High burnout dims Indian call centers

Despite good pay, night shifts--necessitated by serving customers on the other side of the world--cause high turnover at call centers in India, according to a recent study.

Over half of all call center staff in India burn out and end up quitting due to tough working conditions, according to a study done by market research firm NFO.


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Erratic working hours, assuming false identities, copying foreign accents and changes in social and family life take their toll, according to a report on the study in The Economic Times.

Call center staff in India operate hotlines for Western banks, credit card and tech companies. Because the bulk of calls originate from the U.S. and Europe, staff members often have to change their names from Indian ones to ones that Westerners can relate to, as well as adapt speech patterns through voice coaching.

To answer calls during the Western daylight hours, Indian call centers need to run round-the-clock.

Many well-qualified workers turn to call centers as the salary is attractive and the job is seen as a good starting point towards a management position. When employees find that this is not often the case, they leave, said the report.

The study sought looked at ways in which human resource professionals could help employees better cope with the increased stress and workload, and how motivate and retain call center employees.

While the study found that new workers "have a high level of motivation and excitement", the good feelings fade when the pressures of the job kick in.

One thousand employees across 19 call centers, including GE Capital, HCL eserve, MsourcE, Convergys, 24/7, Citibank and Transworks were surveyed, said the report.

Business process outsourcing (BPO) is becoming one of India's rapidly growing sectors in recent times. The country's revenue from BPO will grow from slightly under US$1 billion in 2002 to US$1.2 billion in 2003 and will represent 66 percent of the offshore BPO market.