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Article : Virus Upends Outsourcing as Firms 'Reshore'


Coronavirus is permanently shaking up the global outsourcing industry as lockdowns from Bangalore to Manila prompt firms to "reshore" jobs and, with AI, to move further away from needing humans at all.

Restrictions on normal activity in these countries and others have created a logistical nightmare for the managers of call centres and other back-office operations for foreign corporations.

Having their staff work from home is difficult because of rules governing the handling of sensitive material such as financial transactions for bank customers from Scotland to San Francisco.

Also, many workers in places like India and the Philippines live in crowded housing with poor-quality broadband, while some firms do not have enough equipment like laptops to provide to employees.

"The outsourcing industry doesn't lend itself to working from home," consultant Vivek Sood, author of "Outsourcing 3.0", told AFP.

"We are talking about companies which used to ask employees to leave even their pens and pencils outside the office because of security concerns."

- 'Temporary stay arrangements' -

Desperate to stay operational, some firms have resorted to having staff live at their place of work.

Vodafone India, for example, says it has "organised temporary stay arrangements at our data centre locations, (and) made food and groceries available at critical locations".

Similar practices by others have sparked the ire of trade unions.

Mylene Cabalona, president of the Business Process Outsourcing Industry Employees' Network (BIEN), told AFP the union had received reports of some workers "effectively quarantined and locked down in their offices".

The Financial Times in early April published photos that it said appeared to show workers sleeping on the floor of a call centre in the Philippines, living in what they described as "subhuman" conditions.

- Don't call -

Anthony Esguerra, who works at a Manila firm handling data for a Chinese online gaming company, admitted that 80 percent of its operations were disrupted.

"The workflow of processing players' requests really slowed down, since our internet access was limited compared to when we were working at the office," he told AFP.

Companies like telecom firm Spark New Zealand and Taiwanese computer maker Acer, which uses a Philippine facility to serve Australian and Kiwi customers, have simply told people not to call.

Australia's Telstra and Optus and Britain's Virgin Media -- all of which have offshore units in India and the Philippines -- have announced plans to recruit hundreds of staff back home.

Telstra, which heavily relies on its Philippine facility for customer service, initially said it would hire 1,000 temporary workers, but later raised that figure to 3,500.

Optus sought to fill 500 vacancies, saying that while the company had previously believed "its diversity of locations would make us resilient to any disruptions", this was no longer the case.

But the bigger lasting change from the pandemic will likely involve the wider use of artificial intelligence to handle tasks currently performed by human beings, experts said.

"AI doesn't go on strike, it can work 24/7 and throws up fewer complications," said Michael Czinkota, who teaches international business at Washington's Georgetown University.

Telstra, for instance, which was already planning to slash customer service calls by two-thirds by 2022, now intends to accelerate its use of AI.

"(We) will be using this as an opportunity to further digitise and automate our business," CEO Andy Penn told The Sydney Morning Herald this month.

"COVID-19 (has) achieved in six to eight weeks what the evangelists of automation have not managed... for more than five years," Ilan Oshri from the University of Auckland's Graduate School of Management told AFP.

But the "onshoring" of jobs and the increased use of AI will have a big impact on countries that for years have benefitted from taking on the back-office operations of multinationals.

India, in particular, was a trailblazer. As of 2017, the industry employed nearly four million Indians and raked in revenues of more than $150 billion, according to trade body NASSCOM.

In the Philippines, the industry started from scratch in the early 1990s but by 2019 its revenues were equal to 7.3 percent of the country's gross domestic product, employing 1.3 million people.

"We will have to rethink the whole outsourcing model," said consultant Sood.

"The assumption that you can offshore everything to Bangalore and Manila and relax has gone out of the window."


Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent

Today's Tip of the Day - Keep Cost In Perspective

Read today's tip or listen to it on podcast.

Published: Thursday, April 30, 2020

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2022 Buyers Guide Headsets

All Ears Ltd

Freemate headsets, and sanitary solutions for headsets
Freemate headsets available, corded and wireless for telephony and USB. 3 year warranty compatible with all model phones. We supply accessories from downleads, USB leads, ear cushions, leatherettes and we service call centre headsets, these are sanitised and repaired or serviced as required.

We supply the corporate environment, Government departments, security, medical and professional offices and meet the needs of many of New Zealand's SOHO market.

We can even develop and create one-off solutions for those with mobility or disability limitations opening up a world of freedom in communications. And we like to have fun on the journey.

Comfort Telecommunications

Smith Corona Headsets
3 year warranty compatible with all model phones. Accessories also available. Cords, earpads, etc all factory direct pricing



Headsets Connect

Since 1998, Headsets Connect has been supplying Call Center Grade corded phone headsets, wireless headsets, headset telephones and a wide range of headset accessories to accommodate Medical, Insurance, Financial offices and large Call Centers environments offering you value, comfort, flexibility and increased productivity in your day to day business.


Since 1998 Headsets123 has been supplying Call Center Grade corded phone headsets, wireless headsets, headset telephones and a wide range of headset accessories to accommodate Medical, Insurance, Financial offices and large Call Centers environments offering you value, comfort, flexibility and increased productivity in your day to day business.

Our offices are located just outside of Seattle, WA. We hope you enjoy our wide range of headsets and accessories.

Hello Direct

Poly, Jabra, EPOS, JPL, Cisco, Logitech
We offer a broad portfolio of headsets to include Headsets with QD (Quick Disconnect), DECT and Bluetooth wireless headsets, USB Headsets, Zoom and Microsoft Teams Certified Headsets, UC headsets, Contact Center headsets, Work From Home headsets, hybrid work headsets, and more! We supply all headset accessories to include ear cushions, mic screens, lapel clips, training-y cables, interface cables, EHS cables, replacement parts, and more.
Hello Direct offers headset Refresh and Voice Testing Services and a new UVC Sanitize Service where we use our commercial UVC cabinets to sanitize your headsets and handsets with UVC light technology.


Jabra is a leader in engineering communications and sound solutions – innovating to empower both consumers and businesses. We are committed to letting people hear more, do more, and be more than they ever thought possible. Through sound and video, we help transform lives. Jabra engineering excellence leads the way, building on 150 years of pioneering work. This allows us to create integrated headsets and communications tools that help professionals work more productively; wireless headphones and earbuds that let consumers better enjoy calls, music, and media; and pioneering video conferencing solutions, enabling seamless collaboration between distributed teams. Jabra employs approx. 1,400 people worldwide

JPL Telecom

Based in Dorset, England, JPL designs and manufactures innovative professional telecom headsets. We have a wide range of professional telecom and call centre use headsets in wired, wireless DECT and Bluetooth styles.

Making sure that your customer’s voice can be heard is vital. JPL Telecom ensures that your customer’s experience is first-class. All headsets have our Surround Shield™ noise cancellation to make certain your customer only hears what you want them to hear. Comfortable and attractively designed headsets are built to withstand the constant use in any call centre environment.

Our aim is to continuously improve customer choice, offering a fair price and value to our resellers and end users.

Leitner Headsets

Contact Center Headsets
Over one million North American businesses have purchased headsets from us in the past two decades – we understand headsets.

Leitner Headsets are the most durable contact center headsets backed by a 5 Year Warranty, giving you a best-in-class productivity tool that fits your needs (and your head). As the trusted experts, we make headsets simple to choose, and easy to use.

Unicom Services Ltd.

Contact center headsets and conference solutions
Unicom Services Ltd. is a distributor of professional headsets and communication solutions for all possible applications.

Products and Services:
* Headsets for contact center, office, small office and home, mobile phones, computer headsets and adapters.

* Conference systems - audio video terminals, personal and group multipoint conferences.

* Telecom Products - office wired and wireless phones, dect systems, softphones.

* Video conference software for contact centers and offices.

* Unified Communication Solution.

Xiamen Mairdi Electronic Technology Co., Ltd

Call Center Headsets
Mairdi is a professional call center headsets maker in China. We've designed, produced and exported professional communication headsets for 16 years. Our headsets were exported to over 120 countires in the world.
Our headsets are widely compatible with nearly all IP Phones, desk phones, PC and mobiles. They are all noise cancelling and with built-in hearing protection technology. Our headset accessories are Plantronics or Jabra compatible. All the headsets and accessories are CE,FCC, RoHS certificated.

About us - in 60 seconds!

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