Report of the Global Call Centre Industry Project
The dramatic growth of the call center industry is a world-wide phenomenon, fueled by advances in information technologies and the precipitous decline in the costs of voice and data transmission over the last two decades. As part of this global industry, call centres in India have experienced spectacular growth in the last five years. They generate seventy percent of the revenues of the Indian Business Process Outourcing (BPO) industry, according to estimates by Mckinsey (www.nasscom.org).
This rapid growth has also brought managerial challenges in terms of recruitment,staffing, training, and retention of workers and managers with the requisite skills and abilities to provide quality service. This report focuses on these critical human resource issues and presents systematic benchmarking data for managers. It is based on an on-site survey of 60 call centres located in cities: Bangalore, Bombay, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderbad, and Kolkata.
This Indian report is part of a larger global call center research project. Comparable national reports are being conducted in twenty countries in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and South Africa.
In this study we examine such questions as:
• How do call center management practices differ across centres serving the domestic and international market?
• What types of technologies and work practices are being adopted?
• What are the pay levels and compensation strategies for employees and managers?
• What human resource practices contribute to lower turnover and absenteeism?
Achieving competitive success in call centers is a difficult task. Managers must balance quality and customer service while keeping costs under control. While call center technologies careate efficient methods for handling service interactions, customers often become frustrated by overly standardized menus and procedures. Similarly, many employees find call center jobs to be routinized and boring, leading to high levels of employee dissatisfaction, absenteeism, and turnover. Employee dissatisfaction, in turn, can lead to lower service quality and customer dissatisfaction. With turnover rates at 30 to 50 percent a year, managers find themselves in a vicious circle – just as employees become proficient in the job, they quit. Managing the workforce is a constant cycle of recruitment, selection, training, and retention strategies.
In addition, while call center jobs are often portrayed as ‘low-skilled’ or 'clerical' in nature,they in fact require considerable knowledge and skills. Frontline employees confront on-going changes in product and service offerings, pricing and packaging, legal regulations, work methods, and technical processes. Thus, they need to regularly upgrade their knowledge and skills in order to serve customers well.
This report addresses these and other issues of concern to managers and employees in the call center industry. We would like to thank the managers at 60 worksites who gave generously of their time during a lengthy on-site survey interview. We would also like to thank the Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies at Cornell University for funding for this project.