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Ireland Shoots To Become Shared Services Center Of Europe
Ireland will not be the next Calcutta or Mumbai. It’s not trying to be the back office customer service contact center Mecca of the Western world. Which is probably the case.
What it wants to do is to build its position as a leading European provider of the next business step from contact centers – contact center plus, if you like – by offering serious technical support and a whole range of services beyond providing simple solutions. Customer inquiries. Some are operated by outsourced suppliers but most in Ireland are managed by the companies they serve.
Here, employees are working with the entire internal communications system for a large, multi-national operation. They not only handle traditional helpdesk calls, but also provide technical support to their own staff and business-to-business, dealing with HR-related issues such as hiring and sick leave, payroll systems, company accounts as well as in-company communication about policy and strategy. , employee and customer information and intranet functionality.
In today’s sophisticated telecommunications sector, Ireland boasts 66 contact centers for a range of companies that include 3Com, American Airlines, AOL, Dell, eBay, GE Insurance, Google, Hewlett Packard, IBM, MBNA, Oracle, Starwood Hotels, Symantec and Xerox. – and that’s just an arbitrary sample.
These centers – Europeans call them shared service centers, but most Americans will be more familiar with the term managed services – are where Ireland sees its growth potential, although the Irish have no intention of turning their backs on simple contact center investments in banking and catalog servicing. For example customers.
Technology is changing manufacturing. Nowadays, just receiving the phone is not enough. To be successful, centers need to serve the world in many different ways.
A customer response can boost Ireland’s efforts
A recent survey of 1,000 UK adults by contact center industry analysts Contactbell found that 142 had switched supplier because their existing one used an offshore service, while three in four said they felt more negatively about their supplier if they used offshore agents.
Steve Morrell, lead analyst at Contactbell, said in the report: “If UK businesses do not address their customers’ concerns, levels of customer attrition will increase and their profits will fall further.”
There is a problem – and for Ireland, an opportunity. In India, university graduates attracted by the prestige of contact center jobs earn ten times the average wage but still cost their employers only a tenth of what European or US-based operations do.
Hypothetically, this means that a typical bank with 12 million customers and revenue of $400 per customer would save more than $17 million each year by replacing 1,000 expensive call center employees with 1,000 in India. The downside is that the same fictitious bank only needs a percentage of its customers to switch to another bank as opposed to losing all their savings immediately.
“Ireland is the only native English-speaking member of the Eurozone,” points out Brendan Haplin, international media manager at IDA, the Irish government agency that seeks inward investment from around the world. “Ireland offers a first-class advanced telecommunications infrastructure that includes significant bandwidth and hosting capacity, and we support all of this with solid IDA support, both financial and practical.”
appeal? Language and low taxes?
Ireland’s landscape – corporate and cultural – has attracted more than its fair share of not only European but also American business. “Ireland has changed radically from what it was 10 or 20 years ago,” says Haplin. “We now have between 60 and 70 shared service centers that are multi-lingual, pan-European and trans-Atlantic.”
We are talking about major companies the size and scale of IBM or Dell. Overall, these organizations are extremely happy with the quality of staff, quality of life and service delivery they receive in Ireland. They bring in selected technical experts from the states and then use locally selected personnel to develop and expand the skill base.
These large operators are proof of success, not only do they stay there but they can point to significant cost reductions, increased efficiency, better quality customer service and a real drive in sales that ultimately results in better returns to shareholders.
Ireland, Haplin adds, offers an attractive package, complete with a low corporate tax of just 12.5% as it works hard to minimize bureaucracy and instead engineer a low-risk, fast-start-up, high-performance knowledge economy. “We have a well-developed environment for call center and shared services operations because we have all the basic ingredients: skills and knowledge, experience and availability of IT-literate and multi-lingual staff and a global strategic fit to provide facilities. to follow’.
Population growth bodes well for employers
While Ireland may feature on a company’s shortlist of potential offshore locations today, what about tomorrow? Will the right talent – enough – be available? Dr. Director General of the Science Foundation of Ireland. According to William Harris, the answer is ‘yes’. “The key elements in creating knowledge are intangible assets such as expertise, insight, talent, passion, imagination and persistence.
“Investment in such capabilities, we believe, is the best predictor of success that Ireland can have,” adds Harris. “Ireland has a wealth of young talent ready to make science and engineering the next great wave of Irish innovation.”
Ireland is one of the very few European countries showing growth in its population, and around 260,000 people, 12.6% of the total workforce, are employed in business services. While other countries have declining working populations, with real problems looming ahead, Ireland looks set to grow its pool of young talent on par with the US.
[SIDEBAR] The Irish landscape: ready to compete
Ireland has changed and changed dramatically. Gone are those sad depictions of lovelorn girls bidding their tearful farewells to men set for life in the new world of America or Australia? They would return to make their fortune and build a castle and raise a family in Kilkenny.
Over the past two decades, the Celtic Tiger has been pushing its way through the jungles of the global economy. He’s getting plumper, healthier and more hungry with every paw print he makes.
The atmosphere is welcoming
The quality of life is a fantastic balance of stunning views and great entertainment options. Golf courses, angling, cycling, camping, hiking and those seeking secluded coves along the rugged coastline are some of the possibilities to consider.
Real estate is cheap (except in central Dublin) and land is plentiful. Petrol costs about half the price in the UK and the 12.5% corporate tax sits alongside the US’s 39.5% or the UK’s 30%.Although value added tax runs at 21 per cent, it doesn’t have much of an impact on companies. Profits are based on exports outside the EU and the government has simplified paperwork. If 85 percent of your goods or services are for export, you will be exempted, so you don’t need to fill out forms to reclaim VAT.
The Irish are renowned – and rightly so – for their warm welcome, and that extends not just to a pint of Guinness with a stranger but those who have come to stay for a long time.
Unlike some of their European neighbors, the Irish do not resent the influx of migrant workers but welcome them with open arms as genuine and useful additions to the native skills base.
Location and politics provide a counter balance
Air travel is reasonable but needs further development. The main airport is close to Dublin and serves around 100 direct destinations worldwide. There is a second international airport at Shannon and smaller mostly short-haul facilities at Cork, Belfast and Londonderry. Most international flights are out of Dublin or Shannon.
In terms of moving goods, ferry services are strong but the distance from mainland Europe makes them slow. Although the crossing from Dublin to Holyhead on the Welsh coast is less than two hours, Normandy is 19 hours away. From Belfast and Larne in the north, there are quick crossings to Scotland and England.
A long history of a sluggish, agrarian economy meant that Ireland was slow to move into the 20th century, never mind the 21st. Outside of a few main cities, it is surprisingly unorganized but also has an underdeveloped rural society.
Ireland came into the European Union with objective one status, meaning its underdeveloped economic state was entitled to a whole package of major infrastructure grants to help it move forward quickly. Its heavily rural culture saw the benefits of the Common Agricultural Policy, enabling farmers to immediately access guaranteed markets and guaranteed prices for their produce, even if much of its butter was dumped on hills and milk ponds. Almost half of the EU’s entire 44.5 billion euro budget is spent on some form of agricultural subsidy.
The maze of small country roads gives Ireland much of its charm but has little use for heavy lorries carrying large loads to markets around the world. European Union money helped to expand the main road and motorway infrastructure that was essential for economic growth.
All this helped to encourage new investors from other countries to set up facilities in Ireland. The government encouraged them with packages like Dell, Xerox, Baxter International, Hertz and many others before they even reached the contact centers.
But all the support provided by the Eurozone has now ended. The rise of the Celtic Tiger, the reality of economic growth, has forced Ireland to shift from subsidies from the European Union to becoming a provider of subsidies to other emerging nations, including 10 new countries joining. 25 in total.
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