Call centers in India – HR Practices


The enormous growth of call centers is due to importance attached by companies to customer care, telemarketing, tele- banking, home shopping, etc., as well as due to market liberalization of utilities and growth of direct marketing. Call center, originally conceived as separate and individual distribution channel of the customer care system, have been transformed into an integrated customer management system. With the integration of Internet technology in call centers they are equipped to handle telephone, fax, Internet TV and enquires 24 x 7.

There has been a mismatch between demand and supply of human resources in the industry in India. Both employment generation and attention levels are high, in spite of 150,000 jobs added to the ITeS / BPO in 2004-05. Demand for experienced professionals, expected supply and attribution was between 25 and 40%. By 2008, the sector is expected to fall short by 262,000 people out of a total requirement of about 1,000,000 people. ITeS-BPO companies were the largest recruiters in 2004-05. The industry is also targeting new services lines like technical help desks, finance and accounting services, engineering services, equity research etc. to widen its gamut of services and achieve further growth.

All call centre operations require huge manpower which accounts for 55% to 60% of their total cost. But in India, manpower cost is almost one-tenth of what it is overseas. Obviously a lot of overseas call centre operations are now moving grounds here. Thus, appropriate management of HR in these variegated call centers becomes the most challenging job of this sector.

Recruitment and Selection—Changing Trends

Recruitment is carried out by any one of three methods, i.e. walk-in-interviews, employee referrals, or placement agencies. The skills, required for a call center job involve communication skills, ability to understand, accent language skills, computer literacy, previous BPO experience, and a high level of alertness. For selection, various tests such as written and spoken English tests, group discussions, telephone assessment, and one-to-one interviews are conducted either by the company itself or by an assessment center. These centers use a comprehensive and standardization procedure in which multiple assessment including psychometric tests, are used to assess candidates and arrive at credible level of behavioral forecasting, since they have to work under constant pressure. But for an outbound lead generation or sales program, the selection includes tests on the selling skills (to measure assertiveness, persistence, drive, empathy, convincing capability), achievement orientation, and script delivery.

The experiences of most call centers show that only about 2% to 5% of the candidates qualify from a single recruitment campaign. The process of recruitment is time-consuming and costly, especially if it done through placement agencies. Also, selection can prove to be incorrect, at times, since the first short listing is done by traditional methods, on the basis of education, experience.

Most call centers are observed to have around 50% or more employees between age group of 21-24 years and around 25% or more between age group of 25-30.This is mainly due to easy availability of smart and enthusiastic youngsters, who desire to make a quick buck for themselves and gain job experience.

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