NU brings jobs back to Norwich

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Consumer power has forced insurance giant Norwich Union to recall some of its Indian call centre work back to the city, the firm admitted yesterday.Customers making their initial claim now talk to call centre staff in Norwich instead of being put straight through to workers in the Indian sub-continent after complaints that Indian staff 'don't know what the customer is talking about'.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Consumer power has forced insurance giant Norwich Union to recall some of its Indian call centre work back to the city, the firm admitted yesterday.

Customers making their initial claim now talk to call centre staff in Norwich instead of being put straight through to workers in the Indian sub-continent after complaints that Indian staff 'don't know what the customer is talking about'.

The firm said last night the move was in response to unforeseen cultural differences prompting the decision to bring back the “first notification of loss” department, and with it around 150 jobs back to the UK.

That means that while the initial call is handled in the UK, customers usually receive a follow up call from India to work on the claim.

Last year the firm axed 4,000 jobs in Britain including 450 in Norwich.

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But with plans to create 7,500 jobs in India by the end of the year it stressed the move back was about ironing out difficulties and not a fundamental U-turn.

James Evans, director of media relations, admitted part of the problem was caused by cultural differences, which meant staff were not aware of what customers were referring to in their claims. He said the company had listened to the issues raised by customers, though insisted the firm had not been deluged by complaints.

“I am sure it would have been consumer driven, we are here to listen to our customers and take their views on board,” he said. “We weren't flooded with complaints at all.

“A good example of that is something like an immersion heater,” he said. “In the Indian culture they don't have immersion heaters.”

Norwich Union recruits from a skilled pool of Indian graduates and the firm has previously stated that about 0.1pc of complaints were about standards of English among staff.

Many of the outsourced operations were back office functions which did not require direct contact with customers.

Last year high street bank Abbey and energy firm Powergen shut down its Indian call centres and brought nearly 1,500 jobs back to Britain after complaints from customers.

Mr Evans stressed that the move-back was a tinkering exercise and not a full-scale retreat.

It had nothing to do with the skills or qualifications of Indian staff adding that the firm was still looking to handle other complex transactions including “reattribution” in India.

“It's not moving massive processes back,” he said. “What we do as a company is see what works and see what we could do better. At the end of the day we don't want to annoy customers, who we want it to be a good experience for. If something doesn't work, there's no point persevering with it.”