Many firms could save money by following HSBC’s lead and moving support operations offshore. But for a company with less global presence than the banking giant, this process can be challenging. As well as choosing the right local partner, enterprises need to build support for the process among their own staff – rather than running the risk of alienating them.
HSBC’s CEO has said the bank’s Asian call center workers are better than its UK employees.
Sir Keith Whitson, CEO of HSBC, has told the press that HSBC’s call center employees in India and China are better workers than the bank’s UK staff. He says Asian employees (1,500 of whom currently process UK clients) are quicker at answering the phone, highly numerate and keen to come to work every day and can do the work for a fifth of the price of Europeans.
As customer service and IT get more expensive, companies across all sectors look set to gain from increasing their use of offshore resources – whether in IT maintenance and development, customer service, or data entry. However, naturally conservative banks will not rush to abandon local centers for overseas centers.
HSBC is in a strong position to move support staff offshore: it has long operated in India and China, and therefore has strong local management in place. This overcomes the execution problems that can plague offshore efforts.
Enterprises do not need HSBC’s global reach to gain from moving operations offshore – they just need to think carefully about what they are doing. However, most will need to outsource the project to a local partner, creating the potential for communication errors and conflicts of interest.
Internal management issues are also important. In many companies, domestic middle managers may feel that outsourcing threatens their role. Without their support, the chances of success are limited, so it is vital to generate buy-in at this level. Publicly highlighting the superiority of offshore workers may not always be the most effective way for CEOs to achieve this aim.
Workers should remember, meanwhile, that the offshore customer service boom will not prevent continued growth in the developed world. It’s more the other way round: the primary restraint in the West is the difficulty of recruiting and retaining good staff, driving firms to countries where there is high graduate unemployment.
Related research: Datamonitor, Offshore Outsourcing (BFTC0745), Customer Relationship Outsourcing in Europe (DMTC0826)
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