back to article BT's onshoring call centres scheme continues

BT's aim of bringing call centres back to the UK continues to make progress. A Reg reader was told by a business broadband support line that all support for that part of BT's business should be back in the UK by next May. The telco never promised to bring back all its support functions but said last July it aimed to onshore …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Its called 'Offshored Anxiety'

    And hopefully this will mean that more companies will follow BT's lead, like British Gas etc bringing jobs back where they belong..

    Customer Service is pretty much the same world-wide, as most of it is still based in india......

    1. N2 Silver badge


      If everyone insisted on using only companies with UK call centres, we wouldnt be in half as much shit as we are now.

  2. JaitcH

    "The move was not about customer service because standards were very similar around the world"

    Too damn true, we know this.

    Slow, slow transmission rates, deceptive advertising (how many BITS per second), excessive charges, unresponsive service support, etc.

    Why does it take so long to plough in fibre optic cable in the UK? Could it be the wrong type of soil?

  3. Harry

    Its a start, but ...

    Bringing call centres back to the UK is only a very small part of what needs to be done by the average UK business.

    The first priority has to be to ensure that the call will be answered promptly, by a PERSON not a machine, and that the person answering the call will be able to deal with at least 90% of the calls to that number without having to consult with somebody else or pass on the call to another department.

    I'm no longer a BT customer so I'm not sure whether BT is still a criminal in this respect. But in other businesses there's far FAR too much wholly unnecessary "press X for XXX" nonsense. If you've got more than one department, then publish *separate* numbers for each department and don't waste people's time asking them to "listen to the options carefully because they may have changed".

    1. R 11

      US v UK

      Interestingly, in the US there seem to be far fewer calls answered by Indian operators, every firm has a 1800 number and call pickup times are typically very fast.

      The UK seems a bit unusual with companies using premium 087x numbers for every service imaginable, and who believe it's okay to leave you on hold for thirty minutes before answering your call.

      I'm not so bothered by the call pickup time if a) the call is free and b) there is a message that indicates both your current queue position and current estimated time until answer. That way you can head off and make a fresh mug of tea if you know the call will take ten or so minutes before being answered.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Just had a parcel non-delivery...

      ...French chronopost. Said our address was incomplete or incorrect. Balls, Google Map knows exactly where it is as it was written. Anyway, got an SMS inviting me to call a number. Had a weird code so I looked up a very useful site that gives the real equivalent to premium rate calls.

      Answered by a machine with a list of options, none of them being "WhereTF is my parcel?". So I waited, spoke nothing, pressed nothing. After three rounds of automated menus, it decided to pass me on to customer services.

      Ring, ring, ring... (in French) "Thank you for calling, we anticipate answering your call in about twelve minutes".

      The entire call, because they couldn't be bothered to try to find out where our address was, was about 16 minutes.

      For this reason, I will not use Chronopost again. A 24hr delivery took 48h and 16 minutes on the phone (10 of which waiting to speak to somebody). Normal "Colissimo" takes around 48-72 hours and our post woman knows us, so...

      As Harry says, UK call centres are only a tiny part of the picture. Between you and me I don't care if the person taking my call is in the same country, or even on the same planet, so long as they are prompt, efficient, and get the problem sorted. That's what matters to customers.

      I don't need it in 24 hours when the regular post van "colissimo" takes 48ish.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It's not about customer service" ass. As much as my company or BT wants to pretend otherwise, users would rather speak to someone that natively speaks the same language, has a similar accent, etc. That's not to denigrate anyone... I'm sure users in India would rather work with an Indian desk than, say, Chinese, for example.

    The real story here is that wage inflation in India, and wage stagnation in many industrialized countries like the US and UK mean the savings in many areas are no longer as significant as they were. Add to that, with call centers starting to go virtual (at least in areas where work from home employees have an appropriate connection - which rules out many non-industrialized countries) incremental on-shoring will be the new trend for any company that has any reasonable bottom line for quality of service.

    Of course, by the end of it all I could see my company running call centers out of Somalia. They think this role is a commodity, and for many call center functions it is... just not so much with customer service IMO

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I've been trying for years to find a decent outsourcing company in India, the irony is nine times out of ten they charge more than a local company, some even charge more than I do! Those that are cheaper, invariably offer a poor service.

    The idea of a cheap, efficient workforce in India (or even China) is a myth and I think that UK companies are now realising this.

    As for customer service being the same the world over, rubbish! I'd love to see a study on how long a customer spends on the phone to a UK based call centre compared to an offshore one, but then again, maybe that is the idea.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Try TCS

      £150 a day for really good, well qualified staff.

      Or try WIPRO, Infosys etc. etc.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        you used the terms "good, well qualified staff" to describe TCS? Either you have a funny idea about what good, or well qualified means, or you're clearly dealing with some strange, secret, department, kept very well hidden from the rest of us! I work with a number of people from TCS, and there is someone in my team, who keeps it very quiet that they actually understand Hindi, who is very aware of some of the things said around them, supposedly unknown :)

        In fairness, offshore call centres are ostensibly good at doing what they are hired to do, walk callers through a script, designed to fix a large number of "idiot grade" errors, with absolutely no deviation.

        Should you have a real problem though, that you actually need to speak to someone about, they are completely useless. Not only is there a language barrier, ie accents aside, you're both technically speaking English, but some things have completely different meanings (like the word yes!). But also a cultural barrier, generally they will only do exactly as told, without stepping outside it, no questions no initiative, because it's just "not the done thing". If you have an issue, known and understood, that requires only a simple button press to fix, they will not press it without explicit instructions to do so in that particular scenario.

      2. Anonymous Coward


        Yes tried them, out of a team of 20 odd, 2 are good, the rest are rubbish, or unsuited, or no experience

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It wasn't always a myth

      There was a time (5 maybe 7 years ago) where you could hire really good employees in India, for example, for a decent price. That's not to say that accents weren't still a challenge, but I'm talking more about people with good troubleshooting skills, work ethic, etc.

      The problem is that because of the rush to ship jobs there, to keep employees from jumping ship you have to keep giving them raises - either that or suffer through severely high tuirnover rates and low quality employees. I believe for a number of years, the average pay increase for my employees in India was upwards of 15%.

      The financial advantage for IT offshoring has always been a limited duration play. India is catching up, Brazil already played out, similar trends are taking place in Eastern Europe... so now we're looking at China, and someday in the future we'll proably be chasing the dragon (to borrow the term from heroine addicts) to shadier parts of the world as long as our clients are willing to tolerate it.

      I'm not saying that's right, just that it's the way things have been working.

      1. Svantevid

        @ Anon Coward

        "someday in the future we'll proably be chasing the dragon (to borrow the term from heroine addicts) to shadier parts of the world "


        Well, that would solve the problem of Nigerian 419 scammers... they would all work in BT call centres.

  6. Pahhh

    Here is what I do....

    ... if when I get a cold call from some company offering me a service and I believe that they are based in India then I ask:

    [me] Hi, sorry to interupt but can you tell me where you are based

    [operator] Oh yes, COMPANYXYZ is an English company

    [me] Yes I know where COMPANYXYZ is based, but where are you?

    [operator] I work for COMPANYXYZ sir.

    [me] Yes yes, I know that. But where are you located? Where is your call center?

    [operator] I am in Deli

    [me] I see. I'm sorry but our country is experiencing an unemployment problem so I am not interested in dealing with companies that offshore their services when our country is in need of jobs. So thank you for calling, goodbye.

    [operator] Goodbye sir

    Its not verbatim but its a close enough paraphrase of the conversation.

    My objections appart from ethical grounds is that I find Indian call companies provide substandard service as I frequently do not understand the operators and they are so keen to please they say "Yes" to everything which often hampers a conversation further.

    Saying that, I got a Scottish guy at DELL a few months back. Didnt have a clue what he was saying but at least he did resolve the issue super quick.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Dell ?

      A Dell, not a Research Machines PC ? You see, our country is experiencing an unemployment problem....

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    training quality

    I've never understood why, when they put so much effort into getting foreign call staff to understand the nation they are dealing with, it is that call centre staff can never catch on when I am hinting that they ought to beggar off and leave me alone.

  8. Gordon861
    Thumb Up


    Next time you get an insurance quote check if the call centres are in the UK, if not go somewhere else and tell them why. Every call centre job being done overseas is another person on the dole in the UK who you are paying for with your taxes.

    1. Jim 59
      Thumb Up


      I get a Welsh voice whenever I call my insurance company, which is nice. Especially when a laydee answers the call.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      What about everything else ?

      Most of us don't hesitate when we buy US / UK branded goods that are made in China...

      or buy our Energy from E.ON instead of British Gas

      or use Orange instead of Vodafone

      At least India is a friendly state and has been an ally of the UK since Independence - much like the USA.

      1. Anonymous 16
        Thumb Down

        The difference is

        when buying big name chinese goods paying good money gets you good qualty but invaribly you always get a substandard service at a high cost when sourcing services from India and as for India being an ally why didn't you so before we would have held the door to let more of you Indians in afterall there just such an abundance of Jobs here for Brtish workers.

      2. david bates

        The last time I used British Gas

        I was rung up by an Indian callcentre because I had'nt paid a bill within 3 days of it arriving. The guy was aggressive, demanded my bank details and refused to put me through to his teamleader.

        When I complained to BG they were unable to track down who made the call. And so they lost my business for good.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      That's why...

      ... I dumped my last car insurance company that had a call centre in India, even though they were a few quid cheaper than the company (with a UK call centre) I eventually went with. I just could not face another best part of an hour on the phone trying to communicate with an Indian guy with an accent you could cut with a knife, and his constant attempts to sell me something I didn't want. All this to carry out a transaction that should take 5 minutes tops.

  9. noboard

    If only...

    B.T. would also put a stop to the fraudulent calls coming from India saying you have a computer virus. 3 times in the last week I've had them on the line for 20 minutes a time and they've still called a further 4 times.

    It's ridiculous how they expect the customer to come up with the companies number, when they already know it and wont give it to us. They obviously earn a decent amount of money from the illegal calls.

  10. John A Blackley


    "BT will continue to focus on meeting our customer needs with a balanced resourcing policy."

    "Because of the crappy state of the British economy, it's now actually cheaper to run call centers there than it is in India".

    No need to thank me.

  11. Tigra 07 Silver badge

    Lies! All lies!

    "The company said at the time the move was not about customer service because standards were very similar around the world."

    No they're not, i'm terrible with accents and 02 uses people with impossible to understand accents in a lot of their call centres.

    Luckily i've never had to phone BT support, but then i am with Talktalk

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Low cost centres

    As India propsers, the currency will do well, standards of living will rise and they will appear expensive compared to lower cost economies (I'm assuming Africa = South Africa).

    National Rail Enquiries outsourced their call centres to India - but soon discovered local knowledge was required and I believe there is a mixed operation in place between the UK and India.

    On the other hand, I have had fantastic support from Linksys (from Pune, India).

    There is not one solution that fits all... East Europe (near shore to us in the UK) is rapidly becoming a favoured option for agile projects (due to the short flight times and lower costs).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Don't forget time zones

      We do a lot of mixed support, and having Indian resources on the team they love covering off hours for us. Beats the heck out of trying to find an onshore worker to work graveyard :)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh really?

    And yet they sent out an email to a huge number of staff recently telling us all what a good job India is doing and how great it is....

  14. Rabbers

    I'm sure that Protectionism is a dirty word,

    but the Government should implement some sort of subsidy so that such roles can be staffed as cost effectively in the UK as outside the UK! There are probably so many other things that just can't be done in the UK because they are just too expensive.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why subsidize?

      ...when you could just cut their taxes. From an efficiency and accounting standpoint it's a lot easier, and typically doesn't rouse the same anti-protectionism/anti-free-trade venom as subsidies.

      The again, I just tend to hate subsidies anyway. The stink of favoritism and at the end of the day, any job that doesn't require you to be physically present (construction, maintenance, nurse, etc) could be offshored so are you really going to subsidize all 60% (or whatever the real number is) of jobs that can't be offshored?

      "Every month I take 100 bucks from you, but as a favor I'm going to start giving you 20... See, if it weren't for me you wouldn't have that 20 in your pocket now would you?"

  15. James 91

    We are currently experiencing communication issues.....

    From an outsourced bank call centre...

    Me: 'Hi, I'd like to talk to someone about my student account please'

    Operator: 'What does this mean, "Student"?'

    Me: 'Good bye.'

    Local knowledge counts for a lot.

  16. Jimbo 6

    From the Viz letters page...

    "My company have just told me they're moving my job to India.

    Fantastic ! I've always wanted to work abroad, and with the wage they pay me I'll be able to live like a Maharaja !"

  17. NX1977

    it's not about customer service

    No, as.always its shareholders and profits above customer service.

    As usual with these corporations.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Exactly right

      for telcos, I work for one, it seems to be a race to the bottom for customer service. There is no or insufficient training for call center staff.

      Corporations have discovered that they can offer terrible customer service because they all do the same, so there is no real choice for the consumer. There is nowhere to go for better customer service.

      I don't really see the cost savings though. Years ago, when you called a telco to speak with someone about fixing a problem you got someone who had been with the company for years, had probably been an outside tech who had had worked in houses and climbed poles, worked in the local central office, etc., and thoroughly understood the issue about which you speaking. This person could help you and probably take many more calls than the untrained person you speak with today. This person helped retain customers and increase customer satisfaction.

  18. David 45

    About time too

    I am actually an ex-BT man and I'm appalled at the direction the firm has been taking of late. I have had first-hand experience of their off-shore call centre mentality when I moved house and there was a "slight" problem with line and broadband. I am certainly not racist but if the person on the other end of the phone is useless, that is a matter of fact and, believe you me, they (for there was more than one) were about as much use as an ashtray on a motorcycle. I couldn't understand them and they sure as hell couldn't understand me, together with a line that sounded so bad, I've heard better audio from the moon shots! I eventually ended up being re-directed back to English staff back in the UK.

  19. alcopops
    Thumb Up

    Finally the penny's dropped

    Having dealt with BT's frankly awful technical support it can only be good news. When will businesses realise how unattractive an overseas call centre makes them to the consumer.

  20. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Customer Service is pretty much the same world-wide....

    ... piss poor.

    As I've said on a few forums, the monkeys are much the same, only the accent changes.

    If BT (or any other company) REALLY wants to improve its customer service it MUST allow helldesk workers to deviate from the script.

  21. Winkypop Silver badge

    Yes, but.... the risk of sounding a tad racist, aren't many of the 'local' call centre operators from non English speaking backgrounds anyway?

    Hello, yes Sir, I am being in Bradford, Sir...etc

    No offence intended.

  22. chris 130

    About bleeping time BT

    I used it abroad

    it was garbage, had to phone in daylight peak to get a brit who solved it instantly.

    About bleeping time BT

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: AC 'why not buy an RM.'

    Because they're crap just like Dell.

    I know because I use one every day at work, my home system was built by Mesh Computers, a good British company that sadly offshores its tech support.

  24. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Corporate sheep

    It's pretty annoying how some of these giant companies pay their top brass so much when all they do is copy what others do.

    If another company moves their call centres abroad then they all follow suit as it is seen as staying competitive.

    Did they not realise that poor customer service and data security would suffer? so much for the "talent" that needs so much pay to be attracted to these management jobs.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    It makes business sense

    You gotta look after the home market else it equals no home market.

  26. My New Handle

    Don't piss on my back and tell me its raining

    "...the move was not about customer service because standards were very similar around the world."

    Complete poppycock. Do these spokesmen read what they are about to say? Do the marketing departments think we are al completely brain dead and believe that crap. Do these BT flossers even use their own call centres? Because if they did they would not be spouting this kind of crap at us. It is patronising and insulting - which is why I refuse to use BT for anything at all.

    Frankly, I'd rather not have a service at all than submit myself to the BT that exists today.

    I certainly do not wish to indulge in the abortion that is their off-shore call centre.

  27. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Problem I had recently..

    well, not me but my friend.. this was not an Indian call center, I'd guess it was somewhere in South America. He has a prepaid phone he was having trouble with, having to enter in codes manually to add minutes to it. The accents were not too bad, but the call quality was AWFUL! If I were to guess, they were using VOIP with an inadequate internet connection. It sounded underwater and burbly, and even worse DROPOUTS! "Please enter the following code in the phone code entry screen... 5-3-blurp-(silence). " "Can you repeat that?" Ad nauseum. He was using my cell phone, I thought I was having call quality problems -- but the last time he called (when they -- finally! -- figured out what was REALLY wrong and fixed his phone so he won't have to call in to add minutes) it was from a landline and the call still sounded just as bad!

  28. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

    Too late

    Last bill was over 50 quid and I hadn't even made any calls.

    On VOIP PAYG over cable broadband now (proper geographic number and everything). Don't think I've spent more than half that all year.

    I've never come across such a combination of arrogance and incompetence than when I was with BT.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Service quality depends on the number of customers

    Example corporation, turnover 2 billion...

    : #customers 10... annoy any one of them at your peril.

    : #customers 100,000 ... annoy any of them at your leisure.

    Michael O'Leary is the unwitting frontman of all current corporate mandates - when competition rips the heart out of your profit margin, inclusive services become aggressive profit-centres. The result is a competitive lower(-ish) overall price, but a lower standard. Basically if you want an easy ride, you pay more.

    In call centre terms, some 'features' that rankle are: price gouging with 087 numbers, interminable wait for a call centre operator, telephonic abyss with auto-attendant and multi-layered selection menus, hard sell of associated but unwanted optional extras...

    India has done well on the back of offshoring, but service quality has certainly deteriorated re: incapability to understand nuances of English, among other issues (read others comments on that). Not enough UK customers switch suppliers because of offshoring, so it'll always be there. Question: who do you then change to who doesn't offshore?

  30. Thoy

    Barclays customer NON-service

    I recently spent almost 2 hours on the phone, 1st to Dehli & then Mombai when all I wanted to do was ring my local bank! It was only because I eventually got the Mombai man to transfer me to someone in the UK that I got an apponiment ! The last person I spoke to,in Sunderlans was also unable to contact my branch and sent them a fax !. When I eventually got to her the local manager was charming and obviously embarrassed at the failure of their system. It was also clear that I was but one of many ! Staff @ Barclays are not allowed to use email !

  31. Tony Rogers

    Outsourced to Scotland !

    I have lost count of how many calls I have had outsourced to India over the years.

    Some calls were serviced by poor English speaking operatives but most were satisfactory.

    Disaster...... some weeks ago...a Scottish/Glasgow lady !

    She may as well have learnt English on the Moon for all I know.

    The call took ages and an interpreter would have been very handy.

    Maybe she should be sent to India for re-training ?....Please !

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