Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Outsourcing customer service

Click on cartoon to enlarge
Does this piss you off as much as it does me? It seems that when I need to call a company for customer service about even the smallest question anymore, I either get the automated bullcrap, or I am talking to someone in a far-off land who can hardly speak or understand English. This is even more frustrating when the problem is a bit bigger and urgent. For instance, not too long ago I had a problem with a credit card company.

I wrote one of those checks to pay off the balance of another card. It was a few dollars over my limit (so they said, but wasn't true), and so they declined it. Then the other credit card company I wrote the check to charged me a bounced check fee AND a late fee for not making a payment on time...the check was put through AGAIN by the first credit card company and once again was bounced and another fee was added...each credit card company charging me a fee...playing ping-pong with the check, and me not being able to get
ahold of a PERSON. Finally, I did speak to someone and that person had a serious accent, then was put on hold, another person with a little better clarity, however still difficult to understand. Then I was told to call the other credit card company.

Each time I asked who I was talking to and was given, most likely, fictitious first names. When I called back and asked for one of those specific names, I was told that person didn't work there, that they have many "service centers" scattered all over the country and the world so chances on talking to the same person are like winning the
freakin' triple million dollar lottery. We finally wrote a letter, sent it to the corporate Appeals Department, and we got a letter back from a person with a big-ass long, long name. There was also, hallelujah, a phone number! My husband called and asked for Mr. Jambalihoiuhoegnuha, and was told..."oh, you can't talk to him...his office is in India." The letter was from INDIA,postmarked USA? Preprinted in advance? Unfuckinbelievable.

We ended up paying all late fees, canceling that credit card and writing a futile letter telling them to stick their cards &*^%$$#&. We are the ones who are always screwed while corporations laugh, laugh, laugh and count the money they steal from us. And what can we do about it?


Andrea said...

My husband has to deal with this a lot, with his work as a pc repair tech. Sometimes he has to make a call, which is answered in India, and the rep proceeds to tell him pointless things from a script (things he already knows), and the entire ordeal is a huge waste of time and money.

There are other costs as well, which of course the corporations couldn't care less that I mean that having customer support coming from another country really adds fuel to the fire as far as racism goes. It's one thing for someone to be an ignorant bigot on their own - but it's another when they feel justified because of a bad experience with an Indian rep. My husband tells me that a lot of the people on his service calls tell him really extremely racist things. The corporations don't give a rat's ass about reasonable human interactions.

At one of the last places we rented in Texas, I called to get our lights turned on, and the local electric company had outsourced their customer support too! What the hell are they thinking?

Stardust said...

andrea, When we have an outage or a problem with our internet provider, which supposdely has local offices, but strange how far away the rep sounds on the line, and how they always have a thick accent. It would be great to be able to walk in somewhere and talk to a person face-to-face about a problem.

Andrea said...

Especially a local problem, right? If I'm in Texas and trying to get the electricity hooked up, I don't want to speak with anybody in California, much less India.

Stardust said...

andrea, I often feel like an old fart because I find myself saying "back when we were first married we could still talk to a real person and had none of this merry-go-round bullcrap!"

What is especially exasperating is applying for jobs today. Everything is so isolated and technical. Even if you want to apply for a job as a cashier at Kfart or Target, you have to apply online. That is a pain in the butt, too! And you never know if the company you are applying to ever gets your resume/application.

Tommy said...

I read recently some newspaper was outsourcing its reporting of local events to India. How bizarre is that?

I don't necessarily have a problem with outsourcing in principle. But there are clearly situations like the ones you two describe that are problematic.

Another thing is that until a couple of years ago, most Americans didn't even know about these overseas call centers, including me. And you take your typical provincial American who doesn't like "furrigners" or people with accents, and you are basically setting people up for frustration and animosity.

I remember several years ago, I kept getting annoying phone calls from AT&T trying to get me to purchase a cell phone from them and subscribe to their plan. Each time the caller would be an Indian male with a very noticeable accent. Each time, I told the caller I was not interested and to take me off their list. I got another such call and I said to the guy, "How about you give me your home phone number so I can randomly call your house."

It was only later when I read about the overseas call center that I understood why all of the callers were Indians.

And while many of us have legitimate grievances about these situations, on the flip side, I shudder to try to imagine what kind of picture of America the Indian call center employees are getting.

Stardust said...

tommy, If I could understand them, and they understand me, and if they actually showed they cared, and that they understood my problem, and actually made an effort to help, then I would not have a problem with it. My complaint is not a cultural one, but about not getting proper service for a product I am paying for. I feel like I am blown off, and by having these centers so far away, many across whole oceans and continents, they really don't have to make any effort at all. We end up switching companies, or stuck in crappy contracts paying for mistakes these companies make and just biding our time till we can go with some other company...who probably has its customer service centers far away where we don't know where they are or who we are talking to.

It's so much more than a cultural thing. It's about me being ripped off and no one gives a fat rats ass.

Poodles Rule said...

There is a website called it is awsome. When I had problems with a dryer a few years ago, I couldn't get the customer service to help me, but I got a new dryer using the planetfeedback site.

Tommy said...

I didn't mean to imply that yours was a cultural problem Star. I apologize if I gave that impression. Yours is a special situation in which you had to wade through a lot of corporate bureaucratic bullshit.

Stardust said...

tommy, I know you didn't. I was just clarifying for those who might think I was bitching just because they are people of other cultures in other lands.

I know that there are those in this country who are against outsourcing simply because of their own bigotry based on cultural differences.

Stardust said...

poodles, thanks for the link. I will check it out.

Andrea said...

Too true, Star - they don't like outsourcing and they don't like immigration either, legal or not. It does seem to boil down to a feeling that American culture is superior to all others, past, present, and future.