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Primus Brings back jobs to Canada

Primus to abandon Mumbai call centres
Toronto firm joins exodus from India; accepts $850,000 from New Brunswick to hire within province
SIMON AVERY

TELECOM REPORTER

April 23, 2009 at 7:30 AM EDT

A growing number of companies that looked to call centres in India to reduce their service costs are finding that the savings come at a price too high to pay in a recession – customer satisfaction.

Primus Telecommunications Canada Inc. PRTLQ-Q2 is the latest company to announce that it will abandon most operations in India in favour of adding more customer representative jobs back in North America.

The Toronto-based company said its high-speed Internet customers will no longer have their service or technical help calls handled by a third party in Mumbai. Instead, their calls will go through Primus’s own call centre in Edmundston, N.B., which already handles the firm’s wireless and phone accounts.

Rob Warden, vice-president of residential marketing for Primus, said the carrier is responding to feedback from customers who say they prefer to deal with Canadians.

“They live in Canada and they would rather have their inquiries handled by someone in Canada,” he said. “If their inquiry is successfully resolved, be it offshore or onshore, they are happy. But if it isn’t, the fact that they have been dealing with someone offshore, that can just add to a level of frustration if they don’t get their inquiry solved on the spot.”

Primus has relied on workers in India to handle calls for the past five years. It has committed to hire 113 new employees in Edmundston by the end of next year, in return for about $850,000 from the New Brunswick government, Mr. Warden said. He called the financial incentive “a motivator” but said the company would have made the move regardless.

Primus would not say what the financial savings of outsourcing calls amount to, but analysts have estimated that call-centre costs are between 50 per cent and 75 per cent cheaper in India than North America.

Last month, BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada, the country’s largest phone company, said it was cutting back the volume of tech-support calls it directs to India because it was unsatisfied with results.

“Some of our offshore calling has not done what we’ve wanted it to do,” chief executive officer George Cope told shareholders at the annual meeting in Montreal.

Rogers Communications Inc., the country’s largest cable and wireless player, does not outsource its call centres.

Telus Corp. operates a call centre in the Philippines, but uses it mainly for international customers. It also has two sites in Central America and another in Las Vegas. Foreign centres handle low-value functions such as operator services, while new high-growth areas such as TV, wireless and Internet are managed in Canada, said Telus spokesman Jim Johannsson.

The trend away from Indian call centres includes numerous large companies outside the telecommunications industry. Recently, Chrysler LLC said it planned to move its customer service centre out of India. And last week, Delta Air Lines announced it had closed all of its call-centre operations in India, with CEO Richard Anderson acknowledging that customer acceptance of foreign call centres is “low.” Like other U.S. airlines, Atlanta-based Delta had looked to India as a means of cutting costs after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Globe and Mail

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