For many years, various industries have shown a marked upward trend in providing call centers to handle customer service questions or issues (inbound), to their customers. Some call centers are called outbound centers, meaning they may sell services or attempt to collect debts. To keep costs low, some companies use international call centers, which draw on the services of people outside their country and use outsourcing to staff growing need for either service or sales. An international call center usually has a physical location or office, where staff has access to multiple phones, frequently works at computer terminals, and does their best to answer inquiries of customers, collect debts or promote sales.
Though there is much talk about the amount of outsourcing of jobs to foreign markets, 2007 studies show that only about 13% of call center jobs are truly international as opposed to domestic. Of these, the majority are located in India, Brazil and Spain. The market is certainly growing, and companies may choose to have more than one call center, one domestic and at least one international center to staff phones at 24 hours a day without having to pay overtime or shift differentials to domestic workers.
Having an international call center certainly does save money on employee costs. An employee at an international center in India may work for a yearly wage of about $2500 US Dollars (USD). Brazilian employees are paid approximately $4000 USD per year. In contrast, American workers make approximately $27,000-35,000 USD per year, and employers are usually obligated to contribute toward health insurance costs for their workers. It typically makes sense from a business perspective to pay one tenth the cost of an American worker if you can be reasonably certain employees have good English skills and can answer service questions.
Actually, more international call center data and research shows people answering your call from India are likely to be better qualified than people answering your call in the US. Only about 20% of domestic call centers hire college graduates. In contrast, an international center is India is most likely to hire college graduates; 70% of staff at most call centers have earned an undergraduate college degree. The only comparable numbers for call centers are Canada, where 50% of employees may be college educated, and the Netherlands, where about 60% of employees hold a university degree.
College education is not always a requirement at international call centers, like those in South Africa and South Korea. Less than 10% of employees at call centers in South Africa have a college education. In all, a degree may not be necessary to be successful at a job, but if you’re working in a service oriented call center, familiarity with products is most important.
If you’re staying for a long time in a foreign country, you might just look for positions at an international call center if you need work. Since one of the main requirements of such call centers is strong English language skills, these jobs (provided you have working visas), may be fairly easy to obtain, even on a short-term basis. There are literally thousands of such jobs available. Good phone manners, patience, great speaking skills and ability to learn about a company’s products or services are the most important requirements.