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Tuesday 25 November 2003

Outsourcing and Quality

Much is being made of Dell’s recent announcement that they would be moving corporate customer-support call-center functions back from India to the United States.

Because of discounts offered through the University, a lot of my students use Dell laptops. When I mentioned the trend toward outsourcing in my Internet Law class, I got an earful of complaints from students about people with heavy accents, obviously working from scripts that they didn’t understand.

But I’m sure that it’s possible to find people with heavy accents and a lack of comprehension in the United States, too.

The problem isn’t that the customer-service people were in India; the problem is that they were morons.

I recently had a problem with the data-networking capability of my mobile phone. I called an 800 number and talked to someone in Minnesota for a while; when she determined that my problem was one that needed to be solved at a higher level, I was put on hold. For a very, very long time.

When the cheerful music stopped and I again found myself talking to a human being, it was a human being in India. He had a heavy accent, and he was unaware that Washington, D.C. and New York were in the eastern time zone. So much for training people in cultural cues to keep customers from knowing they’re talking to someone on the other side of the globe.

Instead of training him in American football — and time zones — and encouraging him to read USA Today — training him to make nice, basically — they’d trained him to do his job. My questions, which were about certain arbitrary configuration parameters of the phone system, were answered in five minutes and I was on my way. It would have been nice to not have had to wait on hold for an hour to get the information, but what are you gonna do? I’ll admit that the bar is set pretty low these days, but this was by far the best customer-service experience I’ve had lately: for the simple reason that my problem was actually solved.

Dell’s problem is not that they’ve got Indians doing their customer support, it’s that they’ve got idiots doing their customer support. Some of those idiots are in India, but I’d bet that the biggest ones are in Texas, at Dell HQ. Things only get so cheap to do; let’s say that the lowest total cost that you can provide customer support for is $10 an hour. I’m sure that there are people willing to sell you ‘customer support’ service for $7.50 an hour. The problem is, those people are not offering customer support. They’re offering something they call customer support, but which usually turns out to be customer alienation.

Posted by tino at 21:07 25.11.03
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i recently contacted dell and experienced the same BS every other one of their customers does—they’re not just outsourcing jobs to India, there were reps from Panama and Argentina as well.

Posted by: at January 31, 2004 01:36 PM

Mind your words - Indians are not idiots or morons - we know our job - but people like you call us with their head in air, and act stubborn, just because our accent is different - that is the reason why America is going to dogs now - it is because of vain people like you - we Indians and other countries will surely outdo America because a country full of ignorant egoistic citizens cannot survive for long

Posted by: Shirley at October 24, 2004 11:26 AM