Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Language Is Proving Too Much of a Barrier

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Language Is Proving Too Much of a Barrier

Article excerpt

Byline: By Steven Oliver

Failure of Indian call centres

Call centres in India fail to offer as good a service as ones in Britain, a damning Government report revealed today.

The study found Indian workers are failing to meet the high standards achieved by UK teams.

As banking giant Lloyds TSB prepares to switch nearly 1,000 call centre jobs from Tyneside to India, the investigation discovered:

NUK staff answer 25% more calls an hour on average;

NIndian centres don't have the same management skills;

NBritish operators resolve 17% more inquiries on the first call, but that;

NIndian workers cost a fraction, on average one ninth, of those in Britain.

It found the big problem is when Indian staff are faced with talking to someone with a strong regional accent as both struggle to understand each other.

As a result, fewer calls are dealt with first time when transferred to India than when handled in the UK, according to analysts ContactBabel, which was working for the Department of Trade and Industry.

The survey was immediately seized upon by unions battling against the closure as proof the bank is making a big mistake.

Steve Morrell, of ContactBabel, said: "The Indians don't yet have the management skills or the experience to increase efficiency to UK levels.

"People are having to call back more and that damages the brand.

"There are also often communication problems, in particular when regional accents are involved which means calls take longer and both sides struggle to make themselves understood."

He believes the cost savings from moving jobs abroad can be outweighed by the loss of frustrated customers.

"In manufacturing, you get the pretty much the same shirt wherever it is made. But when it comes to customer service, you're talking about quality," said Mr Morrell.

Steve Tatlow, assistant general secretary of the Lloyds TSB group union, said the research can only help the opposition to the closure of the Newcastle call centre.

"The report confirms everything we have been saying. The closure of the Newcastle Contact Centre is all about cutting costs rather than improving customer service.

"Lloyds TSB's plans involve slashing 960 existing local jobs and replacing them with staff on a fraction of the pay in India.

"This is bad for staff, bad for customers and bad for the economy."

He said the union has vowed to fight the closure of the call centre right to the bitter end and has not totally given up hope that there could be a change of heart at the bank.

"Customers clearly oppose the bank's plans with over 200,000 - including many in the North East - signing our national petition against the transfer of UK jobs abroad.

"No meaningful progress has been made between the union and bank on the closure of the Newcastle Contact Centre and my union is continuing to vigorously oppose the transfer of these jobs abroad," said Mr Tatlow. …

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