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News - 28 June 2006

Asian Call Centre backlash

Powergen announces it is closing its Indian call centre operation and HSBC admits that a Bangalore worker was allegedly part of a fraud that deprived 16 UK customers of over a quarter of a million pounds.

Over the past five years Finance, Business Services and Telecomms companies have led a steady stream of operations half way across the world to establish new centres in Asia with India being a favourite location. The savings on operating costs over UK based call centres can be as much as 55% but increasingly customers are complaining about poor service.

A tipping point may have been reached where the benefits no longer outweigh the disadvantages with companies that have maintained their UK operations using this fact in their marketing. Powergen also reported customer complaints about the level of service offered by their Indian operation.

Powergen are not the first to return their call centres to the UK. In 2005 Kwik-Fit Insurance and ICICI One Source did the same and others are expected to follow. With Indian staff attrition and absenteeism rates approaching those of the UK it may well be that Asia is losing its appeal.

Brighton & Hove has a strong base of call centre operations but far from suffering from losses overseas it is growing at a healthy 6% per annum. Increasingly companies will keep call centres in the UK to handle more complicated inquiries and the well qualified Brighton workforce (29% are graduates) make sit an attractive proposition for companies seeking highly skilled workers.

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