Whither the call center?

By admin, March 9, 2009 11:59 am

There's no question that the economic crisis creates an environment with the potential, or even likelihood, of great upheaval for the outsourcing market. You can find all perspectives on just what that upheaval might look like; Satyam's troubles play out one scenario, the image of slightly shady off-shoring centers being forced off their balancing act by the economy and exposing the savings they offered as being not worth the costs. Other commenters have stressed the Indian outsourcing industry's versatility and adaptability as strengths which are likely to see them increase their dominance rather than relegate it.

Meanwhile, there is strong political sentiment in the US to reign in offshoring in general, with the somewhat mis-conceived notion that all these overseas shenanigans in recent decades have somehow contributed significantly to the current crisis. But there are also business arguments for bringing the call-center back on-shore, as Phil Fersht deftly outlines.

And while you knew that China was already trying to set itself up as a serious competitor to Indian off-shoring call centers (an effort apparently at odds with their military objectives), what about Egypt? The land of the pyramids is the latest country to throw its hat in the ring as a serious off-shoring contender.

It's hard to say whether the global economy will flatten itself sufficiently to make on-shore call centers economically competitive with off-shore options, but even as outsourcing as a whole tended to increase in recent years, companies have become increasingly ambiguous about off-shoring the call center. As Fersht points out, the efforts to bring those functions back to the US or Canada, in largely rural areas, are well underway and have been for some time. Regardless of the cost advantages of off-shore centers, the customer relations aspects of presenting users with support staff who sound like them can be important. Although I've made support calls that ended up somewhere in the American South where the call taker's accent was easily as impenetrable (in a different way) than if it had gone to Hyderabad.

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