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Overseas Call Centers

Businesses Love Them; Customers Hate Them

Chris d CraikerAIA


More of us are going online to find answers to our daily puzzles. We architects are always searching for construction details, current products and updated processes. Occasionally, the online information is incomplete, and we have to make a call to the supplier. If you get transferred to an overseas call center, life stops for hours as the blood pressure climbs.


First, you're greeted by a polite voiceover asking a few simple questions and then you're directed to wait for the next agent. If you’re brave enough to hang in there while listening to the worst elevator music available, you might actually get an agent. Their English is awful, and the dialect is elusive. It's can be next to impossible to communicate the issue. It doesn't take them long to transfer you to another department where you will be promptly disconnected.


Why do big companies use these overseas call centers when they know their customers hate them? It's simple: they don't care. It saves them a ton of money and they know most people will still continue to buy or use their products even with bad customer service experiences. It's been an old joke that calls to American government services result in little action, but at least you're able to speak to somebody in real English with a decent accent.


A little research shows the vast majority are in English speaking countries and India is king. The cost advantage to US companies is a key factor with these countries having much lower labor and facility costs. Interestingly, American Express opened the first call center, then called Business Process Outsourcing, BPO, in Mumbai in the early 1980s. Most of these workers were then, and continue to be, highly trained in technology and able to understand our products and services…... to some degree.


Believe me, I'm not a bigot. I work with Indian drafting services and renderers all the time, but that’s via email. I'm simply noting that Big Business is oblivious to the issues. Their single goal is to cut costs, free up domestic worker time and focus on core aspects of the business without interference by those pesky customers. Questions of billing or lost articles sometimes can be answered online but rarely will they serve ones needs.


A closer look at the international process shows a standard method of treating customers. Agents start by assuring you that they will take care for you and solve your problem. They will repeat the same mantra or policy over and over again, asking you to look at some obscure link. There’s nothing wrong with asking where they are, but don't expect a true answer.


Their bosses require agents to touch base on certain things on each call such as greeting customers by name, have the customer restate the problem or describe the product multiple times to ensure their understanding, assure you they will find a solution, thanking you then put you on hold forever. Under no circumstances will you be allowed to reach an actual supervisor. If you do, their language skills are even worse.


Call Centers often have a 40% turnover year over year.


One of their problems that directly affects us is the high attrition rate of call center agents especially in India where they are leaving their jobs after relatively short periods on the line. The meat-grinding stress and pressure drives agents away with a 40% turnover year over year. Thus, building up true company or product knowledge becomes a real challenge that robs customers of credible service.


What constitutes bad customer service?


  • Long time on hold

  • Agents asking for the same information and repeating non- responsive replies

  • Agents clueless not knowing what their looking for

  • Agents failing to acknowledge the problem


Bad customer service happens, and we like to laugh when it happens to somebody else but when it happens to us, we must take action. What kind of action? Send a complaint e-mail to the local company customer link detailing why it was bad, why you were not assisted and if you have any suggestions on how to make things better. Stress that they should having local American BPOs with compassion and knowledge of your needs. You have to let that business know that they're not solving the problem.


Use social media. You'd be surprised how effective that can be on reaching people on what companies to avoid and the companies read this as well. They watch this probably more than they do their own e-mail and internal communications.


If things are really bad, you can always file a complaint with Better Business Bureau. They do a good job of evaluating and giving you an answer within a short period of time. They'll also send a message to the business. If you really want to get serious, the Federal Trade Commission does accept reports of bad customer service.


Don't climb under a rock. One third-world call center shouldn’t dictate your life.


……………..I’m still on hold for a siding product……


Chris d Craiker AIA wants overseas call centers to pick up Canadian accents.

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