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<rant> It's not only a problem for staff in India, faced with utter incompetance from any call centre I know I have a hard time keeping my cool. Somehow explaining the same thing four times to still get nowhere isn't stress free for the caller either.
Maybe the companies should think of the customer and introduce better policies which have a little flexibility. I'd say stubborn rules and staff with no authority at all to be flexible are the biggest problems with call centres, no matter where they are </rant>
But, I don't think it's really a racial issue. It's a training issue.
Five years ago, when I would call tech support, I'd get a call center employee located in the US who didn't really understand what I was talking about, but knew how to look up keywords, and give me possible solutions.
Now, whenever I call tech support and reach someone in the US, they act like a level 2 tech. (Oh, you need a reverse DNS entry? Sure, I can do that for you).
The outsourced people are still in the 5-years-ago stage training-wise. It's not because they're dumb, it's just that they're more of a telephone operator than a technician.
Then there's the company my Dad had to make a small purchase from. Their ordering line went through to somewhere in India, and the guy told Dad that his order came to "One-thousand thirteen cent."
We now have a large "caller ID" display in the office and as soon as the phone rings and the display shows "International" we just pick up the phone, place the handset on the desk, and let the caller speak away into thin air, before we replace the handset.
(We know it's not a customer because we are a small company and we don't have any overseas customers).
It's simply not acceptable for junk callers to phone an office during working hours - don't they realise the staff have better things to do?
I spoke to my ISP's tech support today (not outsourced) because of connectivity problems.
The moron on the phone had no clue outside the multiple choice answers on his screen.
The only issue here is how seriously the company takes it's customer support.
It is difficult to replace local knowledge, something which is needed in some applications.
Overseas outsourcing works well when there is no requirement for local knowledge.
Initially, we had all sorts of issues because their staff was unable provide solutions specific to our "local" needs. Slowly they learnt (were taught) various local issues, and now they are quite good at addressing our needs.
I read a case study about Nasdaq, and how they have agressively sought business (primary market listing) from overseas businesses; initially many international companies were reluctant because Nasdaq's legal department was inequipped to handle cross-border compliance issues. Nasdaq brought on a specialised department and sent it through intensive training. Slowly the number of international businesses, including many from India, listed, and have had improved experiences.
I completely agree with many people who have posted, that India or not, the necessary level of service needs to be provided. This will come once the company requesting the outsourcing understands that agents in India are closer to the initial stages of customer service competence and local knowledge than their more mature counterparts in the US, and have different training needs.
I recall a funny (in hindsight) experience in Boston. I and my friend were in an elevator that stuck while going up. We picked up the elevator phone to call for help and the person who answered it asked us "sir, which city are you in"! We asked him where he was "in Omaha". It took us about 15 mins to explain where exactly we were, cause we didn't know the zip code or the street number of the busilding we were in, and he had never been to Boston and was reading us landmarks from his computer screen. It took another 30 mins for them to send a team that released the elevator.