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Offshore Call Centres Dont Work

Now lets be totally candid about this and all admit what millions of people already know Offshore Call Centres in financial services are not working. They may be cost effective to the firms off shoring for the moment but in the medium to long term will prove disastrous.

Financial services is a relationship business and as soon as the connection is broken between the customer anticipating a service and those supplying it, the slippery slope to closing accounts and moving on, is set in motion.

The problem stems from the mistaken notion that electronic data can be accessed from anywhere in the world and trained people can use the data to either offer a service or deal with a complaint. It doesn't work because the relationship anticipated by the customer is a personnel one and that supplied offshore is anything but. Cold data is worthless if the context of the relationship is lost.

Take the example of exceeding an overdraft limit. In the old days the problem would have been resolved very quickly, with a single call from the bank and a meeting with the person looking after the account. Nowadays offshore call centres call up demanding on the one hand, to know when the excess is going to be repaid and if unable to pay, they suggest applying for a credit card to clear the debt. Not a very responsible attitude, I must say!

Whilst the debt remains, the off shore call centre continue to call, unable to apply any sort of sensible approach to the situation and with no power to come to an agreement with the customer. It takes customer initiative to arrange an appointment to see the local account manager, before any solution can be arrived at. However, this is born out of frustration and annoyance at having to explain the same things over and over and over again to a call centre agent, who often does not quite grasp what they are being told, in many cases this is due to the language barrier.  The net result is a trip to the local branch, by which time the customer has decided to move their account elsewhere.

What have we learned by this? In the end the customer needed to make a visit to the local branch, which was what would have taken place, before the offshore call centre was established. The staff in the offshore call centre do not seem to have the same level of expertise and training in offering good and sound advice to the banks customers, as trained bank staff have, as clearly encouraging someone to undertake more debt, at a higher interest rate, than the existing debt, in order to clear the first debt, falls into the category of very bad advice.

In addition, the lack of any real power to resolve the issue by the call centre staff and their poor understanding caused the bank to lose a customer, where there could have been a lifetime relationship.

Every customer should be valued by the bank, whether they are an individual or a large corporation; unfortunately this does not appear to be the case, as the small business or personal account appears to be considered insignificant. Banks should realise that it is the millions of individual customers and small business (as Northern Rock can attest to, which can help to either break or make a bank as well as large accounts. Is this an isolated incident? I doubt it!     


Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 21 October, 2008, 00:29Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I'm with you on the offshore call centres.

I learned early to not waste my time talking to someone who can't resolve an issue, due to lack of authority (trust).  My usual course of action when deciding whether to use a business which has a call centre is to call their customer service number and determine whether it is offshore. If it is, they're off the list and I'm on to the next provider because I know they won't be able to solve my issue if one ever arises and eventually one probably will.

Make the call first, it'll save a lot of frustration later.

I'm not too fond of voice recognition either, especially when using phone directory assistance. I generally answer the prompt in very fast German 'Ich möchte mit einem Menschen sprechen.' (I want to speak to a human). Generally you have to do it a couple of times and you'll be connected to a human. (It may even work in Germany, but you are likely to get Mr Mann's number.)

It saves the frustration of being fobbed off with the wrong number, although I've still been given fantasy numbers by a real human on the odd occasion. They don't care, you have to call them back and you'll never get the same person and if you complain they will no doubt ask what the person's name was - which of course you didn't get, and anyway if they have a modern call centre they could tell in seconds.

Perhaps some of the success of the internet is because we can do so many things without ever having to talk to a single person or voice recognition system.

Gary Wright

Gary Wright


BISS Research

Member since

19 Sep 2007



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EBAday is the annual event for European payments professionals organised by Finextra and the Euro Banking Association. This community has been created to deliver a forum for EBA delegates to exchange views on instant payments, open banking and new developments in payments processing and technology.

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