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Outsourcing, VOIP, and Level III Tech Support

I'm not alone when I say "For the love of God, please stop putting tech support call centers in India where everyone is named Jim and cannot related to ANYTHING I'm saying." I realize that 80% of the calls that come in are probably solved by these well-meaning people who work very hard.  For that business reason alone I support your decision to do so.  But, I'm one of those callers who knows just enough about what's going on with technology that these people ENRAGE me.  Just for kicks sometime, throw in a quick, "So did you catch the Steelers game yesterday?"...and listen to the quality of the VOIP call's silence.  Yes it's on. Yes I cycled the power on/off.  Yes I have the latest  fumvare (firmware). I actually had a guy tell me, after about 45 minutes of not understanding me, to "let my device rest" because we were doing to much to it in a short period of time.  What?  Rest?  I didn't realize that I was pushing my poor router and/or web cam "too hard".  I felt like I was in the twilight zone and being counseled by a New Delhi talk radio psychologist for computer hardware.   Ultimately, I was transferred to a real person in an Orange County California office building named Jason.  Within about 2 minutes, we'd communicated fully and I was up and running.  The entire time, it was an easy setting that the Level I and II techs in the call center didn't seem to ask about or understand.  Jason gave me his email and phone number and listened to me vent for a while.  "I'm not supposed to take calls...but go ahead if you run into trouble." I've called only once more out of respect to his giving me the secret password...allowing me to "cost more to his company" by spending 2 minutes with a 6-figure software coder/tester than about 3 hours total with 4 overseas call center reps.

Another incident just wrapped up yesterday involving my Vonage VOIP set up.  I've had the set up for about 6 months and have had great quality - on my end of inbound and outbound calls.  However, my victims on the other end have experienced a Spaceballs like echo forcing me to "call back using my cell phone for clarity. (Can you hear me now?)  I decided to either end my service or solve this problem last Friday.  I clearly told my first call center technician, "I've completed every step of your troubleshooting guide online, and nothing has solved the problem...what shall I do now?"  I went through 3 more technicians going through the checklist item by item, each tech "timing out" on my trouble ticket and escalating to the next level.  After 120 minutes, I reached Level III again.  This was the only person I could understand without cyphering the accent which I've become quite good at.  Within 15 minutes, I was fixed and now I'm extremely pleased w/Vonage. 

Maybe these companies can change their business models and call center prompts:

"If you know what you're talking about just slightly and wish to speak to someone whom you can understand, press 1"

"If you have no idea what you're doing and need to be led by the hand the entire way, press 2"

"If you are wish to bypass India entirely and go right to a United State in which call center wages are lower than the national average, press 3"

If I were doing a Masters or Doctoral Thesis, I'd absolutely do it on the true costs of supporting customers with domestic and overseas call centers, staff, etc.  Is it worth angering the 20% of the customers who end up going through 3 levels of tech support and valuable hours of their time...when those are the customers most likely to write blog entries about your problems?

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Anonymous Coward

its b/c the American support staff aren't following a script...they are allowed to think for themselves. Free thinking and self-though is instilled in American's minds from birth. There are no limits. I can think for myself.

In India, and 99.9% of the countries in the world, people are following a script. To the tee. They are instilled with the thought to believe that "if I just follow the rules, and do "this" and "this" and then "this" i will become Michael Dell."

While it might work for an education path towards a PHD, it doesn't work in the real world of business.

(disclaimer: yes, there are exceptions and there are many examples of Free Thinkers from other countries, including India, but as a generality, the US breeds innovation, start-up thought and business accumen better than any country in the world. hands down.)

Embittered Eddie

Yeah, I've had the same sort of tech support experience with incompetents in India with whom I'll waste an entire afternoon, hours on end explaining basic things before finally, I'm transferred to somebody in say Pennsylvania who answers my questions within a couple minutes. For this reason, I'm boycotting Dell, H-P and any other company that outsources its tech support/call centers/back office work to India. (Also writing them letters to let them know why.) I'm now buying more from Toshiba, Sony and Siemens, since they tend to use more US-based tech support-- very ironic since they're foreign companies!

The India call center people often speak very good English, but that's never been the main issue-- it's that they lack the cultural background and training to really see eye-to-eye with the customers who are calling in. Language is the least of it, you have to be able to forge a common understanding with all those sorts of subtle cultural things that Americans (with a common experience) take for granted, but that people from elsewhere just won't get. Yeah, I've used the "football game" trick on many an occasion, also ask basic geography questions, current affairs and events that Americans would know, but that people in India are clueless about. I really, really hate it when try to BS themselves as Americans, and I get very mean on the phone when I catch them on it-- at least be honest if you're someone in India, don't pretend to be someone you're not.

The boycotting step may sound mean offhand, but dozens of my friends and colleagues are doing it, and it's b/c frankly, it's the only way to get these corporations' attention and punish them for allowing their customer service to go to crap like this. They outsource to India b/c the service there is cheap and therefore crap, plain and simple, but this begs the question of why they have the damn customer service at all. If I have a detailed, difficult computer and electronics question, I want to talk to an American. This isn't racist or xenophobic since after all, I wouldn't want to be doing customer service for some e.g. Hindi-speaking customer in India no matter how good I was at the language-- it's just a recognition of the fact that in this sort of job, very detailed and accurate communication is essential, and that's just not there for someone from Bangalore answering a question from someone in Pittsburgh.

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