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DTI report backs 'quality' UK sector

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Companies need to think hard and long before shunting call centre jobs overseas, according to a report commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Instead of just focusing on the potential cost savings of shifting call centre operations overseas, businesses also need to balance this against the quality and skills of UK workers.

According to the report, The UK Contact Centre Industry: A Study: "UK call centres should not compete with offshore contact centres on the basis of low costs alone, but they can by improving quality, demonstrating a viable alternative to the inherent risks of offshoring."

Said Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Patricia Hewitt: "Others [overseas call centres] are unbeatable on cost, but we are unbeatable on quality. The best British call centres are the best in the world, offering high value businesses, high skill professionals, but we need to bring the quality of the rest up to that of the best."

The report [pdf] also suggests that customers, employees and trade unions, should be consulted before decisions are made to offshore call centres. Despite a string of press reports about call centre jobs being exported to countries such as India, the report maintains that the UK's call centre sector is "healthy" and set to employ more than one million people by 2007.

The Government decided to carry out a study of call centres in December following growing concerns about job losses and the threats posed by the global economy. In February, Shadow Chancellor Oliver Letwin blamed "crackpot" VAT laws for encouraging British firms to outsource jobs to foreign countries. ®

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