Ireland shoots to become Shared Services Center of Europe

Ireland will not be the next Calcutta or Mumbai. It doesn’t try to be the back-office customer service contact center of the Western world. That’s probably a good thing.

What it does want to do is build its position as a leading European provider of the next business phase of contact centers – contact center plus, if you will – by offering serious technical support and a range of services that go far beyond providing simple solutions to straightforward questions from customers. Some are operated by third party suppliers, but most in Ireland are operated by the companies they serve.

Here, employees deal with the entire internal communication system for large, multinational operations. In addition to handling traditional Helpdesk calls, they also provide technical support to their own staff and business-to-business, dealing with HR issues such as recruitment and absenteeism, payroll systems, company accounts, and internal communication on policy and strategy, personnel – and customer information and the intranet function.

In its now sophisticated telecom sector, Ireland has 66 contact centers for a range of companies including 3Com, American Airlines, AOL, Dell, eBay, GE Insurance, Google, Hewlett Packard, IBM, MBNA, Oracle, Starwood Hotels, Symantec and Xerox – and that is just a random sample.

In these centers – Europeans call them Shared Services Centres, but most Americans will be more familiar with the term Managed Services – Ireland sees its growth potential, although the Irish do not intend to turn their backs on ordinary investment in contact centers for banking and catalog services. turn. customers for example.

Technology changes the product. Just answering the phone is not enough these days. To be successful, the centers must serve the world in numerous functions.

A response from a customer can boost Ireland’s efforts

A recent survey of 1,000 UK adults by contact center analysts ContactBabel found that 142 had switched suppliers because their existing one used an offshore service, while three in four said they felt more negative about their supplier if they used offshore agents .

Steve Morrell, lead analyst at ContactBabel, said in the report: “If UK companies don’t address their customers’ concerns, the number of customers walking away will increase and their profits will fall further.”

Therein lies a problem – and an opportunity for Ireland. In India, university graduates, attracted by the prestige of contact center jobs, earn perhaps ten times the median wage, but still cost their employers only a tenth of a European or American establishment.

Hypothetically, this means that a typical bank with 12 million customers and revenue of $400 per customer per year would save more than $17 million by replacing 1,000 of its expensive call center staff with 1,000 in India. The downside is that the same hypothetical bank would only need about one percent of its customers to defect to another bank in protest that they would have immediately lost all that savings.

“Ireland is the only native English-speaking member of the Eurozone,” said Brendan Haplin, International Media Manager at the IDA, the Irish government agency that pursues inward investment from around the world. “Ireland offers a first-class state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure with vital bandwidth and hosting capacity, and we back it all up with solid IDA support, both financially and practically.”

The profession? Language and low taxes?

The landscape in Ireland – business and culture – has attracted far more than its fair share of not only European but also American companies. “Ireland has changed radically from 10 or 20 years ago,” says Haplin. “We now have between 60 and 70 shared services centers that are multilingual, pan-European and transatlantic.”

We are talking about large companies with the size and scale of IBM or Dell. Overall, these organizations are extremely satisfied with the quality of staff, quality of life and service they have found in Ireland. They bring in selected technical experts from the United States and then use locally selected personnel to develop and expand the skills base.

These major operators are proof of success, not only because they stay there, but also because they can indicate significant cost savings, increased efficiency, better customer service, and a real sales boost that ultimately generates better returns for shareholders.

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Ireland, Haplin adds, offers an attractive package, complete with a low corporate tax rate of just 12.5%. It is committed to minimizing bureaucracy and instead establishing a fast-start, high-performance, low-risk knowledge economy. “We have a well-developed environment for call center and shared services operations because we have all the basic ingredients: the skills and knowledge, the experience and availability of an IT literate and multilingual workforce, and the global strategic fit that provides facilities for companies to sun’ on a 24-hour model.”

Population growth bodes well for employers

While Ireland may deserve a spot on a company’s shortlist of potential offshore locations today, what about tomorrow? Will the right talent – sufficient – be available? According to Dr William Harris, Director General of the Science Foundation of Ireland, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. “The key element in the creation of knowledge are intangible assets such as expertise, insight, talent, passion, imagination and perseverance.

“Investing in such capabilities is, in our view, the best predictor of success Ireland could have,” added Harris. “Ireland has a wealth of young talent poised to make science and engineering the next great wave of Irish innovation.”

Ireland is one of the few European countries to show an increase in population, and about 260,000 people, 12.6% of the total workforce, are employed in business services. While the working-class population in other countries is declining, posing real problems in the future, Ireland is aiming to grow a youthful talent pool similar to that of the US.

[SIDEBAR] The Irish landscape: ready to compete

Ireland has changed and changed dramatically. Gone are those sad images of girls in love tearfully saying goodbye to men who were ready for a life in the New Worlds of America or Australia? They would make their fortune and return to build a castle and raise a family in Kilkenny.

In recent decades, the Celtic Tiger has been making its way through the jungle of the global economy. He gets fuller, healthier and more voracious with every paw print he makes.

The environment is welcoming

The quality of life is a fantastic balance between breathtaking scenery and great leisure opportunities. Golf courses, fishing, biking, camping, hiking, and finding deserted coves along the rugged coastline are just a few options to consider.

Property is cheap (except in central Dublin) and land is plentiful. Petrol is about half the price in the UK and the corporate tax rate of 12.5% ​​is next to the US’s 39.5% or the UK’s 30%. profits are based on exports outside the EU and the government has simplified paperwork. If 85 percent of your goods or services are destined for export, you are exempt and you do not have to fill in any forms to reclaim VAT.

The Irish are – and rightly so – known for their warm welcome, and that applies not only to a pint of Guinness with a passing stranger, but also to those staying longer.

Unlike some of their European neighbours, the Irish are not outraged by the arrival of migrant workers, but welcome them with open arms as a real and useful addition to indigenous skills.

Location and politics provide a counterbalance

Air travel is decent but needs more development. The main airport is close to Dublin and serves about 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 depart from Dublin or Shannon.

In terms of freight transport, ferry services are strong, but they are slow due to the distance from mainland Europe. While a crossing from Dublin to Holyhead on the Welsh coast takes less than two hours, Normandy is 19 hours away. There are faster crossings to Scotland and England from Belfast and Larne in the north.

A long history of a sluggish agricultural economy meant that Ireland was slow to enter the 20th, let alone the 21st century. Outside of a few large cities, it remains a wonderfully unspoilt but also underdeveloped rural society.

Ireland joined the European Union with Objective 1 status, which means that due to its underdeveloped economic state, it was entitled to a whole package of large infrastructure grants to help the country move forward quickly. The heavy rural culture saw the benefits of the Common Agricultural Policy, which gave farmers immediate access to guaranteed markets and guaranteed prices for their produce, even though much of it ended up on butter mountains and dairy lakes. Almost half of the total EU budget of €44.5 billion is spent on agricultural subsidies of any kind.

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The maze of small country lanes lends Ireland much of its charm, but it is of little use to heavy trucks hauling large loads of produce to markets around the world. Money from the European Union enabled the expansion of a major road and highway infrastructure that was essential for economic growth.

All of this helped encourage new investors from other countries to set up facilities in Ireland. The government encouraged them with attractive packages that attracted the likes of Dell, Xerox, Baxter International, Hertz and a host of others before they even reached contact centers.

But all that support from the eurozone is now gone. The emergence of the Celtic Tiger, the reality of economic growth, has forced Ireland to move from being a subsidy from the European Union to being a subsidy provider for other emerging countries, including some of the 10 new countries whose accession the European Union block to 25 in total.