Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy New Year - 1,000 new UK call centre jobs

I was wondering what blog topic I should begin the new year with. This good news story, "Call centre begins recruitment drive" in the South Shields Gazette seemed a very appropriate way of starting.

Garlands, one of the UK's largest privately held call centre companies is adding 1,000 jobs (100 in the first phase)to their South Shields centre. It's interesting to see that these are onshore customer service jobs, primarily for the telecoms/ broadband industry.

Now my experience of the telecoms industry is that many organisations have a high percentage of low margin customers and make their money on a much smaller percentage of high spending customers. In the past this has led to a focus purely on cost of service and for many organisations that meant looking at offshoring. It's good to see that the onshore is now a consideration again when customer service is a consideration besides cost.

In many cases, offshoring purely for cost led to a reduction in customer service quality (and as previously discussed in posts like "Offshoring and mainland Europe" and "On-shore Call centres in decline.... is that the whole story?"), that decline in customer service led to the brand value of the business being damaged. Offshoring should not be blamed purely for customer satisfaction declines though, any large change program focused only on cost would have reduced customer satisfaction. A good example is Powergen (now called EON), a big UK energy utility, who closed their Indian operations. The BBC reported their managing director as saying this was because Powergen were "...not prepared to achieve savings at the risk or expense of customer satisfaction". Six months later in Jan 2007 this seemed to have produced results as the BBC ran a story that Powergen had moved from last place on EnergyWatch's table of customer satisfaction to second place.

It's good also to see that Garlands as an onshore outsourcer recognise that they will compete on quality and innovation rather than cost. It's not just that they run Cisco technology in their call centres (they also use a number of other suppliers as well), but more that they have a strong focus on the quality of their workforce and the agents working conditions. I know recent surveys suggest that salary is a major driver for agent recruitment, but as I argued in my last post "Sometimes it's not rocket science....", it is a key factor in agent retention.

Anyway, a Happy New Year to all readers and I hope you have a pleasant work environment and successful year.

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