Call Center workers – beware of ‘cultural’ clashes

By Venkat Manthripragada
Monday, January 17 2005

The stories of Call Center executives facing harsh treatment from the western customers is in the news again. After some news about UK public rejecting Indian call centers because of the habits and language skills, it is now the news of abusing the Call Center workers.

If outsourcing becomes a reality and economists and business people worldwide accept it to be a solution for survival of businesses in their respective countries, they probably are committing a crime by not informing their customers about the location and staff cultures of the Call Centers.

It is very difficult to assume that one culture is higher than the other.

Multiple factors influence the culture and behavioural manners in a country. It is not a right attitude to expect the culture known to us from a foreigner.

The businesses looking for outsourcing their business processes to low-cost countries such as India should make sure that they do the following:

  • Communicate to the customers about the possible locations of their call centers. This will not make the offering weak because they can claim the reduction of costs to the customers because of reduction of their own operational costs. This will make the customers to keep their expectations at the right level and also start respecting different cultures.
  • Communicate the economic benefits of the outsourcing decision to the business and the economy as a whole. Since majority of the businesses are resorting to outsourcing, it may not become a discounting factor.
  • Communicate the impact of outsourcing on the employment market in their native countries. Since the outsourced business processes are normally people-intensive, the public in the countries that are resorting to outsourcing feel apprehensive about loosing their jobs to low-cost countries. Outsourcing may give opportunities to the companies to look at decent growth and thus growth in employment.

The incident of the RJs abusing an Indian call center worker indicate the expectation on the part of the RJ that such an act will entertain majority of their listeners and it is an alarming trend. The countries resorting to outsourcing may have to face unexpected results if they cannot influence the sentiments of their own citizens and motivate the employees in their call centers in low cost areas.

The other part increasingly getting popular is NRIs becoming abusive towards call center workers. The Indian Government is all set to pamper the NRIs and (may be) they deserve all that. But the Government should also provide opportunities to expose the second and third generation kids of the NRIs to Indian customs and culture.

They should get a good picture about the change of culture and lifestyle taking place in India these days to remove the apprehension. In some cases, where I personally witnessed Indians abroad rather unhappy with their fellow citizens, if they are not showing the expected results because they associate it with their nationality. So they become excessively harsh when compared to their local counterparts.

The important lesson for people working for Call Centers is to focus on understanding the psychological pressures of the groups accessing them for the services. The natives might be suffering from the bias that the job their fellow citizen is supposed to handle has been outsourced to a low-cost location. The Desis may feel that people employed in Call Centers should learn better culture to handle the calls more professionally.

The entrepreneurs looking for setting up the Call Center should make sure that they impart such kind of understanding to their employees as a part of initial training itself.

Since we are growing in the model of a dependent economy and the Government is also encouraging the dependent industry more than indigenous solutions, we may have to live with this situation in the years to come.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in the aforesaid article belong solely to the writer/contributor. We@bpmwatch.com, do not assume any responsibility, whatsoever, to the contents or their implied meanings.




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