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Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Scott L, Nov 25, 2003.
As a tech industry employee, I'm tickled pink about this. Here's hoping that American business 'managers' finally realize that there is more cost associated with off-shoring than they were first led to believe.
I've been seeing articles saying that:
a) You better be in it for the long term, like years.
b) If implemented correctly, the savings are minimal. If implemented incorrectly, it will cost more.
I know that 'management' can't grasp periods of time longer than 90 days, so hopefully the second item will get their attention.
I think Philips Electronics' 800 number is answered in India- I had a problem with my DVD recorder and they didn't know anything about the actual product over there. I ended up finding out the cause of the problem myself, and when I called back to hopefully pass the information on to other customers, they didn't know what I was talking about. This'll definitely affect my decision to buy a Philips product next time.
Its about time! Last time I had to call tech support I got someone with a heavy accent and had to ask to be transferred to someone else because I couldn't understand him.
This was definitely my experience when I talked to them a few months ago about my mother's Dimension desktop. She complained about how she could barely understand the techs, and when I called, I had a really hard time too. At first I thought they just hired a lot of Indian employees, but finding out the call center is actually IN INDIA doesn't come as much of a surprise.
I had the same problem with sony tech support on my Clie' NR70V PDA, the support people where reading from a menu and had no clue about the product, when I finally got a "supervisor", that person was in the US and had some clue about the product
I can not see how they can put "tech" support in a country where the people, for the most part, can not even afford to buy the products they are supposed to be supporting
Computer Associates (CA) also has their tech support line in India. I have had to call them several times and just shudder at the prospect. They are very friendly and very knowledgable, but it is just so darn hard to understand them. Nothing quite like being stressed out over a serious problem on a file server for a hospital and then have to say "what?...pardon me?" 500 times. Very stressful.
The other thing I find disagreeable about that situation is that they give all their techs an American name. They will answer the phone saying "Hello...this is Bill (or Fred, or Jim etc.)" I asked the one nice fellow what his real name was...it was Muhammad, not Jeff. I just think that if my boss told me to change my name for a job I would be a bit insulted.
American Express uses India as well for customer service. Oh, the irony.
Circuit City recently fired most of their call center and IT staff here in Richmond and outsourced the positions to India.
The news of Dell moving some of its support back to the U.S. was good news. My wife and I were looking to purchase another computer but when I found out that most of the support for most (if not all) brands was in India I quit looking and decided to upgrade myself. I realize that these are very intelligent individuals, but the "accent" barrier and the fact that a lot of them are reading from scripts that the company makes them read is just not good for business. I want to speak with someone I can understand, who knows the ins and outs of support and can "ad-lib" on a problem instead of sticking to a required script.
I work as a Level 2 Senior Technical Support Rep for a multi-billion dollar data storage company and the threat of us being let go and everything moved to India is starting to loom over our heads. Currently they are having us and engineers put everything into a "Knowledge Base" so that "anyone" can help the customer on any problem with any model or product. They said that with the Knowledge Base they (the Managers) should be able to hire anyone off the street and get them up to speed within 30 days. Yet we keep loosing personnel to lay offs.
Sorry. I'm just rambling now. I hope other companies will follow Dell's lead (including the one I work for).
Bad news.. look at the first sentence of the story:
I just finished a five month contract assignment working the help desk for an American financial company that runs and EDI website to facilitate business to business document and data exchanges. My task was two-fold: help train the new India Help Desk agents to handle the company's own in-house support calls, while we handled external customer calls in the U.S., then to assist in transitioning even the outside customers to India.
I had previously worked for an American company that provides call center services for a number of computer makers, so I was no stranger to scripts and tools, and I can tell you that these are not the problem.
Here's what I think is the problem:
India does indeed have a thriving IT economy and a very well educated and technically savvy workforce. This led to a large number of programming, engineering and assembly positions being moved there in recent years.
Moving support call centers seemed like a good idea to a lot of companies that were already having code written in India. This notion was based on a misconception: that a telephone support job is primarily a technical position.
A help desk agent is primarily a customer service person. 90% of calls are not techinical in nature. A good 80% of them are customer error issues or problems with things that the call center doesn't support. (PC makers getting calls that turn out to be problems with an internet service provider and vice versa.) The agent doesn't need vast techincal knowledge to deal with such problems. He/she needs the ability to establish a rapport with the customer, and the ability to explain what the customer is doing wrong (or they've called the wrong company to deal with their problem) without coming across as condescending or snotty. A basic technical understanding of PCs is useful, but less critical than a knowledge of customers and how they use computers.
Since even the best tech is not going to know every detail of every model his company makes, and will not have encountered every possible problem or memorized every solution, even a technical expert is going to need on-line references and the like. (The company I worked for had photographs and diagrams of every motherboard and expansion card, as well as animated instructions for things like removing case covers and installing drives - invaluable since they used dozens of different cases over the years and I had personally only worked on a handfull of them.) A technician can look things up and get an answer for the customer. But an agent trained in providing customer service will know how to stall while looking things up so as not to annoy the customer or make him feel that his time is being wasted.
This part of the customer service job is very hard to do across cutural barriers. I'm a very good telephone suppport agent in the U.S. I doubt I'd be nearly as good trying to do the same job in France (assuming I spoke French), even though France is a western European country with many cultural and historical commonalities with the United States. I'd do even worse providing support for users in, say, Istanbul - and I'd be a disaster if I were trying to do the job for end-users in Bangalore.
When our U.S. call center and India's were overlapping the most common first words of all of my calls - from both internal and external customers - was, "Oh, thank God. An American." That's not prejudice, that's heartfelt relief because when you are having a problem with a web site or a product simply communicating should not be more of a problem than your actual problem, and too often in these call centers it is. I dealt with our India offices all the time and 9 times out of 10 the accents were a major problem. Even when trying to spell things phonetically I'd often have problems. We used to laugh imagining what some of the conversations between certain of our customers, like those in Maine, say, or in Cajun country, and the India Help Desks must have been like.
For our web support most of our "tech support" calls really amounted to user training issues. Talking users through accomplishing what they wanted to accomplish with our software required not technical knowledge but familiarity with the web site and an understanding of the kind of businesses that used it. I had worked for several financial companies before taking this contract - so I knew the industry terminology, I knew how things had to happen (and could therefore figure out where people had to go in the software even if the issue involved a module I hadn't been trained in) and I even knew the regulatory issues behind the way some of the features on the site worked. None of the help desk agents in India knew any of this because they weren't drawn from the financial industry there, and even if they had been things don't work the same way as they do here.
So, again, the customers I used to deal with are now getting an inferior level of service with more time per call, and they are probably getting pretty fed up. I don't know if enough of them will quit using the service and the web site to force that company to return its operations to the U.S., but I wouldn't be terribly surprised if they did. (I do know that if they call me and want me to go back that my price has gone up. )
BTW, if you read the article quoted about closely, you'll see that only Dell's corporate tech support calls are being moved back to the U.S. Home users will still get India. Support for home users is seen as a cost, whereas corporate support is one of the things the company is selling. When they get complaints from corporate IT managers and purchasing agents who threaten to start buying elsewhere if they get lousy service, Dell reacts. With individual consumers there is much less incentive to do so. Until and unless they start seeing sales drop and market share going to the competition, they probably will leave the home support right where it is. (The American out-sourcing firm I worked for didn't have a Dell account, but they did have two of Dell's major competitors. One of them had closed down a company owned and operated call center overseas and added agents to our account group because we were more efficient, handled more calls for less money and even generated so much in the way of peripheral and software sales that they made a profit on the deal. One comment I heard more than once while there was that customers had switched to the computer brand that I represented from Dell because they were so unhappy with their technical support.)
India kicks ass... don't put down India. I am sure that the Indian tech support guys are just as smart of even smarter than the DELL guys here, just there IS that whole language barrier thing. I had an Indian computer science teacher, and while he was probably the smartest man on the entire planet... I couldn't understand a WORD of his lectures, heh.
I don' think any of the posts in this thread put India down or implied that Indian support personnel weren't as smart as their American counterparts. But the fact remains, as you also note, that many Indians speak English with an accent (which on top of everything else is based on British English proununciation) that is virtually unintelligible to the average American. So how can a help desk in India provide adequate technical support, much less excellent customer service, which depends entirely on communication and empathy, for American consumers?
Some of the Indian call centers train their CSRs to approximate a US accent. I spoke to one whose accent alternated between American and Indian (and I'm sure she wasn't just Indian who had been living in the US for some time). She was quite understandable but I found it somewhat amusing.
Personally I hop all these outsourceing deal fail miserably and the companies doing it loose a ton of money on it. Off shoring technical/professional jobs (and increasingly its architect, engineering, accounting etc jobs that are going not only IT) is incredibly short-sighted IMO. So as not to go out of scope for this forum I'll leave it at that other than to say that I try my best to not to do business with companies that out-source.
I wish Dell would listen to their customers about using Fed Ex instead of UPS
My 17" Widescreen LCD TV/Monitor was returned to sender yesterday for some strange reason. One day prior to it being scheduled for delivery at my home.
Thank goodness I don't have to call India about this one...here's to hoping that I see my LCD by Christmas
Edit: okay, maybe I do still have to call India The move was only for Business Customers...how conveneient to all of us
I recently heard an interesting trivia question....
What country has the highest NUMBER of English-speaking people.
(I think it was more than 50% of their 1.1 Billion population, which blows away the USA ... pop: 285 Million)
That said ... I would go so far as to avoid buying from a tech company that outsources tech support outside of USA. I've dealt with both Dell & AMEX TS in India & find it incredibly frustrating and unsatisfying.
As consumers ... we need to let these companies know how we feel.
Well, I'm going to be in the market for a new laptop soon. Looks like I'll be staying away from Dell. If I can't understand their tech support people, then am I really getting tech support?