The Next Time You Pick Up the Phone to Call a Customer Service Agent You Might End Up Talking to an Inmate in Tijar, India.

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Global customer servicing outsourcing is touching us everyday and sometimes you don’t know who you’re talking to on the phone or online when you call your service provider.


I have had good experiences as well bad ones and the business case for companies are obvious and the continuous drive for lower costs are pushing companies to be creative and look for emerging destinations beyond the popular candidates such as India and Philippines, despite their relative advantage in English proficiency.

India is trying to move up the food chain and trying to provide higher value outsourcing jobs while in the Philippines, but moreover in Malaysia, Thailand and increasingly Vietnam and Indonesia, all want a piece of the still growing pie. We are seeing some anti-outsourcing sentiment due to the high unemployment rate at home receding to historical norms. The cost saving justification needs to be significant these days but it is not easy as the standard of living in India and Vietnam is quickly rising. That’s when you need to be creative.

Now they are doing a pilot program in India recruiting inmates with some good IT skills to try them doing basic data entry, customer service and support. They need to start with changing the policy of allowing Internet access in prisons. Those who participate will get paid more than what they could earn by doing other jobs in the prisons. This is still at pilot stage and I wonder how they will select the people to participate beyond their skills, will they have to say something like “Sir, before we continue on, I’d like you to know that I am special customer service agent and a convict and previously robbed a bank and shot the manager. I need to confirm that you would like to continue on to allow me to help you with your banking transaction here?”

According to Gopinath Reddy, director general of prisons in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, he told the Guardian in the UK that inmates’ knowledge should be used for the benefit of “the nation.” The pressure to lower cost and perceptions of lowering capital investment make outsourcing an almost irresistible impulse for service businesses and manufacturers. Global access to vendors, falling interaction costs, and improved information technologies and communications links are giving companies unprecedented choice in designing their operations. Theses strategies are too easy for many taking some extra few cents out but it is time to rethink outsourcing. We need the jobs back and let’s talk smartsourcing. The next outsourcing RFPs will go to top prisons in the US, India and Philippines to compete against each other perhaps. That’s innovation.

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