The Bigotry Just Under the Surface of Offshoring

    views ran a couple of revealing articles this week. It all started when BT Chief Procurement Office Meryl Bushell called some customers who complain about language difficulties with Indian call centers “bigots.” That sparked the small firestorm that will no doubt continue burning for many weeks to come. (Yes, I suppose I’m keeping the flames stoked by my writing of these words…)

    According to “BT slams ‘bigots’ who abuse Indian call centre staff,” Ms. Bushell based her opinion on what she heard while listening in to customer calls made to BT’s Indian call centers. As she is quoted in the article as saying, “There are some bigots who are very rude. There are times I have been ashamed to be British." Ms. Bushell made the remarks at a conference of purchasing and supply professionals in London.

    The admission, according to “Best of Reader Comments: BT slams offshore ‘bigots,’” generated a great deal of reader response. As Editor Andy McCue writes, “Sadly many of those reader comments — which will remain unpublished — made for depressing reading and would appear to confirm the view of BT's chief procurement officer Meryl Bushell…” He also acknowledged less incendiary responses from readers with legitimate complaints, but pointed out “that international boundaries don’t dictate the quality of customer service.”

    One bit of practical advice offered by Ms. Bushell in her talk (aside from the reverse-advice of not saying anything that somebody might take personal offense at…) is that BT is reducing the number of Indian service providers it works with after “bad experiences” with smaller suppliers:

    "Where we have had bad experience it has almost always been with the 'tier two' suppliers," she said. "We almost exclusively work with the 'tier one' suppliers."

    She also warned companies to specify requirements in fine detail to offshore suppliers, including everything from the maximum staff attrition rate to data protection and health and safety.