Your views: Offshoring call centres

It'll come as no surprise that many IT PRO readers have had anger-inducing experiences with offshore call centres. After a bit of a rant at poor customer service in our weekly newsletter, we asked whether you thought it was time to focus on customer service rather than cost savings.

Dennis wrote in to say he was amazed to hear that companies are still moving call centres abroad. "They are most people's pet hate anyway and it just compounds the frustration when you can't hear or understand them and they don't get what you're saying," he wrote. "Even if the lines were clear and the microphones weren't full of spit, there is still a culture gap and if you don't live here you won't pick up on certain nuances."

Colin agreed: "While cost saving matters, letting poorly trained staff with limited English loose on your customer base is a bit like flying planes with untrained pilots in the cockpit."

While most readers emailed to complain about poor service, Aqeel said his disability makes the problem even worse. "I am hard of hearing, so therefore the combination of English as a foreign language, bad line connection and miscommunication between myself and the agent, and I get incredibly frustrated when talking to someone."

But poorly-speaking staff issues aren't limited to India and other offshoring hubs, David noted. "I agree about poor customer service especially from overseas call centres, but I recently had to deal with a... UK call centre where they had a Glaswegian with the strongest Glaswegian accent ever and every few minutes I am going, can you say that again please'."

Brian agreed: "Frankly, the difference between being able to understand a strong North East English accent and one from New Delhi is marginal."

Dafydd added that bad quality call centres exist in Britain as well. "My bank uses a call centre somewhere not in Britain I think it is India but I find them very good. I have come across bad ones, but plenty of those are in the UK as well."

Terence said he's fine with the accents; it's the lack of knowledge that irritates him. "I think that they must be reading from an idiot sheet and if they come across anything that isn't on it, then they're completely stumped."

It's not just about offshoring, but hiring unskilled staff, Hanan said. "What about the help' lines staffed by people who know less about the product that you do?"

John said that he believes offshoring hurts the sector and has exacerbated the skills shortage. "I have certainly worked with companies in the past that have now ceased graduate intake and training programmes owing to the poor outlook for work in certain IT functions."

Jason added: "A company should not be allowed to offshore jobs at the expense of UK employees when the new employees are doing the same job just further away and in a lot of cases, badly or with less enthusiasm/knowledge. Good business or not, it is not ethical or moral."

To those troubled by offshore call centres, George offered a possible alternative. "A way to try and avoid overseas call centres is to go to and find a geographical alternative to the 0800, 0808, 0844, 0845, 0870, 0871 numbers. It doesn't always work but a lot of the time you get a UK switchboard, which puts you through to someone in a UK office. It is also cheaper as invariably 08 numbers are not included in inclusive minutes' packages and charged at upwards of four pence a minute. Sometimes the company you are calling using some 08 numbers get a cut of the call cost."