Have you thought about taking your contact centre career offshore and living life as an expat?
With the continued growth and development of offshore contact centre locations, Douglas Jackson are being asked to partner with many more UK organisations and professional outsourcers to attract UK call centre professionals to work within, or alongside offshore operations. The types of roles and positions available to ex-pats are varied; you could be working for the Outsourcer leading a strategy, function, or operation, as you would here in the UK, or you could be working for the UK business who is partnering with an offshore operation, acting as the conduit between the UK based corporate/customer managing or, developing the relationship, culture and communications to ensure the delivery of service, proposition or, targets and to manage the commercial agreement and performance within the offshore operation/vendor.
The idea of warmer climes, travel and the experience gained in offshore roles, can be a wonderful, or, daunting concept, dependant on you and your outlook. We asked some of our network of contact centre professionals who are presently located overseas to tell you their stories with some thoughts, views and tips about relocating offshore. In this post we cover India, South Africa and Malta:
James Cochrane – Head of Contact Centres, Allianz -currently based in India, with a staff of 350 covering contact centre sales and service, claims, back office processing, UAT and BS MI across general insurance:
‘Living a life as an expat in India depends largely on where in India you are based. However before l cover that, let’s talk about things even before you set foot on the airplane. Firstly the Indian Visa application is notoriously difficult especially if you are being given a local Indian employment contract so make sure ALL the necessary paperwork is in order and you use a reputable visa agent go between in the UK to make the process easier. Remember if you’re not married you can’t get a spouse visa only a tourist visa which you will have to come back to renew in the UK on expiry. On arrival in India you MUST go to the police station and register as an FRO or you won’t be able to leave the country.
Secondly; when dealing with salary , please make sure your recruitment consultant deals on a UK equivalent salary and NOT a CTC (Cost to Contract) , because if you do, you may find your basic salary as low as £15,000 and that may be used to calculate pension contributions , in which case you can’t use this fund until your aged 58. Above all be careful and ensure you convert at the right currency threshold. Remember it about 83 INR to One Pound. (1 LAC – 100,000 INR. 1 CORE – 1,000,000 INR.)
OK. On to the job. If you take a job in Mumbai , Pune or Bengalore , you will be in the epicentre of 3rd party and Captive outsourcing. This is where most companies are based. Therefore the cost of living in these cities is more expensive, particularly Mumbai. Shopping is better and living standards are mostly equal to the UK. If you cannot deal with poverty and in some cases of extreme poverty which includes child begging (think slum dog millionaire) then please think carefully about where you want to work. This happens in most cities other than in the south where it is relatively un-common. Crime is rare to expats but please be aware women are most certainly treated differently in India so caution needs to be exercised. (Most India bars will only have men in so stick to expat bars where it’s a good mixture and you won’t be stared at).
In South India you can rent a luxury flat for £300 per month. (3 beds, communal pool, sauna). In Mumbai it is close to £1200 per month. So my tip is to get the company to pay your rental costs as part of the contract. Electricity is cheap but you will be charged extra for air con at night so be aware of this. Driving a car is for the brave only and l would recommend a car and driver or taxi. It’s cheap and safer. International schools are in every big city but by Indian standards VERY expensive. Again negotiate with the employer. And make sure you also get flights home in the contract which should be business class for all of your family as well. Don’t be fooled it’s along flight and in my experience those you start work straight away when landing are paying for it by day 2.
Living the ex-pat life in India takes bit of getting use too but once you get passed the bureaucracy it is a very comfortable life. The pace of life, even though fast in an outsourced environment, is quite slow; don’t expect things to be done straight away. Most people who live and work here who are expats tend to move on every few years as the companies either promote them internally to a more senior role or you are head hunted by other companies as ex pats are still a relatively well sort after commodity. My next move may be to China or Australia as these countries need good ex pats to manage western type clients more frequently.
If you’re single then access to other parts of the world such as the Maldives or Sri Lanka are only a short journey away. Enjoy the different culture and embrace it as much as you’re comfortable with. Above all save money when your here as you will not live in a country where the cost of living is so good.’
‘I was incredibly lucky to be seconded out to Durban in South Africa whilst working with Talk Talk. It gave the family the unique experience of living in another country whilst knowing that it was not for ever, and to enjoy it whilst we could. However, we enjoyed it so much that when my secondment came to an end, we decided rather than return to the UK (5.30am starts, cold dark railway platforms, endless nights away from home…..you get my drift) we decided to stay and extend the experience. The number one reason was the difference we had seen in our two boys, William 8 and Cameron 2, who had had the most wonderful time at the school they had attended.
We decided that the outdoor life suited the children so much that we could not take it away from them. I was very lucky to be offered the Managing Director’s role with a relatively new entrant to the BPO market in SA called Coracall. We are a 650 FTE operation, specialising in Inbound and Outbound sales to the UK, US and Australia, and I feel very fortunate to have joined the business at an early enough point in their journey to help forge the culture.
Living and working in Durban has many pros and cons compared to life in the UK. The weather for a start, the sun shines 80% of the year, so that puts you in a good mood, and enables lots of outdoor entertainment and activities to take place. Since we have been here our two children have not asked for the PlayStation of the Wii to be unpacked….there are far more exciting things to do than be in front of the TV.
There is much less time spent travelling to and from work, which means more quality time for the family, and the Sport and restaurants in Durban are some of the best in the world.
On the negative side you are 6k miles from friends and family, and whilst Skype does make contact a little easier, it is not for everyone. The cost of living is cheaper overall, but the cost of clothing and commodities such as electrical goods is about 20% more expensive.
South Africa has a bad reputation in the worlds press for crime and violence, and there is no doubt it does exist, but it is no better, or worse than crime stats in all the major cities in the world. Common sense around security needs to be put into context, and in the main we have felt very safe and secure in Durban, but need to make sure that we are never complacent around security.
Call centres are call centres all over the world, whilst there may be different views from the windows, the theme that runs through them all is their people. I was taught at an early age in my career that if you can look after your people they will look after your customers and the numbers will look after themselves. We work in an age of KPI’s and spreadsheets galore, and sometimes forget the humans that are producing the numbers. Working in a developing offshore geography like Durban, is a tremendous challenge for me as I get the chance to work with others from the BPO industry to create jobs in a heavily unemployed area, whilst trying to improve the experience of the customer. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity, and hope that it continues for some time to come.’
‘I got the invite to write this post on exactly the one year anniversary of our arrival in Malta March 2012.
That had been following the busiest month I can remember. I got the job offer on the 20th of February, and we arrived in Malta on the 23rd of March, the furniture trailing two weeks behind.
So from a cold UK to the Mediterranean, what changes?
The decision to re-locate was one that had been there for about a year, with Malta as the first choice, but with the dominos falling the way they did actual timing was serendipitous.
From a work point of view it was very much a leap in the dark, I knew the hiring manager, but, that was all, therefore was very much venturing into unknown territory. Whilst my wife had worked abroad before this was new to me.
So, what is it like for an ex-pat in an offshore contact centre?
Well ignoring the soul crushing sunshine, blue sky and ability to dive every weekend without serious thermal insulation!
Well, we are an in-house operation serving Europe and some outer markets, therefore very much in every sense of the word international and multi-lingual, this can cause ‘issues’. Whilst English is the business language you need to be constantly aware colloquial phrases will probably not be completely understood, one good idea is to hang onto the idea, simple doesn’t have to mean patronising.
Since arriving we have tackled two of the big bureaucratic issues: Importing a car and buying a house. These have been two exhausting procedures.
The sheer amount of paperwork, that seems to be generated by the ‘Maltese Department of Spurious Form Production’ has been incredible , and, the bank may be the ‘world’s local bank’ but in this case in terms of competence it’s the local banks of a small third world village, AFTER the monsoon has taken the telephone lines out!
So what’s good, why would you come here? Ignoring the sun of course, we do get rain, and, when it rains, it really rains! The people, the food, the atmosphere, the sound of fireworks throughout the summer celebrating the village and town fiestas and local Saint Days. We are in the middle of Easter which has been a wonderful experience. The aftermath of last month’s election was a sight to behold, in a country where you get a 95% turnout for elections you know that they take their politics seriously, but, the celebrations after were completely unexpected, the island came to a halt for two days all you heard were car horns!
The island itself is beautiful, this time of year something that most holiday makers do not see is the fact it’s green and covered in flowers. The diving is superb, amongst the best in Europe, being able to just decide to go on a Sunday rather than planning weeks in advance is great. Sitting in a beach cafe Christmas day lunchtime was also a special experience.
What’s bad? As much as I like the sun 31 degrees at 6am in the summer is a little excessive (British understatement), although it does keep the water heating bills down, as to wash up you only need to open the cold tap as the sun has heated the roof tank to above 40 degrees most days. In winter it does get damp, and, windy, force 8-9 for 2-3 days is not uncommon, so flying in and out gets sporty.
All in all, very much a change and move that has turned out unexpectedly well, just remember, if you’re dealing with Maltese bureaucracy, take a good book as nothing happens fast!’
What do you think? – do you have experience living and working offshore, we would love to hear about your experiences or advice for those considering a move, please do post your comments here:
If you need to attract expat talent to help work with your offshore operations, or if you might be interested in living or working offshore then please do contact us: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 0845 620 9720.