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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Catching a train to Crewe? Call Bangalore

Andrew Clark, transport correspondent
Wednesday October 15, 2003
The Guardian

Train travellers will be forced to call Bangalore to find out the time of their next connection at Crewe or Clapham Junction, under a secret plan to save up to £10m by shifting Britain's national rail enquiries service to India.
According to documents leaked to the Guardian, train operators intend to educate Indian call centre workers in the eccentricities of Britain's railways. The move could put 1,700 jobs at risk at the existing call centres in Cardiff, Derby, Newcastle and Plymouth.

Indian staff will need to cope with queries about anything from the availability of smoking carriages on South West Trains to disabled access on the Fort William sleeper and weekend engineering works on the Settle-Carlisle line.

They will have to know every fare and promotion on the network, including the difference between a saver, a supersaver, an off-peak saver and a weekender.

An internal memo to the board of the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) reveals that the chief executive of National Rail Enquiries, Chris Scoggins, visited eight call centres in three Indian cities earlier this year.

Mr Scoggins found that they delivered an "excellent quality" service: "In two operations the agents had virtually no Indian accent."

His memo requests approval to set up a pilot operation in Bangalore, saying the "business case is strong" but warns: "There may well be trade union agitation and negative media coverage regarding jobs."

What won't they farm out to India? One day, incorrect procedures given over the phone in India will cost a western company millions in legal settlements.

posted by Steve @ 11:34:00 AM

11:34:00 AM

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