Foreign Call Centers Phone Home

Feb 23, 2012 8:31pm
gty woman on phone thg 120210 wblog Foreign Call Centers Phone Home

                     (Image Credit: Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy/Getty Images)

Have you had a complaint about a product? A problem with your brand new computer? A question about a perplexing corporate policy?

It’s likely that your search for answers has spanned continents and traveled thousands of miles, sometimes without your even knowing it. Foreign call centers are not just a part of our everyday lives they have also occupied a prominent place in the cultural lexicon.

From the USA Prime Credit commercials with “Peggy” the not-so-helpful customer service representative, to the Oscar winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire,” Americans have come to believe that even when they’re told they’re speaking with “Sherry in St. Louis” it’s more likely “Baruni in Bangalore.”

In the 80s and 90s, a stunning number of American companies began outsourcing their call centers. As many as 600,000 American jobs evaporated — moved to the Philippines, India and elsewhere, where operators learned English as a second language, and chose their “American names.”

American companies were saving a lot of money, but now, many of those same companies are bringing their call centers home.

Eight thousand miles away from the call centers in India, there’s now a call center in Fort Worth, Texas, one of five NOVO1,  a company that runs call centers, has in the US.

The Fort Worth center employs 800 American workers and is growing.

What changed NOVO1′s business is the answers Americans are looking for when they seek help from live operators.  Americans used to need to call a representative for a password reset or an account balance. Now all that can be done online.

The answers that are not available online are much more complicated, especially for those overseas operators to answer.

“Is it really cheaper if it takes two calls to handle that customer,” Mary Murcott, CEO of NOVO1,told ABC News. “I can do the math very quickly and tell you it’s more expensive — that job offshore.”

A call center job in America starts off paying anywhere from between $20,000 and $40,000 a year, while in India the same job would pay just $2,400 a year.

It is a price many say is worth paying for the higher productivity achieved with American workers  – and the ability to never have a customer ask to be connected to someone in the United States.

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