Consumers say no to offshoring


A third of consumers in the UK would ditch their financial services providers if they knew that they had re-located their call centres offshore, according to new research.

A survey by financial services management consultancy Troika has found that four per cent of people have already voted with their feet because they are fed up dealing with a call centre located overseas.

Four out of ten of those surveyed also said that they would be prepared to pay more for their financial services product if it was offered solely from the UK.

A similar number believed that service levels plummet when carried out offshore. More than a third out this down to communication and language difficulties while five per cent complained about a lack of knowledge on the part of call centre staff.

What's more, Troika say, more than seven out of ten adults in Britain, Germany and France think that there should be government intervention to stop offshoring.

But disturbingly, fewer than one in five (18 per cent) of the respondents who had dealt with financial services providers recently were even aware that they were dealing with an offshore operation – something that does not seem to square with Data Protection Act provisions that require explicit consent for sending sensitive data outside the EU.

Lawyers have warned that many companies are ignoring this requirement by not asking their customers for explicit consent when they send services abroad.

Earlier this year, research by call centre analysts ContactBabel found that customers who were put through to offshore call centres were four times more likely to change their service provider than those who were not.

The study claimed that workers in British call centres answer 25 per cent more calls per hour than employees in India and resolve 17 per cent more of these calls first time.

It also calculated that a typical high street bank would save £9.26m a year in operating costs by replacing 1,000 UK agents with the same number in India. But, if only an extra 0.343 per cent of customers defected in protest, the bank's revenues would be reduced by the same amount.

The signs of a growing consumer backlash against offshoring have not escaped those financial services firms that have decided against shipping jobs overseas.

The latest TV advertising campaign by the NatWest bank, which along with its parent company, the Royal Bank of Scotland has committed to operate only from the UK, makes a play of the fact that its call centres are not in India.

But will the customer dissatisfaction revealed by Trokia's research be translated into lost customers and lost business for the pro-offshorers? Companies such as HSBC, Norwich Union and Royal & Sun Alliance clearly think not.