Indian Firm Opens Call Center in... Ohio?

Last Updated Aug 20, 2007 4:46 PM EDT

We've all had the somewhat aggravating experience of calling a 1-800 number only to get some sleepy call center robot on the other end utterly unwilling (or more likely unable) to do anything but read from the script. Some companies, worried that, if the experience is frustrating enough, it could drive customers elsewhere, are searching for alternatives. And one Indian firm is offering a (novel?) solution -- a call center in Reno, Ohio.

Fortune reports today that the center, operated by Tata Group, is the first wave in a possible new trend, one it terms "insourcing." Writing in his Bing Blog, Stanley Bing sheds some light on the significance of this development -- beyond the simple relief of all those Americans worried about the flight of jobs overseas:

"What's most interesting is that Asian companies are doing this to improve customer service for Americans who want to hear a friendly voice. They are, in a sense, defying the economics, and going for good business practice. What a concept!"
Bing elaborates that, if this trend of companies considering the "well-being of their employees and customers over strict adherence to the short-term bottom line" spreads to other areas of business, we could see:
  • The "insourcing" of jobs that used to go to out-of-house law firms, advertising, and public relations agencies, print departments, cleaning crews, etc.
  • All instruction manuals to be written in original, comprehensible English, not in pidgin nonsense translated from Urdu;
  • The reinstatement of thousands of real, live human beings where there are now audiotapes instructing you to press numbers in order to be put on hold.
Whether or not these broader changes are likely to occur, Bing is on to something. Most people hate dealing with unhappy call center drones (or worse, the robotic 'for billing, push 1 now!' voice), but often we have no choice. Putting friendly voices on the phones may cost a business more, but will result in more satisfied customers happy to return to and talk about your company. A little expenditure in the short term could lead to to big pay-offs in the long term.
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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.