Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Axa to create 600 new UK contact centre jobs

A piece of good news reported on CCF, "AXA to create 600 jobs". I was particularly interested to see that these jobs are onshore in the UK.

The blog has looked at Axa contact centres before, at least the Swiftcover bit of the business) in the post "Are call centres so bad they hinder business?", so it's good to see that another part of Axa has more confidence in the power of customer service.

It's one of those things where the insight comes from the detail. The part of Axa creating these jobs is Axa Helathcare, and the part with the aversion to call centres is Swifcover who specialise in motor insurance. These are very different business, with different margins, expectations of service and complexity.

I've written on this a lot before, but Axa encapsulates this neatly. If the service required is simple, move it to the web. If it's complicated and a brand differentiator, then think about onshore and service quality as higher priorities than simple cost to serve metrics. It's noticeable that this contact centre will not just be onshore, but be in Kent (not the traditional lower cost contact centre areas of the North of England or Scotland). Presumably the ease of access to London and Paris, as well as access to high quality labour from a large catchment area influenced the thinking.

The view of automate or keep it high-quality isn't just my thinking, more authoritative writes than me have covered this, such as Sramana Mitra and her controversial article "The Coming Death Of Indian Outsourcing" in Forbes (covered on this blog at: "Indian Outsourcing, is it in decline? ").

I can see strong value in offshoring some back-office functions (see "Lloyds TSB offshores IT, not call centre"), but I do believe that if customer service is to be valuable, then it needs to be done with quality agents who understand the environment the end customer is in. This partly why I do see roles for countries like South Africa (see: "Offshore - why I would go for South Africa over India"), but I struggle to see a role for countries that try to bid for customer service business on a cost basis.

Still very good news in the current economic environment to see jobs being created.

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