The rise and fall (and subsequent rise) of UK call centres

The UK call centre has always been a fantastic mechanism for large operations to deliver telephone based services on a large scale to their customers. Historically, all of these services have been operated within the UK, however, there was a time where there was a dynamic shift within the call centre industry, where the vast majority of operations were outsourced overseas. In fact, such was the severity of this shift within the industry, there was a period of time where the term call centre was synonymous with outsourced overseas operations in India and the Philippines.

The most significant driver for UK businesses to migrate their call centre operations overseas was financial. With the significantly cheaper labour costs associated with overseas contact centre agents, coupled with low international call routing charges, it is easy to see how the majority of UK businesses were drawn by the substantial cost saving benefits of outsourcing their call centre.

Whilst there was only one benefit to be gained by UK businesses in outsourcing their call centres (albeit a significant one), there were many perceived negatives associated with outsourced operations by the customers that were calling the call centres, leading to many stereotypes to be formed that still exist today. Many of these stereotypes associated with outsourced call centres centre around a perceived language barrier, and accusations of poor levels of service, which frequently resulted in customers looking for alternative providers in the search for an improved level of service.

It is this reaction from the customers of UK businesses that have forced them into a rethink about how their telephone services are provisioned. Such is the stigma associated with outsourced call centres in the UK, many UK based businesses now actually promoting the fact that their call centres are based in the UK as a key element of their sales proposition to their new and existing customers. By taking this course of action, these businesses are actively reinforcing the belief that outsourced overseas call centres aren’t good at what they do, and are difficult to deal with. This in turn has contributed to the increase in contact centre operations returning to the UK, and will only accelerate the return of call centre operations back to the UK.

Overall, it is clear that the UK consumer has had a significant impact on the direction of the call centre industry. Although UK business was keen to reap the significant financial benefits of of outsourcing their call centre operations overseas, it has been proven that the customer is still king, and that any degradation of service quality would result in customers voting with their feet.

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