Santander moves call center jobs from India to U.K.

The bank said it was responding to customers' dissatisfaction

Santander UK, a subsidiary of Banco Santander, has moved call center jobs from India back to the U.K., citing adverse feedback from its customers.

Abbey National, one of the banks run by the group, outsourced its call center operations in 2003 to two centers in India, one in Bangalore and the other in Pune. Abbey became part of Santander Group in 2004.

The bank decided to move the handling of those calls back to centers in the U.K. following feedback from customers who say dealing with an offshore call center is "a frustration that can lead to dissatisfaction," the bank said on Friday.

There have been such moves periodically, particularly by companies in the U.K., said Amneet Singh, vice president for global sourcing at Everest Group. Sometimes situations arise where companies' attempts to cut costs by offshoring run against customer sensitivities, he added.

Offshoring has also acquired political nuances in Europe recently, after recent economic austerity measures and local job losses, he added.

Europe is, however, a small market for Indian business processing outsourcers compared to the U.S., he added.

"We know from this year that call centers abroad was the number one cause of dissatisfaction," a spokesman for Santander said on Monday. Santander UK's CEO, Ana Botin, acted on this data, as part of a broader move to reduce customer complaints, the spokesman said. The bank couldn't say for how long the issue may have been simmering with customers, he added.

The bank has hired 500 new staff in the U.K. to handle the estimated 1.5 million calls each month. In total, Santander's UK call centers employ 2,500 staff.

India's biggest draw has been its low-cost English-speaking workforce, but as staff costs go up in India, the country has been losing some ground to call centers in the Philippines that can offer staff who don't need a lot of training in English and are better in tune culturally with customers in the U.S.

New Call Telecom, a telecommunications company in the U.K., moved its call center back to the U.K. from India, complaining of increasing costs and staff attrition in India, according to reports.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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John Ribeiro

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