Friday, 6 February 2009

OverRated: Call Centres

In days gone by, Call Centres seemed to be staffed exclusively by Scotsmen who had me eating out of the palm of their hand and purchasing whatever good deal it was they had to offer. Purely because of the effect of their dulcet tones. But then things changed.

The irritation of trying to communicate with someone who has English as a second language when you are trying to explain something quite complicated and it is obvious that they do not understand you, compounded by the fact that you cannot totally comprehend which words they are using because they are so heavily distorted. Whereas, face to face, such an exchange might have been charming because of my love of accents, over the medium of the telephone, it is just an annoyance. Particularly when it is going to cost you money if you do not sort out the computer's misunderstanding and get the terms of the agreement correct.

It makes me very cross because I have several friends with English as a second language but they are totally fluent - I suppose having lived here for some years has something to do with it. But it is an important point and the reason why Call Centres should be located at least in the country they are serving, if not the county.

I don't know who it was who came up with the idea of outsourcing as far away as other continents to save money but I would like to give them a good smack. Apart from the fact that they deprived people here of valuable jobs, which in this current economic crisis with all the redundancies from manufacturing and retail sectors, has proved to be a very silly decision, the information that they need (especially if it is a letter you have written explaining what has occurred) has not always been uploaded onto the computer screens so they are trying to sort out your problem without all the relevant information. In some cases, it's almost worse than dealing with a computer because the frustration levels are even higher. To be dealing with a sentient being who is making decisions based on only half the facts, is clearly quoting at you passages from the Company manual which do not actually relate to your case in words upon which you are having to concentrate extremely hard just to decipher is beyond irritating. It is particularly trying when it relates to medical matters, which are complicated enough already without having language issues.

So many of our banking, credit card and utility companies seem to have taken this route and, with call centres here closing left, right and centre, it seems criminal that the telephone operators who have been made redundant cannot be taken on by those companies who currently use the skills of foreign workers abroad. It cannot be right that the British taxpayer is left to pay benefits to unemployed people with the same abilities.

And what gets my goat even more than any of that is the fact that in most cases you have to dial an 0845 or 0870 number to get through to them in the first place and then are kept holding at your own expense - with the additional irritant of knowing that some of that money is actually refunded to the Company concerned. And don't give me those 0844 (Lo-cost) numbers. I'm still having to pay because they haven't got a proper landline with one of the National numbers that is included in my phone package! You just know what my OverRated in four weeks time is going to cover now, don't you?

Customer Service has all gone horribly wrong.



southerngirl said...

Well said CAKE!!!

Don said...

The whole outsourcing for call centers originated with the confluence of two things: the cost of Internet telephony is only slightly higher than the cost of air, and an operator in a call center in Bangalore makes pennies on the dollar compared to an American employee (and probably a British one as well) doing the same exact work. But no one bothered to factor in that Internet telephony, particularly over such long distances, can have poor audio quality, many of these people may know a brand of English but it's generally not yours, and even if they spoke the Queen's English with a perfect Oxford accent, it still won't change all the cultural differences that make communications all that more difficult.

Many companies here in the States have actually dumped the foreign call centers they were using. Their customers complained long and loud enough and threatened to take their business to someone whose language they can understand. I'm pretty sure Dell doesn't use them anymore. I think Apple does, but they seem to have a higher quality of operator - the language barrier isn't as big of a hurdle, and for the truly complicated problems calls get rerouted to agents in America.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Couldn't agree with you more!! Hope all is well with you, BG x

Polar said...

I very much enjoyed calling a support line, when we could get the UK Desk! It was for a anti-virus company, who would right code to correct and arrest items, as it was seen coming from Asia, as the day moved further west, and would have a solution, usually before the day started in the US. The Service Desk in the US was nice, but the speech was so Pleasant from the UK Desk.

Ro said...

What makes it worse is that so often the people struggling with English are not taught better English but are given a script to work through instead. No matter what the problem, no matter what information you do or don't have, they - just - insist - on - plodding - through - a - whole - script - of - irrelevance ...

Mr. Nighttime said...

I work in a call center to pay my bills while my freelance writing business gets going.

You have no idea how bad it can really be. It is the 21st Century version of the sweatshop. Poor pay, incompetents at the gate, and the list goes on and on. The turnover rate is phenomenal. The only thing that is missing is the food trough by the cube.

I am not joking.

Yes, customer service can be very bad, but when you do call, keep in mind that the person on the other end trying to help you may be in worse shape than you are. Trust me. Don't explode at them, don't get nasty, and more times than not, you'll get the service you want. It's when people get rude that things get out of control.

having my cake said...

Mr N, I try never to have a go at the people in the call centre, although, in fact, being too nice can mean you dont get the best deal because you are easy to palm off.

This post is not against call centres per se but staffing them with people who cannot communicate in the tongue of the customer calling and then just repeating parts of the rule book that do not apply.

Mr. Nighttime said...

I agree with you totally that staffing them with people who cannot speak English properly is an annoyance, at the very least. as was pointed out, this is why some companies, such as Dell brought their customer service back from India, but that was only for their business customers, not their consumer group.

I hear what you are saying about being too nice, but some people cross the line between "firm" and"rude."

I am fortunate in that I have been able to telecommute from home for about a year and a half, so it lessens the strain somewhat. I still can't wait for the day that I can tell them to stick this job up their ass.

Jackie Adshead said...

I totally agree - and its about time the companies who use them realised that they're probably losing business because ot it!