Do you have any idea how much schedule 40 pipe it takes to get those calls to India and back?
      Never mind how much the techs charge for setting up tube switches - three guys covered in blue paint don't come cheap, you know.
  • by themushroom (197365) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @05:09AM (#15804865) Homepage
    Odd... Jobs leave the US for India, causing Americans to get hungry. Then Indian outsourcers start rejecting those jobs because they pay so low the Indians go hungry. Sounds like there's a worldwide hunger crisis in the works, so to speak.

    So if India can demand better wages and reject outsource work, can America have those jobs back? We already know the language. Or will we have to wait until Business is done exploiting China and the third- and fourth-world countries? Some companies have come to their senses, but not all and not fast enough.

    Which brings to mind a Dilbert strip about how the outsourced work had been so undercut while being bounced to foreign markets that eventually it went to the lowest bidder -- the original company.
    • by dbIII (701233) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @06:32AM (#15805025)
      So if India can demand better wages and reject outsource work, can America have those jobs back?
      No, becuase it was never about saving money - it was about moving the numbers to a different balance sheet so it looked like money was being saved so some manupulative bastards could get promotions. A lot of places measure profits per employee - so they are not going to put on more staff even it it saves them money.
      • Perhaps that's true in managerial accounting, but the financial statements always measure profits gross and net without using the employee count. If the profits of the managerial accounting caluclations differ greatly from the profits on the financial statements, a well run corporation ought to see that and adjust the cost of each employee in the management statements accordingly.

        I guess well-run is the key phrase here.
    • I'm not saying that this might cause problems in the long term, but the unemployment rate in the US is pretty low, at 4.6, a five year low point and it's not too far from the dot bomb/Enron era.

      http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.us.htm [bls.gov]

      The impression that times are bad don't really ring true based on these numbers, they all seem to point to a pretty good employment situation.
    • The issue is capitalism + technology. Those who own capital can move it inexpensively and at the speed of light to any place in the world, while the labor that capital pays cannot move inexpensively or quickly, if they can move at all. Thus, labor can be made to compete for those jobs, driving wages downward, and enriching capital.

      It'll keep happening until an artificial constraint is imposed (as the a previous poster suggested) to make capital less inexpensive or less quick to move.
    • So if India can demand better wages and reject outsource work, can America have those jobs back?

      No, they're more likely to go to Nigeria. As India becomes too expensive, there will always be other places where labor is cheaper and workers more desperate.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 29, 2006 @05:42AM (#15804931)
    I work at a Canadian office of an outsourcing company that opened offices in India.

    I've actually had a conversations start with "Finally, someone in North America.", "Great, a Canadian. Better you than India." and many other anti-offshore statements.

    And that's not even getting into some of the rather rude comments that people make towards our Indian coworkers. I especially feel sorry for immigrants from India/Pakistan/etc. who are IN Canada, but get treated just as badly as if they were IN India.

    And of course, I've dealt with India call centers as a caller. While I'm patient towards them because I know exactly what they have to go through, I'm less than satisfied with the level of service I get sometimes. I'm not surprised in the slightest that India firms are ramping up their rates.

    Oh, and something interesting I've found out recently, is that there are also some firms opening up in Latin America. Why? Because they can support English and Spanish.
    • I'm a call center programmer for a large US financial company.
      We have a LOT of call centers here in the states but none overseas for security reasons. However there has been a lot of talk lately about a call center opening in a Spanish Speaking country or territory (like Puerto Rico, which is part of US) where you never have problems finding people who speak spanish but can also find people who speak some english, french, etc.
      Of course the main incentive is not language abilities but cheap labor. A Puert
    • I've actually had a conversations start with "Finally, someone in North America.", "Great, a Canadian. Better you than India." and many other anti-offshore statements.

      These kind of comments aside, people are more likely expressing relief at being able to speak with someone that they can actually understand. Thick accents of any kind are a hinderance to communication, and isn't that the point of a customer service desk?

      I've got my own feelings regarding outsourcing, however when I call a companies 800 numb
  • Business models (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kippers (809056) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @05:46AM (#15804938)
    The reason why people don't like outsourced call centres isn't usually because they are in India (however if it has lead to loss of local jobs people dislike that too). It's because things are generally made harder. The people in India aren't generally very good at speaking English, and commonly fail to understand what you are trying to say. They also generally are of little help. If you have a problem, you are either put on hold, or relayed a manual (which you have probably already read). They also are usually rather powerless - there *is* very little they are able to do - they are just made to 'deal' with people - and this just annoys most. Since they usually know so little about the subject you are calling about, working with outsourced call centres is just like flogging a dead sheep. They also probably think the same about dealing with angry customers. It's all about profit now, not customer service, and not about keeping the customer happy. If the customer is unhappy but they stay with the company - then their business model is working. However if you leave the company, you just receive the same level of service elsewhere.
    • The people in India aren't generally very good at speaking English, and commonly fail to understand what you are trying to say.

      As an Australian who grew up watching British television I have very few problems understanding these conversations. Remember that they are speaking english "y'all" and have little grasp of current slang or past in the United States. Speak in BBC english and you will both know what is going on. Also remember that they have to read from scripts most likely composed by a very junio

      • it's not the colloquialisms that are the problem for me, its the accent. i live in the UK and speak BBC english when i'm trying to be polite or clear (i'm a rustic oo-ar type at heart). unless the indian call centre people speak REALLY slowly i can barely follow what they're saying. this isnt a problem becuase i dont ring helplines much so my only exposure to it is unsolicited sales calls which i hang up on. this may cause a problem one day when someone with an indian accent phones me for some legitamate pu
    • Yeah, I think the biggest problem is not being able to understand people in India. Fortunately there are other options such as liveops [liveops.com] (I don't work for them but I know someone who does) who does a distributed call center using voip and they hire american employees. It also allows the people they hire to work from home thus reducing the costs.
    • It is possible to get good service, but it costs money and there is only so much cost cutting before there's no way to cut any more without ruining the quality of service.

      Complaining about the quality or lack of service doesn't matter if no one is willing to pay for it. If you buy a product and are more concerned about the cost of the product than the quality of the service, then there's your problem. No one seems to realize that there can be hidden costs.
      • I think that is the real problem, the cost of dealing with "customer support" of this caliber isn't really worked in to the calculations. I recently had to call Dell customer support, because a laptop I was using was shorting out. My boss and I quickly diagnosed the problem, in under ten minutes. It would run from the battery, but would instantly power off whenever it was plugged in. We swapped power supplies with an identical laptop: same results. We swapped batteries: same results. It had to be either (

    • watch it [callcentermovie.com] when you have time
  • by 8ball629 (963244) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @06:16AM (#15804990) Homepage
    Hey, I'm not going to complain. U.S. companies like Dell should keep their jobs within the country so they can provide more US citizens with jobs and in turn those people can buy their products - improving the economy (as much as they can).
    • Hey, I'm not going to complain. U.S. companies like Dell should keep their jobs within the country so they can provide more US citizens with jobs and in turn those people can buy their products - improving the economy (as much as they can).

      Are you asking MBAs to plan further ahead than the current quarter???

      You might as well try to ask Shrub to instate an universal health-insurance plan and fund public transit to diminish the US dependence on foreign oil...

    • Hey, I'm not going to complain. U.S. companies like Dell should keep their jobs within the country so they can provide more US citizens with jobs and in turn those people can buy their products - improving the economy (as much as they can).

      Hint: No American would buy a computer that was domestically built because of price. Dells would increase in price approximately 2x if they were fabed in the US.

      Now, with the outsourcing of call centers, aka service in a service economy. Does not make sense.

      We have gon
  • by markowen58 (917436) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @06:45AM (#15805051)
    I work in one of the six main utility companies in the UK. We've just taken the decision to return all our work in house, from India. The reason we've done this is mainly that outsourcing doesnt work, but is also because we're moving away from a command and control environment where the work is broken down into small amounts and processed ad infinitum by the worker, which made outsourcing so attractive. We're moving to a system thinking/lean model like Toyota's production line being the main example. The, i've got 200 workers that can do 2000 units of work at $x amount means that there are targets in the system. Once you get targets you're defining that once they've done 2000units of work they are effective and its even better when we can get the work done cheaper. Problem is that those 2000units of work havent been done effectively. They've been fudged, the ticket has been resolved for instance but the actual customers problem hasnt so they'll raise 4,5,6,7 tickets all 'resolved' each time as a unit of work for the outsource, making the management happy by meeting the target but the customer is still pissed off and has taken there custom else where as they've never resolved the problem. The trick is to look at how the work works and improve the system. not break it down into a series of units and whore it to the cheapest bidder. Once you improve the system you can view what work is waste and value. IE one office receives a number of bits of paper staples whacks them in an envelope and sends them to another office where they employ someone to take the staples out. Why staple it? turn off that bit of work and free that employee to actually look at that work and work it. Yes, i've been sold on it, but then again it actually works. In 12months we've gone from 90% above average for customer complaints to 60% below average and have overtaken most of our rivals and our catching the rest up. Not only that moral in the company has really improved too. Personally my little rant doesnt do justice to how well its working and will continue to work for us.
  • by Ian.Waring (591380) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @08:52AM (#15805306) Homepage
    There's a good section in the book "Lean Solutions" by Womack and Jones, that looked at Fujitsu Services UK applying lessons from the Toyota Production System on their call centre business. Instead of measuring # calls handled, # rings, # tickets closed, they ended up persuading clients to compensate them on the number of people who *could* potentially call them... and then set about doing rigourous "root cause" analysis and corrections to stop customers having to call in the first place. The end result being that more customers were satisfied, call volumes dropped dramatically, level of service went way up while the costs plummeted.

    Most call centres are still back in "rote stock answers territory", so the life of the end consumer never gets to improve. In the final analysis, it's the fault of the company who decides to outsource in the first place. If they got a statistician or someone who could map out customer value streams, they'd save more costs than outsourcing to the cheapest battery farm - wherever it is located..

    Ian W.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 29, 2006 @09:13AM (#15805357)
    ... and it wants to concentrate on data processing ('non-voice') work.

    From an outsourcing service provider's point of view 'voice' work is simply a pain. Steep learning curves, high attrition rates, higher training costs - not to mention all the other complexities due to the 'real-time' and customer-facing nature of work.

    Most of the large BPO providers in India offer voice services only because their clients want to offshore both kind of work. In any case, as a risk mitigation strategy these BPO companies do maintain a balance between the two (and perhaps emphasising more on data work). Again, even in case of voice work a balance is maintained between 'outgoing' call business and 'incoming' call business.

    As far as the QOS issues are concerned, clients need to understand that 'what you pay is what you get'. Clients expect 'first-world' levels of service and infrastructure at 'third-world' prices. And that includes not just the basic service being provided but also value-added functions like quality initiatives (Six Sigma, ISO9001), risk management (BCP, infosec), etc. The interesting part is these same clients themselves hardly have such 'best practices' implemented back onshore!

    The good part is that most of the large Indian BPOs really do a damn good job at offering all this (and more) and at a fraction of the price that it would cost their clients. In my opinion, it would be a good thing for India if clients stop offshoring voice work. Indian BPOs can do a fine job with data work - the BPO agents are great with written english, so even customer-facing processes like 'correspondence' work is not an issue at all.

    PS: In case anyone is wondering - Yes, I am from India and I work for a large Indian BPO.

    Regards
  • by Meor (711208)
    Anyone with even a basic understanding of macroeconomics would have. Build the economy in a country and they'll demand a higher standard of living. This is what economists have been saying forever why free markets are better.
  • by FSM (922740)
    Is it only me or would "India side quitting the deal made us pull back to US" be a great excuse for Dell execs and Dell itself to pull the centers back to US without admitting the entire idea was crap in the first place?
  • Not when the (revenue-producing) ads showing in the whitespace are for:

    [b]Outsourced Call Centers
    In the Philippines highly trained reps deliver superior performance.
    www.ePERFORMAX.com
    Outsourced Call Center
    Improve agent productivity; provide great customer service. Free trial.
    www.salesforce.com/service&support
    Outsource to India
    Wyoming co. has 200 desk ofc. bldg. in Bangalore, staff to your needs
    www.globalstaffingconnection.com[/b]

    Heh. Seriously, when I heard, maybe 10 years ago, an NPR report on the comi

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