I decided to write this article after I heard Mr. Trump’s last week comment about his credit card customer service call he made that was answered by an Indian in India. I am not interested in analyzing Mr. Trump’s political rhetoric on outsourcing and for that matter his or any other politicians’ strategy on winning elections. But, I want to ponder on what might have led to a comment like that, that was widely accepted by his supporters. His comment and his imitation of Indian accent was quickly interpreted as racist and bigoted. I personally don’t think so, but, rather Mr. Trump seem to possess a unique skill to bluntly address controversial issues and get away with it. Perhaps it is because of his celebrity status, tells it like it is, or as I construe, in this case, it is a backlash because we ignored for too long the issue of outsourcing jobs overseas. This article is just an attempt to address what might be the reasons for outsourcing gone sour and how corporate America could self-adjust their outsourcing practices so it is sensible, ethical and responsible.
First off, I am a CEO of Information Technology Services company that offer IT outsourcing as one of its services. Secondly, I can talk all about Mr. Trump’s Indian in India comment because of my Indian American ethnicity that invariably gives me the inalienable right and the exclusive license on this topic from the politically correct police. Good luck if are a White, African or Hispanic American!
Mr. Trump’s comment about customer service call that landed on an Indian’s desk in India is an issue and that has not been a popular one among Americans for almost a decade now. That includes me too! See, I have been living in America for the last 25 years and still have a long ways to go in the learning the ways of an natively born American. You may have to ask my children who were born here to get a feel for how far off I am from the American colloquial ways! Even for me, an Indian in India on the other side of a customer support call is sometimes frustrating because my expectations for a customer service call has changed for better from the time I lived in India. American corporations and their outsourcing call center partners have made efforts to improve the customer service call experience, but, it simply could not meet the basic standards of a colloquial conversation that would put an American at ease. Because, the two persons on either ends of that telephone line are not only miles apart in distance, they are also miles apart in cultural etiquette that could not be bridged by a handful of customer service training sessions.
It is neither of the persons fault. The American customers’ expectations on customer service has been summarily ignored in the last decade. When it comes to consumer customer service calls, I always wondered why American companies did not make an effort to put their American customers first and also why they did not get creative to be responsible to the American workers they are laying off. For example, when there are hundreds of thousands of single parents and stay home parents in America whom are struggling to cling to the workforce, why can’t they be given an opportunity to work from home? Technologies to facilitate that kind of distributed workforce are clearly available.
Outsourcing is inevitable. The global sourcing of products, services and labor has been going on for centuries. Businesses have to go where there are compelling economic advantages to stay competitive in the market place and to open new markets. However, outsourcing can be done ethically and responsibly without compromising the quality of the service. It can also be done taking into consideration the economic wellbeing of the parties involved; the corporations, its employees and its customers, and the outsourcing partners and their employees. Especially for an offshore worker, studies reveal adverse social and psychological effects when he or she is over worked and expected to take on culturally contradictory roles between work and personal life. Despite all this, American outsourcing has greatly benefited the developing countries by bringing flood of opportunities and creating a big middleclass in countries like India that substantially elevated the quality of life of millions of households both directly and indirectly. Americans should be proud of that positive global influence. However, pride may not be just enough. The jobs that could be performed here in collaboration with offshore workers to deliver quality service are not being proactively developed.
The days of mutual loyalty between employers and employees seem to be long gone, mostly in large corporations. Only profits seem to drive all the business decisions at the senior management level without much consideration for the wellbeing of their employees. When it comes to Information Technology (IT) outsourcing, employees and in many instances, local business and existing supplier loyalties and their quality of work are swiftly ignored. Average term of CIOs (Chief Information Officer) in many of the corporations’ only range from 3 to 5 years. Often the CIOs are handed a difficult task to come in to execute a swift and often insensible outsourcing strategies that result in the layoff of the employees replacing them with offshore workers. Often the corporations and outsourcing partners lack the plan and compassion to accommodate their in-house employees and preserve the quality of service. There are heart-wrenching stories where employees who had spent the greater part of their lives working at a company are asked to train foreign workers and are subsequently laid-off.
Moreover, in large IT outsourcing companies, the overhead costs are big that require ever growing profit margins, overworked staff, and challenges to scale technology teams. This climate also in many instances creates corrupt practices that favor a certain IT service provider or outsourcing partner over others. Whistle blowers are swiftly silenced or terminated.
In conclusion, local workforce does directly feel the brunt of outsourcing when the GDP is almost stagnant quarter after quarter or at its best growing insignificantly. The question is, can there be a win-win outsourcing strategy? What does that win-win strategy look like? Who should be responsible to concoct such a win-win scenario? I believe that the American corporations should take a lead in laying out a sound outsourcing strategy to prevent the ever growing resentment among Americans about market economics and the Wall Street in general when unemployment and those who dropped off the workforce are at its highest. That strategy should be followed by the outsourcing partners in employing local talents without bringing too many foreign workers while augmenting offshore resources without compromising the quality of service by managing tasks that are best suited for local and offshore talents.