Thursday, August 5, 2010

Call centers for customer care- Does it really work?

BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) or more popularly Call centers, or even more popularly those backyard offices in India where young graduates of India are working in shifts from day to night and are supposed to provide solutions to several business related problem to USA and UK or may be Australia and Canada too, (English speaking developed world) and to some extent to Germany or Netherlands  (very few).

The aim perhaps was to get almost all services in English speaking western countries with half expenses as the office situated in eastern countries like India or Philippines, resulted in less cost of running a office (wages and other bills)  due to low living and property costs in those countries. 

It was supposed that companies who will outsource their work to Indian offices will be at par to their competitors as call centers from Asia can work 24 hours (less strict health and safety rules for work conditions and timings) and so overall the company will gain only profits.

Countries like India with large proportion of moderate to highly educated English speaking youth population were happy with such efforts as India will earn revenues from the backyard offices, and Indian employee were happy as wages paid in these companies were far better than Government jobs requiring similar qualifications.

So the BPO buzz started and then followed by IPO, and KPO. The buzz is going on with great hue and cry for some years now. I have experienced its presence directly only 2 years ago when I moved to UK. In Germany the language has barred outsourcing companies to provide solutions to all problems there. The customer care services are local there and understand the details when asked for a service.

For installing a new telephone connection in the apartment I had rented in UK, I needed to call the telecommunication office. I was happy to see in their card that I can call them till 7 p.m. in the evening and also on Saturdays (a service rarely available in Germany).  So I called one evening, after a long waiting time the call was taken by some one whose English accent was very near to mine, I first thought that can be possible as there are many South Asians in UK, but a background chattering noise in Hindi assured me that I am calling a call center. Frankly speaking I was quite excited as till then I (India is gaining from this after all) was all in the favour of this concept. So I was very supportive and gave my details that they asked an kept the phone. It was all fine. I got my telephone connection. 

The reality struck when after 6 months I decided to shift to another apartment. I needed to transfer the phone connection as I did not want to change my phone number again. I informed the telecommunication office that I am moving to a new place and asked them what are the formalities I need to do. Again a person from the call center told me I need not do anything then, and as soon as I move out, I should call from my new  address and they will make the necessary changes. When I did that they said it is all done. Fine. After one month I got two telephone bills one from the old number and one from the new one. So I called again and found out that people with whom I talked before did not keep any information about cancellation of the old number, and as they work in shifts so their service very much depends on the sincerity of the person you are talking to. Anyway this problem could be solved after few more phone calls and after loosing money for two telephone connections for two months.

Recently another bitter experience was with the outsourcing of visa application by some of the embassies. The websites does not provide all the details and when you call a helpline, the call centers answering you just read the same information provided in the website. Being a foreigner in Europe, for the process of entering into another country other than where I am residing, I  need to get a visa, and there are several laws and rules for visa applications, depending on the reason of visits. Respective websites provides only general idea for the application process, and it is most of the time not enough. You need advice, suggestion from officials, which the call centers are not able to provide.

Although the problem could be resolved after several phone calls, but I needed to find out a local office who would understand the local needs more specifically.

So after all these hassles and also talking with several other people here, I have started questioning the benefits of having call center for every purpose. Is it possible to control technical, informational and service based problems of one country from another country? Also after almost a decade of establishment of so called call centers in India, nowadays I hear from the young graduates there, how difficult there life has become due to continuous night shifts. No fixed office hours, shift based jobs are disturbing their biological clocks drastically and they are suffering from chronic pain and stress related symptoms from very young age; against a bargain of more money. Also the economy of very big country like India is becoming dependent on other countries mainly USA much more than any time before. This way a recession in one country of the world can impose  huge job cuts in India.  India with its huge human resource cannot afford to be so much dependent on others for its growth. India is too big to live inside the bubble of a developed country's dreams.

The concept which was started to flatten out the globe; might now need a little rethink and better understanding for each other in terms of time zone, social and cultural etiquettes from both sides to meet all ends.


  1. I have similar experience, while calling virgin media I called to Pune and chatted with the guy in Hindi..I have something to say abot the last part of your blog. It seems you are a beginner in economics although I can't claim myself a pundit either. You sounded little bit socialist which is unfortunately not the situation. This is the age of global economic interdependence and the biggest evil 'market economy'. So every country is dependent on lot of other country and the network covers all the countries. No country can be independent from other countries in ecomonic sense. And US of A??? You are worried about only economic depndence? India is importing anything and everything which has US mark on it, culture, language, music, you name it and India is ready to copy them...

  2. Yes ,of course no country can live independent from other, international trade is very important and has been proven from middle ages in history. But can we also include local customer care services kind of things in international trade, this was my question? Also about copying USof A by India, it is not only India it is all over the world the lifestyle, language, culture USofA is being copied, nothing to do, US of A is able sell everything and anything to others. But as a buyer we need to learn to ask ourselves just like 'J" asks me all the time when I tell her to do something i.e, "Do I have to Mama?" So Do we really have to follow them in all aspects? You will be glad to know that youngsters in India although cannot completely ignore working with BPOs, IPOS or KPOs specially in the beginning of their career, but they are thinking on the same line and instead of just following what is told to them, they are learning to ask questions.

  3. Call centers are known for the high level of professionalism as well as customer service they provide. Call centers specialize in providing a high standard of customer service and are experienced in handling customer issues and queries, receiving phone calls, and following all instructions and protocols you may require. They'll quickly be able to work with you to identify your needs and then meet the needs of your customers. Call centers take the load off your business, while maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction. Your customers will be able to receive answers at any hour, and not have to spend time waiting on the phone, while at the same time, you won't be missing any opportunities.Your customers or patients also appreciate getting in contact with a live person.


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