India’s decision to shut in its citizens and shut down its businesses has created a crisis for many U.S. and global companies who outsource their call center operations to that far away land.

            The coronavirus pandemic has triggered unprecedented concerns for businesses.  One pressing concern is meeting the need to address increased customer communications when staffing and revenues have shrunk.  Never before have companies had to handle increasing call volume and rising customer support demands at the same time they cannot hire or train the additional resources required to do so.

            India’s sudden decision to lock down its business community has multiplied that problem instantly and exponentially.  With the possible exception of the Philippines, India is the home to more call center operations than any other country in the world.  In India there are over 250,000 call center jobs in Bangalore alone.  Suddenly, and virtually without warning, all such operations have shuttered.

            In recent years, U.S. companies had gradually begun to return its communication needs to domestic call center operations due to increased customer dissatisfaction with foreign operations.  Exactly one year ago, financial columnist Thomas Dichter published an article entitled “Call Centers Return to the U.S. – More Companies Get The Link Between Customer Service and Profit.”  In that article, Dichter reported the following:

In the last five years, the trend to outsource overseas call center has begun to reverse.  It seems companies are listening to the growing dissatisfaction of customers who do not want to talk to someone 10,000 miles away.  Firms that face competition, and especially on big ticket items like business class airline tickets, are either moving their customer service call centers back to the U.S. or allowing customers who request to talk with a U.S. based agent to do so.

            Dichter attributed that trend to both “the great recession of 2008-09” and “the growing ubiquity of the smart phone, which contributed to the rise in customer expectations and an exponential growth in customers’ capacity to make their dissatisfactions known through social media.”  As a result, companies began “to mine call center data with customer satisfaction in mind” and that many of their customers were turned off by having to communicate with foreigners with whom it was difficult to converse and whose knowledge and understanding of their problems were often quite limited.  As a result, businesses slowly began to repatriate their communication needs to U.S.-based call center operations.

            Unfortunately, that repatriation process was in its infancy when India shut down its business community.  As a result, a swarm of U.S. and global companies suddenly find themselves with no way to address their customer support demands at a time when those demands are spiking and corporate resources are shrinking.            

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