Wednesday, March 19, 2008

rules for working in an indian call center

Do I flatter myself to think you've noticed that Ad Broad's posts haven't been daily of late? I've been besieged with networking problems which have kept me on the phone with HP, Belkin and Apple for days, researching the breadth of their tech support capabilities, being flung into the abyss of Indian call centers where I've been disconnected, misunderstood or kept on the line for hours. (This is NOT an exaggeration: my last call with HP lasted 3:34, you can check the LED display on my handset.)

What happened to all those nice techs I used to talk to in Texas and Oklahoma, the ones who talk-fixed my previous products that went on the blink? What are they doing now to make ends meet, or have they all been transferred to Bangalore? I have nothing against India or the people who live there (I've spent months there and want to go back) but if that country is taking over customer service for ours, a few rules ought to be part of basic training:

1. Do not fake an Anglican-sounding name. Insisting, in a heavy Bengali accent, that your name is "Keith" or "Angie" won't fool me into thinking you're not in India. And who cares if you are? All a caller wants is for you to fix the damn thing and get them off the phone as quickly as possible.

2. Note the last three words of #1. For this reason, no matter what your handbook says, don't waste time on chatty pleasantries. Asking in a painfully slow voice, "And how are you today, Ma'am", then repeating the question if her answer isn't forthcoming--this is really, really annoying. The caller knows you don't really care how she is today, and all she cares about you is that you're healthy enough to troubleshoot her machine. The only acceptable opener is "How can I help you?"

3. Realize that by the time the caller has gotten to you, she's already spent at least 20 minutes slogging through auto-identify systems, systems operators, queue masters and perhaps a disconnection or two. For this reason, it is VERY important (no matter what your manual says) to NOT repeat her sentences back at her, even though I know this buys you time to read ahead in the pages you are obviously consulting. For instance, when she says "My wireless printer doesn't recognize my wireless network" do not say "So may I then confirm that the problem you are experiencing is, your wireless printer doesn't recognize your wireless network?" Because of the last three words of #1, this will make her want to reach into the phone and eviscerate you.

4. For the same reason, don't attempt to distract a caller from your ineptitude by asking her how the weather is where she is calling from.

5. When you haven't a clue what to do, just say so and transfer the caller right away to someone in Oklahoma who does. Do not say, "This is a particularly difficult situation and I need to do some investigation," then torture the caller with painful wait times, wrong information, then (and only, then) a switchoff to Oklahoma where a guy solves in a minute the problem you've been wrestling with for over an hour.

6. I trust that there are many exemplary call-center employees in India whose performance is stellar, whom this posts insults. To them, my apologies. So where have you been the last couple of days?


Anonymous said...

Try getting through to Quark for some real fun.

Alan Wolk said...

This is a great post. Spot on take of why saving money short-term on customer service may not equal making money long term if you turn your customers off for good.

I flagged this on Twitter- hopefully got you some new readers.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Studio-yes, i have. (I'm a writer, why swithc to indesign?) What makes them particularly galling to navigate in my recollection is that they charge $1000/minute for the privilege...?!

Thanks, Toad. Never been twittered before. So that's what the bump was.

Joker said...

Eviscerate.... such a delicious word. :D

As for the outsourcing... the first natural reaction people seem to have is, wow this person has no idea how to help me, can't speak the language and will make me waste valuable time I could spend watching llama porn. As you said though, you've been scrounging for so long on a phone that you just want an answer and swear you can will it out of a person who doesn't know their elbows from assholes and so forth.

Again though, outsourcing saves money but annoys customers so who wins in the end? The people who got you to spend millions in infrastructure to forward call-in services to India.... hooray.

Not that I'm an anti foreigner or anything, but I am saying that if you outsource, you should make sure that the service will be on par hence me not criticizing the decision to outsource manufacturing to China even if they'll have us speaking mandarin in less than two decades. Good product, good price = good experience. That's not the equation when talking about call centers.