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The View From the Ground At an Indian Call Center

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the division-of-labor-limited-by-extent-of-market dept.

Communications 214

A feature story in Mother Jones gives a fascinating inside look at what it's like to work in a Delhi call center. In this area alone, says the author, "100,000 call-center agents make their living selling vitamins to Britons or helping Americans troubleshoot their printers. I am almost certainly the only one who acquired his conversational skills accidentally — by being born in the United States." The slots at the call centers are limited and highly sought; the training is intense, and the infrastructure is poor.

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Could you repeat that please? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36686668)

All Your Jobs Are Belong To Us.

Frosty piss (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36686690)

Frist post..

Re:Could you repeat that please? (2)

theun4gven (1024069) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686842)

Link to the print version [motherjones.com] so you don't have to click through three pages with entire page ads in between.

Re:Could you repeat that please? (2)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687806)

Call Center jobs in the United States are considered very low end jobs with a high turn over, because most Americans even in this economic situation can get better jobs. Hence why they go to India or other countries, mostly because it is cheaper, but also because it is considered a good job if you can take it there so you get a better work from there.
The problem isn't that jobs are being outsourced, or even the Visas. It is that The United States lately has seemed to lag in Creating new types of jobs.

20/30 years ago Computer Jobs were big bucks you can get a good paying job as a Computer Operator, and Data Entry. Today such skills are basic for all new employees. Today Computers while advancing are not state of the art, the industry as matured and best practices have been made.

But the world and America hasn't done much lately to create new industries. We see some cool stuff in Nano-technology and Bio-Engineering, and in other areas but not enough for a good market to come out with people with new skills to come in and people can venture in without experience because no one has experience in that field.

America past success was creating new industry capitalizing on it until it matured, then pass it off to the rest of the world while it goes onto the next big thing.
But Nano-Tech and Bio-Engineering has brought up a lot of resistant people from Religious Zealots, to Hyper-Liberal Envionuts (Who think they are liberal, just because they don't like the Religious Zealots, or confuse being a democrat with being liberal) who are fighting tooth and nail against the next big thing from taking place.

As the TFA stated "10% of Americans are Wicked Smart" we need to start using our brain power more on solving the problem then using it to go against some political party (both sides) who is catering to get the other 90% vote. Don't worry about outsourcing jobs, if you are then you have already been doomed as you see a world were we cannot create the next new thing. And if we cannot create the next new thing then outsourced jobs is the least of our concern.

Fonejacker.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36686684)

I swear, I once heard them laughing after I phoned support for an rma replacement.

Re:Fonejacker.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687732)

I swear, I once heard them laughing after I phoned support for an rma replacement.

I would, too. Why would you need to replace your Returning Merchandise Authorization?

and the infrastructure is poor (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686728)

No way!

Re:and the infrastructure is poor (1)

Normal Dan (1053064) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686784)

Way

Re:and the infrastructure is poor (0)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686814)

Oh I believe it. I don't remember what I was watching but they showed a rats nest of wires on top of this pole somewhere in New Delhi (or what ever it's called these days). My friend's wife has been there several times and she says it smells like armpit from the moment you get off the plane. She is a very fastidious woman so I imagine she took showers several times a day while she was over there.

Re:and the infrastructure is poor (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687204)

Oh I believe it. I don't remember what I was watching but they showed a rats nest of wires on top of this pole somewhere in New Delhi (or what ever it's called these days). My friend's wife has been there several times and she says it smells like armpit from the moment you get off the plane. She is a very fastidious woman so I imagine she took showers several times a day while she was over there.

She would have to. If only to wash away all the curry flavored semen.

Intense training? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36686764)

In what? Choosing a fake name?

Sorry, but every 'Kevin' from Bangalore I've encountered has been completely useless. Not that I fault the individual workers - I'm sure it's a situation much like we have here in the US, where these poor souls are limited by asinine corporate playbooks, and thus, provide no valuable service to customers.

Though the entire 'get the customer off the phone because they can't a) understand you or b) understand you enough to understand that you cannot possibly help them', of course, is a valuable service to a company's bottom line.

Re:Intense training? (5, Insightful)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686828)

The big problem with outsourced tech support tends to be that regardless of where it is situated they tend to get paid based on the number of calls they handle (at least for consumer services, for business products/services they tend to use better metrics). So they have no incentive in letting their employees fix problems (even if they can), just get customers off the line as quickly as possible.

Re:Intense training? (5, Informative)

Aliotroph (1297659) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687152)

This was often the case when I worked at Dell. If the hardware guys in India were past their quota of dollars in parts to send for the day they would hang up on customers. I worked in paid software support, so that wasn't usually something I saw unless I called on behalf of a customer to get something fixed. The last time that happened to me it resulted in me learning how to exchange a laptop myself by request of my superiors.

That said, a huge number of them really were useless. I got told to confim a part number with hardware support before transferring the lady who wanted it to spare parts. The guy on the other end took my description and part number and then came back with the number for a power cable! The Indians on my team hated these guys too, so it seemed to be partially a corporate culture problem (despite that being a Dell-owned facility) in addition to a regular accent/culture problem.

Re:Intense training? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687300)

I heard from an old-timer at Dell that some reps used to do tech support for two calls at once. Maybe someone will bring that back during high volume.

Indians can program to specifications, even if the specification is wrong and requires a Rube Goldberg device for compliance to corporate policy.

Re:Intense training? (2)

stupidllama (1323661) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687914)

This is still the case, our local call center where my girlfriend is a quality specialist (yes they have them, they are just not listened too for the most part), they have only one contract for the whole building, and they are paid by buy how many calls they take, so its not just outsourced call center jobs. In my experience in working there for a very short time it is the number one complaint of the people working there, more then pay or schedule's or hours, because most people (probably 75%) genuinely want to help people but they are restrained by 2 minute call handle times, try giving good service to someone in two minutes after they have been on hold for 10-30 minutes only happens about 5% of the time at best, the rest get bullshitted, or transferred to some number then gets them right back where they started. Sure they have intensives for good reviews of the service they gave, but that is to get meager bonuses, (which they wont get anyway if the have a high handle time) their hourly rate and their performance reviews are entirely based on handle time.

Re:Intense training? (5, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686870)

In what? Choosing a fake name?

Sorry, but every 'Kevin' from Bangalore I've encountered has been completely useless. Not that I fault the individual workers - I'm sure it's a situation much like we have here in the US, where these poor souls are limited by asinine corporate playbooks, and thus, provide no valuable service to customers.

At least you understand that it's not their location or nationality that makes them useless, it's that they aren't really tech support people - they are consumer relations people. All they know how to do is follow their troubleshooting script, they've likely never used or have even seen the product you're having trouble with. But it's not like a company can afford to let you talk to a product engineer when your $150 Blu Ray player stops working.

The thing that gets me is that companies will spend lots of money putting together troubleshooting scripts and a knowledgebase that the call center workers can use, but they don't make that same information available to the public through their website, which would likely keep me from having to call tech support in the first place.

P.S. Since no one posted the obligatory xkcd link yet, here's one:

http://xkcd.com/806/ [xkcd.com]

Re:Intense training? (4, Informative)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686938)

All they know how to do is follow their troubleshooting script, they've likely never used or have even seen the product you're having trouble with.

I can only speak for the two call centers I worked at right out of college (and the two teams I was on) but that's not always true. We knew the products and services we supported inside out, it was just that we often weren't allowed to fix problems (sometimes we were locked out of systems, other times it was just that they would check the logs to make sure people didn't make certain changes to connections).

When talking to others who have worked in tech support I've found that this is surprisingly often the case, they knew a lot more than they were allowed to let the customer know. The problem is of course that there's often no way around this, the guy knows he needs to keep his call times down and that the boss will be really pissed if he actually turns on interleave on your DSL connection, he must go through the script and then escalate it to a 3rd line tech who opens up the same tool the 1st line guy used and clicks the "interleave" checkbox. Have fun waiting two to three business days for that to happen...

Re:Intense training? (3)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687450)

^^^ This. I've seen people get fired for even attempting to use critical thinking skills, because when the numbers and the procedures are the only thing that matter, critical thinking is a liability, both in the legal sense and the simple fact that it begins to break all of the nifty quality control metrics.

Re:Intense training? (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 3 years ago | (#36688206)

When that happens that person is under-employed and under-achieving by miles and miles :) -- Ignorant bosses are ignorant

Re:Intense training? (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687020)

When I called Mathworks I spoke to a PhD who was very knowledgeable and used Matlab for his PhD thesis (actually the toolkit in particular I was working with).

It's also $10k+ a seat and my company I heard was in their top 25 customers. So YMMV.

Re:Intense training? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687486)

in their top 25 customers

You get what you pay for.

Re:Intense training? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687382)

In the couple of cases I've worked IT support, the help information was publicly listed. We still had lots of issues dealing with people. On the other hand, it was clearly defined what we did and did not support. If it was supported we actually got shit fixed. If it wasn't, we told you so and you were SOL.

Re:Intense training? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687386)

they've likely never used or have even seen the product you're having trouble with

Nonsense! They have had many computer time with the "Dell Inspiron 15R Laptop," sir.

Re:Intense training? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687752)

You forgot the even more obligatory Daily Show clip: Deep Space Naan [thedailyshow.com] . ;)

Re:Intense training? (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 3 years ago | (#36688180)

The only one's I've ever had problems with are the ones who sound like there's a 747 behind them because they're breathing into the headset and have an accent so thick, it sounds like somebody talking outside your door. I get that people who don't care for IT won't learn it and completely agree, but... those tech manuals aren't written by those same people, they're written by people who know what they're doing and are probably provided by the out-sourcee . Granted long before I call tech support, before I take that deep breath and dial, I know I can't fix the problem myself, I just walk through the steps and get my replacement. Their steps ARE comprehensive, and would fix say my monitor if I was a newbie and didn't check some of the settings first, not much for a finished back light though, the support realizes that eventually though and sends you a replacement. In my experience the problem has been more with pre built expectations of the tech support rep (ex. s/he's dumb and low level) that cause problems with tech support, rather than their systems that they apply to EVERYBODY.

Re:Intense training? (1)

kvvbassboy (2010962) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686890)

They are trained to speak English, and as far as possible in an accent that people from the United States will be comfortable with. I am aware this often doesn't work well, but when you consider that most of the employees are people from schools that are worse than the toughest public schools in US, you might understand that it's not easy for them to sound convincing. Hence, the intensive training.

I myself have close friends (who are quite brilliant technically in comparison to many undergrads that I have met here) who studied with me in top ranked engineering schools in India. They barely knew any English when they first came in, but picked it up in a year or two.

Re:Intense training? (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687710)

The "tells" are glaringly obvious.

Your first one - "Can I know" or "May I know" instead of "Can you tell me" or "What is" construction when asking for the problem description, model/serial number, or even your name. I get someone on the line who opens up that way, they're likely in either India or Malaysia (which is where Dell now puts their corporate call centers after the client uproar when they tried to ship corporate support to India).

There are other ones you learn to listen for quickly. An out-of-place conjugation here, an oddly colloquial phrase there... it adds up quickly.

The best call centers I ever got through to were in Mormon-land, Utah and Idaho. They were knowledgeable, they got right to the problem without going through 5 pages of script crap, and when I got off the line I had a real certainty that the warranty replacement parts would ship out on time (they actually got out two days early).

Every time I've dealt with India, meanwhile, they've been somewhere beyond incompetent and I've often had to call back a second time or more, get told that I now have a different call center that has no fucking record of my last call, and get them to send the parts again. With India, it's taken as much as five tries sometimes to get a goddamn part shipped playing their little game.

Re:Intense training? (1, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686914)


asinine corporate playbooks

This story isn't about RIM.

Re:Intense training? (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687222)

In what? Choosing a fake name? Sorry, but every 'Kevin' from Bangalore I've encountered has been completely useless.

Actually, one of the things that some Indian call center workers have been starting to revolt against is choosing American-sounding fake names for themselves. The workers of the opinion "My name is Rakesh, and I shouldn't be ashamed of that fact. Plus, they'll know I'm from India the moment I open my mouth, why try to hide it?" And management has occasionally gone along with that.

Tech support, outsourced or not, done on the cheap, will get shoddy results. Tech support will get done on the cheap (or not at all) because very few people buy tech products based on the quality of its tech support. They might say they do, but if a business purchaser has the choice between a $10,000 product with great tech support and a $9,000 product with shoddy tech support, they'll end up choosing the $9,000 product almost every time. Even if the guy responsible for the purchase decision thinks the tech support is worth it, convincing his boss to spend $1000 for tech support they may or may not need is difficult at best.

Re:Intense training? (1)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687786)

Company I used to work for had an interesting strategy for that. you could buy the product with or without a tech support contract. The product was actually fairly cheap (comparatively speaking to competitors in the market) and the company made the bulk of it's money in the support contracts. Why did so many clients purchase the "costs you an arm and a leg" contracts?

A. The software was broken. Rapid releases and feature bloat means that it hadn't been stable since version 7, and they were several revisions into version 10 when I left. It -would- have problems at some point, and those problems would grind your business to a halt until they got fixed.

B. Once you had one of these problems, it pretty much required support from the people who wrote the software. They knew how to get around the holes in the program, or at least patch it up so it worked well enough to run your business for another few weeks/months until it broke again.

C. If you didn't buy the support contract, when you called up we were not allowed to help you. period. we couldn't even give you a hint. The company didn't care if your baby was on fire, we couldn't help. We had to direct you to the sales department, who would be thrilled to sell you a support contract, on the condition that you paid not only for the contract going forward, but going backwards as well. you had to pony up for every single month you hadn't had a support contract with the company, even if that went back several years to the time you purchased the software/canceled your previous support contract.

yep, the company basically held your business hostage to extort money. One of many many reasons that I was not unhappy to leave.

Re:Intense training? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687788)

Fat kids with sausage rolls,

Poor sods conducting polls...

Thursday night, NBC (2)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686802)

I saw this show... it was called Outsourced [imdb.com] .

I'd like to see a Ukranian/Russian call center. (1)

Hsien-Ko (1090623) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686804)

That'd be great, being powered by AT-class machines, a lack of air conditioning and all, if Peggy is true.

I lol'd pretty hard... (1)

hipp5 (1635263) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686822)

...at the teachings on Australian culture.

Re:I lol'd pretty hard... (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687234)

Not exactly Paul Hogan. Does explain some things about Mel Gibson, though.

They do know American culture better than we do (1)

hackingbear (988354) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686838)

I like this quote:

"Truth is, 90 percent of the people there, you will find, they'll do the most stupid things, impulsive things. I know for a fact. At the same time, Americans are bighearted people, and the remaining 10 percent of them are smart. Bloody smart. That's why they rule the world."

Sounds like they are qualified!

Bringing the jobs back (0)

OutSourcingIsTreason (734571) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686844)

I wonder if it's possible to bring the jobs back by slapping a $5 tariff on product support calls that get answered overseas.

If you'll work 50 hour weeks for $11/week... (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686918)

Sure, if you can also find Americans that will work 50 hour weeks for $11/week, which is the wage quoted in the article....

Re:If you'll work 50 hour weeks for $11/week... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36686974)

You could raise the pay for that job here then watch everyone complain about how prices have gone up for customer support. If it wasn't for all the cheapskates shopping at Wallmart our jobs wouldn't be in China either.

Re:If you'll work 50 hour weeks for $11/week... (1)

Drooling Iguana (61479) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687614)

If all the jobs hadn't gone to China people would be able to afford shopping at places other than Wal-Mart.

Re:If you'll work 50 hour weeks for $11/week... (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686978)

They will earn as much as 20,000 rupees per month—around $2 per hour, or $5,000 per year if they last that long, which most will not.

I'm not sure how 50*2=11, but whatever.

Re:If you'll work 50 hour weeks for $11/week... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687280)

I'm not sure how one month worth of 50 hour weeks = 50 hours, but whatever.

Re:If you'll work 50 hour weeks for $11/week... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687294)

They will earn as much as 20,000 rupees per month—around $2 per hour, or $5,000 per year if they last that long, which most will not.

I'm not sure how 50*2=11, but whatever.

You are part of the 90%, apparently.

Multiply $2 by 40 hour weeks, by 52 weeks in a year.

Re:If you'll work 50 hour weeks for $11/week... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36686998)

Um... yeah. Or did you miss the upswing in college graduates (and laid off degreed adults) hired at fast food restaurants and retail outlets?

Re:Bringing the jobs back (0)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687270)

There used to be a 35% tax on pay for outsourced labor.

W made sure that went away in his first tax-cut package.

Threw us from a relatively slow internet bust into an 8-year triple-dip recession that killed 2 million jobs a year in America and created 2 million a year in China and India.

Re:Bringing the jobs back (1)

Ruke (857276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687454)

I really wanted to believe you... which is why I looked it up. Looks like those laws were on the books before W. came into office. [factcheck.org]

Re:Bringing the jobs back (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687808)

That link doesn't seem to have anything to do with it.

Re:Bringing the jobs back (1)

Ruke (857276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36688230)

No? I assumed that your point was addressed by:

We first addressed this popular theme in 2004, when we reported on a John Kerry campaign ad in which he blamed President George W. Bush for providing tax incentives to companies “outsourcing” jobs overseas. At the time we found that such tax breaks, which do exist, pre-dated the Bush administration and that even Democratic-leaning economists did not support the idea that changing the corporate tax code would end the movement of jobs overseas.

Could you provide some sort of source for your statement, then? I'd love to be able to throw that statistic around, but I'm not willing to do it unless I can defend it properly.

Re:Bringing the jobs back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687792)

There used to be a 35% tax on pay for outsourced labor.

W made sure that went away in his first tax-cut package.

You're going to need to provide a citation because you are wrong. I worked in tax law specializing in large corporations, many who had outsourced holdings, and you're just plain wrong.

Re:Bringing the jobs back (2)

mrops (927562) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687422)

I don't think there is a need for that.

Salaries are going up, eventually, they will reach true market value. You and I may suffer out in the west, however by the time next generation comes along, 5$/hr will seem more palatable to Americans at the same time as Indians would have moved to $5/hr. There would be a balance at some point. Already happening on the IT industry side, Avg. Indian Developer is a lot more costly than he was 10 years ago, and the costs are rising.

Beauty of free trade.

Dont know why we dont like foreign call centers? (5, Insightful)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686848)

When I stopped asking questions, Shail had one for me. "I have experienced some Americans—please don't mind—they don't like Indians. They act rude as soon as they come to know I am Indian. Why is this?" I stammered something about protectionism, but really I didn't know what to say.

Simply put, nobody likes communicating with people who are.. well... difficult to communicate with. It's bad enough trying to overcome a language barrier in general conversation. It's even worse when you're trying to communicate a technical problem or make a complicated request. I don't want to have to spell out my email 3x in phonetic alphabet. Sometimes I can't even tell if the person I'm talking to actually understands my problem because everything they say is scripted.

Plus -- as Louis CK has said -- I know the Indian on the line doesn't give a shit about me and my white people problems.

Re:Dont know why we dont like foreign call centers (5, Funny)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687320)

Simply put, nobody likes communicating with people who are.. well... difficult to communicate with. It's bad enough trying to overcome a language barrier in general conversation. It's even worse when you're trying to communicate a technical problem or make a complicated request. I don't want to have to spell out my email 3x in phonetic alphabet. Sometimes I can't even tell if the person I'm talking to actually understands my problem because everything they say is scripted.

Tell me about it. I hate calling tech support and getting people in Alabama.

Re:Dont know why we dont like foreign call centers (2)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#36688138)

Tell me about it. I hate calling tech support and getting people in Alabama.

Wait, there are call centers in Alabama? I thought you needed phones for those.

Re:Dont know why we dont like foreign call centers (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687886)

I think Occam's razor has an even simpler explanation, all call centers anywhere are likely to fail at living up to the customer experience the user wants. They're pissed that the service is broken to begin with and troubleshooting is a long and tedious process and there might not be any immediate solutions either. Particularly many residential users are worse than useless at helping you resolve it, as well as extremely impatient because the problem wasn't solved ten minutes ago. I would think that getting shouted at is a common occurrence in US call centers as well.

That you've reached an Indian call center is their excuse to vent, the reason the problem isn't fixed in 30 seconds is now because they've gone with some low cost bidder in India and screw the customer. Maybe you sometimes will get poorer service as well, but I think the primary reason is that they now focus all the negativity around that fact. Like it or not, as soon as people hear "outsourced to India" they think the first, second and third reason is cost. And I can't' really say this article has given me much reason to think otherwise...

Re:Dont know why we dont like foreign call centers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36688094)

If you want decent service don't buy the machines from the companies selling at the lowest possible cost. They all out source to India! The local tech may be incompetent too, rude, and so forth. You at least understand what they are saying even if it does not make any sense to you. If you want premium support find someone who works for themselves or a small business that isn't trying to undercut the competition. Sometimes local computer repair shops are operated by owners who are more competent even if they are generally less competent still then we would like. They also speak English!

Re:Dont know why we dont like foreign call centers (5, Insightful)

Nevo (690791) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687902)

When I stopped asking questions, Shail had one for me. "I have experienced some Americans—please don't mind—they don't like Indians. They act rude as soon as they come to know I am Indian. Why is this?" I stammered something about protectionism, but really I didn't know what to say.

Simply put, nobody likes communicating with people who are.. well... difficult to communicate with.

This doesn't explain it.

American consumers are watching companies abandon customer service and outsourcing these functions to overseas companies that employ call-takers that have no knowledge of the products they support, no ability to do any real troubleshooting, and no authority to give any help at all outside the script on their desk.

India isn't the cause of the problem; it's the symptom. When we call and talk to someone in India, we're not upset at India, we're upset at the company we're trying to do business with, which has let us down. Talking to someone in India is simply the indication that the company we're working with doesn't care about us as customers.

Re:Dont know why we dont like foreign call centers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687972)

Calling a company for help and getting a foreign voice is distressing because it tells you that the company doesn't care enough to pay for a same-language support center, so you wonder where else they've cheaped off that is invisible to the initial buyer. Plus, you now have a language issue which is a problem in addition to the one you are calling about, adding to your stress.

Cynical double-take (2)

Ironchew (1069966) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686862)

The slots at the call centers are limited and highly sought; the training is intense, and the infrastructure is poor.

You know you're disillusioned when that assessment sounds equal to or better than most job openings in the United States.

Hi John! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36686894)

My name is Muhammad Ansdhajshdioweiqopw!

The real "problem" (4, Insightful)

puck71 (223721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686924)

My main frustration with the outsourcing "issue" isn't that I'm talking to someone from India. It's that I'm talking to someone from India that's pretending to be from America. It's really insulting to our intelligence and I'm not sure what they gain from it at this point. Now it's well known that there's a ton of outsourcing, so why do companies bother trying to hide it anymore?

Re:The real "problem" (3, Informative)

Abreu (173023) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687156)

I am a supervisor at a call center in Mexico City.

It is not uncommon for americans to hang up if they find out the 1-800 number they are calling goes to Mexico. I imagine it is worse for India.

Re:The real "problem" (3, Insightful)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687296)

It is not uncommon for americans to hang up if they find out the 1-800 number they are calling goes to Mexico. I imagine it is worse for India.

To most call-center managers, that's a problem solved!

Re:The real "problem" (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687664)

The problem isn't really racism, but I think it's because it's a brutal reminder to the callers that the economy is still lousy and all these jobs are now outsourced and there's not even a remote hope that this will change. Add to that the fact that any call center call will be frustrating no matter who is on the other end; no one phones a call center because they're having a great day. Julia Roberts could be on the other end of the line but when she says "have you tried rebooting it?" I'm going to get mad.

Re:The real "problem" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36688218)

The problem isn't really racism, but I think it's because it's a brutal reminder to the callers that the economy is still lousy and all these jobs are now outsourced and there's not even a remote hope that this will change.

And many of those angry callers hanging up on Rakesh or Jose are the same people who a few years ago aggressively waved the flag for those corporations and politicians who were most in favor of outsourcing American jobs overseas.

Re:The real "problem" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687168)

My main frustration with the outsourcing "issue" isn't that I'm talking to someone from India. It's that I'm talking to someone from India that's pretending to be from America. It's really insulting to our intelligence and I'm not sure what they gain from it at this point. Now it's well known that there's a ton of outsourcing, so why do companies bother trying to hide it anymore?

It seems to me that at this point, it's mostly just anti-racist-diatribe armor. Using fake American names and accents doesn't fool the people who are smart enough to understand that outsourcing is not the fault of the person on the phone, but it may fool the kind of mouth-breathing dipshits who would blame 'em there towelheads for takin' our jerbs.

Re:The real "problem" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687170)

My main frustration with the outsourcing "issue" isn't that I'm talking to someone from India. It's that I'm talking to someone from India that's pretending to be from America.

Funny thing is, that in Toronto (Canada), we have a very large East Indian community who also works in call centres supporting North American clients. Many people in America who hear the Indian accents of people from Toronto think that they are talking to people in India, while the people in India all have fake American accents.

On a side note, (as a white guy and native English speaker), one of my ESL Indian supervisors told me that I have poor English skills! I was eventually fired from the job. I guess I never fit in.

Re:The real "problem" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687466)

On a side note, (as a white guy and native English speaker), one of my ESL Indian supervisors told me that I have poor English skills! I was eventually fired from the job. I guess I never fit in.

Sorry, but being American doesnt mean you have good communication skills or that you are good at Spoken English.

Re:The real "problem" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36688240)

Oh, I get it! Let me update my chart:

* Portraying all Muslims as terrorists: unacceptable
* Portraying all Indians as dumb: unacceptable
[4096 other examples elided]
* Saying all Americans are dumb: acceptable!!! We have a winner!

Speaking of which, lets evaluate your excellent writing:

Sorry, but being American doesnt mean you have good communication skills or that you are good at Spoken English.

1. doesnt -> doesn't (missing apostrophe)
2. Spoken English -> spoken English (incorrect capitalization)

Love, your friendly neighborhood American.

Re:The real "problem" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687178)

It is even more frustrating when an Indian is talking to someone from India that's pretending to be from America.

Re:The real "problem" (1)

Thing I am (761900) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687438)

I don't know if it's so much that they are pretending to be from America as it is that they just pick names that are easy for Americans to identify with. I contract for a Chinese company that have many employees in the US on work visa and they all pick American names. It's easier for me to remember Larry than it is ... hell I can't remember their real names.

ROY ROGERS WILL TAKE CARE OF THEM INJUNS !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36686932)

And Trigger !!
And Dale !!
And Republic Pictures !!
Becaues that is of the stuff that matters !!

Re:ROY ROGERS WILL TAKE CARE OF THEM INJUNS !! (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687312)

Have you tried unplugging it?

Dealing with Indians on the phone is frustrating (3, Interesting)

Bloodwine77 (913355) | more than 3 years ago | (#36686948)

I deal with Indians in two different capacities. One is my professional environment where I communicate with outsourced teams and the other is my personal environment where I contact customer support on various services and products.

I never give them hell, because I realize that they are just trying to make a living, but the communication and cultural barriers are too wide for me. Some of our technical partners utilize Indian software developers and I have been talking to Indians for over a decade and to this day I still have trouble with their accents. Email is a little better, but either cultural differences or something else causes conversations to be circular in nature. I don't think they are intentionally dishonest, but they have an aversion to saying "no" and end up being vague and confusing.

Also, either the companies who hire the call centers or the call center management themselves need to stop having call center reps address themselves with American names. I am not thoroughly educated in Indian customs, but I doubt there really are that many people in India named Bob, Joe, Rick, Ann, Susan, and Jennifer. They aren't fooling anybody and it is insulting one's intelligence.

I am sure working in an Indian call center is hell, and I respect them for making a living, but I honestly wish I didn't have to deal with them.

Re:Dealing with Indians on the phone is frustratin (2)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687054)

They have an aversion to saying "no" and end up being vague and confusing.

If you ever get a chance to go to India you're going to hate the head weave. It's half way between "Yes" and "No" but also means maybe, sometimes, all the time, and I don't know.

Re:Dealing with Indians on the phone is frustratin (2)

gonzonista (790137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687654)

That drove me nuts until somebody told me what it means. The "bobble head" means "I hear you." It's only an acknowledgement that they've heard what you've said and nothing more.

Re:Dealing with Indians on the phone is frustratin (5, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687114)

Its not because they are trying to fool you into thinking you are talking with an American. The issue is lots of those names are really really hard to pronounce for native English speakers who have no experience with Hindi.

I have worked very close with lots of India developers, the ones who actually come here tend to American-ize their names rather than pick a new one like John. Punjababriu becomes Prabu for instance. The later I can say correctly the former it took him helping me many times to learn to say correctly. You know I felt really bad about it too. Nobody likes it when you get their name wrong. Most of us don't want to go around hurting the feelings of or insulting others; or suspecting that we might be. In this case he knew it was not a respect thing and that I was trying really hard to learn to correctly say his name, but still.

Really these call center folks are doing you a kindness by sparing you the embarrassment of having to try and repeat a name that is going to be hard for your say.

But what is the point of giving a name at all? (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687798)

When I call customer support, I really don't care what the rep's name is. (Nor do I care to discuss how my day is going). I care about how efficiently my question is answered by the overall experience (which is ideally resovled before I have to speak to any human at all).

Does anybody care to know what a CS rep's name is? Does anybody believe that there is something to be gained by noting that they spoke to "Randy". These are huge operations -- no surnames?

Given the evident pressure these call centers are on to churn through calls, I am suspicious of the motive behind the folksy facade that they spend their money creating (I know they don't care about the amount of my time that is wasted establishing a familiar rapport with their rep). I suspect that they are more interested in mitigating my expected disappointment, by appealing to sentimentality towards "Randy", who probably has a lousy job and is at least trying to be nice even if he can't do anything for me.

Re:Dealing with Indians on the phone is frustratin (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687132)

I don't think they are intentionally dishonest

Here is where I disagree. Having worked with outsourced Indian software development for a decade now, I have encountered many people and even companies that are outright dishonest. They will claim to have things complete that they haven't, only to fess up months later when the deadline is actually arrived. They will lie about team size/structure/level of effort. They will steal from FOSS projects, despite being directly and clearly instructed not to, creating contractual nightmares. Working with them requires so much micromanagement that yes, you are better off hiring a bunch of fresh college grads, it will save you money in the long run, and the quality of work will be superior.

Re:Dealing with Indians on the phone is frustratin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687762)

American Names? so they have names like Pocahontas or Xóchitl

Re:Dealing with Indians on the phone is frustratin (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#36688024)

American Names? so they have names like Pocahontas or XÃchitl

Sounds like the Asian colonialists.

Free markets race to the bottom (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687000)

You pay your money and you get what you pay for. You want service from a company that pays its support staff $900 a year, then don't expect the same quality service as a company that pays its staff $20,000 a year (or more).

Re:Free markets race to the bottom (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687362)

I bought a piece of equipment for $1,499 plus tax.

I could give fuck-all what the company that sold it to me pays their call-center employees. I want it to work. If that cuts into some fat plutocrat's viagra money, then fuck him for selling me something that can break.

Re:Free markets race to the bottom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36688234)

Without stating what that piece of equipment was, your post is about as useful as a hole in the head.

Re:Free markets race to the bottom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36688186)

Honestly, at 20k a year in the US you're not going to get college educated call center staff, whereas in India you can.
In terms of solving problems by reading the script presented on the computer screen in front of them, the Indian will be just as effective. If you want small talk then of course the American will do better, but is that why you call support?

So you can actually get BETTER or at least the same level of technical service for LESS money. However, that doesn't mean that it's not hurting the US economy by denying money to Americans.

I'd have more time for them ... (1)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687012)

if they didn't call my home, uninvited, at dinner time. I can deal with any call centre when it's my business (they're helping me. Thanks, guys). When they're trying to sell me something, uninvited on my home line I have no problems hanging up on them. My home is not their shop.

Re:I'd have more time for them ... (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687416)

Get on the national Do Not Call registry [donotcall.gov] . Got rid of 90% of the problem for me.

Doesn't stop local spammers, though your state may have its own Do Not Call registry [privacycorps.com] .

Doesn't stop politicians in any case. But them you can get righteously pissed-off at, because they're not just doing a job, they're trying to fuck up your economy and legal system.

Why hate Indians? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687048)

Why hate Indians? while you have to hate the Corporations that Outsourced the Jobs in the first place. I am sure, these companies would outsource to the next country that provides the cheapest labour. Will you hate your new Call Center employees or Corporation that oursourced?

They do know more American societty (1)

hackingbear (988354) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687094)

They do know American society than most Americans and their politicians:

"Truth is, 90 percent of the people there [in the US], you will find, they'll do the most stupid things, impulsive things. I know for a fact. At the same time, Americans are bighearted people, and the remaining 10 percent of them are smart. Bloody smart. That's why they rule the world."

They are qualified to rule us. We just need to outsource the Congress.

highly specialized qualifications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687266)

conversation skills...by being born in the United States...

We might as well throw in the towel right now.
There is no way that we can compete such Indian hightech.
We have a better chance at knocking the Chinese off their lofty perch than with these highly skilled Indians.

Aah ..another garbage from an ABCD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687368)

ABCD .. stands for American-Born-Confused-Desi ( Desi = Indian ) .

When you really want to understand how BPOs work , you should ask someone who worked in BPOs for atleast 2 years. Not from someone , who just walked in 1 day and sees only negative things around him.

I'm sorry ... if I offended the author in motherjones , but the whole article is simply a garbage in itself.

Re:Aah ..another garbage from an ABCD (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687634)

Dude, Andrew Marantz is no way an ABCD!!!

Jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687800)

The slots at the call centers are limited and highly sought

He's stealing their jobs?

You get what you pay for (2)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687838)

Word Perfect 5.1 for DOS. > 500.00 USD ( '80;s vintage dollars ) for a word processor, not an office suite but just word processing software.

Outrageous huh?

Perhaps, but you got a 1-800 number AND when you called it, you got an engineer ( more then likely a programmer on call center rotation ) that really knew the product inside and out and would talk to you for as long as it took to solve the problem and that could be formatting, printing, or their extremely powerful scripting language.

Just try calling Microsoft for help with Office, go ahead I will watch and laugh.

Re:You get what you pay for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36687992)

Actually you can, and it'll cost much less than $500. Microsoft offers professional phone support:
http://support.microsoft.com/gp/commercialsupport

Re:You get what you pay for (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36688192)

Word Perfect 5.1 for DOS. > 500.00 USD ( '80;s vintage dollars ) for a word processor, not an office suite but just word processing software.

Outrageous huh?

Perhaps, but you got a 1-800 number AND when you called it, you got an engineer ( more then likely a programmer on call center rotation ) that really knew the product inside and out and would talk to you for as long as it took to solve the problem and that could be formatting, printing, or their extremely powerful scripting language.

Just try calling Microsoft for help with Office, go ahead I will watch and laugh.

In mid-2009 we had to revive a Windows 2000 server (yes, two-thousand) that had about 2TB of inaccessible production data because of corrupt partition tables. The Indian engineers on the other end of MS support saved our ass by manually rebuilding those tables and they did it very well. Had they failed, several of us would have been refreshing our resumes. I'm personally not a fan of MS but when you've got a job to do, you do it.

I don't know how their end-user support is, but their enterprise support, in my experience, is really great.

Oh, and I have a friend that worked for several years overseas @EDS, consulting for a well known document imaging corporation. When Americans would call and go into "bitchfit" modes, she and other techs would just mute their end and have a laugh at them.

The problem is you! (2)

Xmastrspy (1170381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36687916)

I am sure I will get moded down for this, but "whateva"... (yes I am American)

I am so tired of American IT workers bitching about Indian tech support. First off... It seems that most of the time, the American IT guy bitching about the support he is getting actually has no clue WTF he is talking about in the first place. Second... Why don't you shut your American-I-am-always-right mouth for one second and actually LISTEN. If you are too stupid to realize that your speaking with a person whose first language is not English and you need to slow down, then you're probably fall into my first point.

"These" people that you are speaking with are not trained monkeys. I believe in TFA most of the people he spoke with were top of their class or had higher education.

Capitalism is not the only problem (2)

losttoy (558557) | more than 3 years ago | (#36688080)

This article and many other western publication paint the picture that BPOs are the only game in town for young Indians. Not true. Engineers are in very high demand, especially Civil, Mining and Mechanical engineers. College graduates with degrees in commerce or liberal arts also do well depending on the first job they take up. Jobs that service the local market are tougher but have an actual career path. But you won't get to work in a nice air-conditioned office, won't have a car to pick and drop you back and initial pay will be lower than a call center job. Several of my friends who started working for local banks and selling financial products to Indians started off with low pays and jobs that require a lot of enterprise and leg-work. Ten years later, most of them make more money that I do in silicon valley with a respectable 6 figure salary. People (kids really), who end up in BPO jobs get attracted by the initial high salary, party like culture on premises (free food, chicks, parties thrown to retain employees). So can't really blame capitalism for this mess. These young people can chose - start with a good pay and good work environment but boring job and no career path OR start low, work hard but have a viable career ten years down the line.

Perceptions (1)

spam4rakesh (1131931) | more than 3 years ago | (#36688256)

Outsourcing is a emotional subject as many of us have been touched bu it in a very personal way. The two most common themes I have read so far is 1) Names being changed ( westernized ) 2) Most of the people answering the phones are too dumb and don't know what they are talking about. Well there are several reasons that I think may be behind them For Names: 1) Indian names are difficult to pronounce and to make the customers feel comfortable, they choose names that they are familiar with. The same practice is applied in EU also where call centers going to Bulgaria, Romania or other countries try to keep neutral names 2) Second many people get ticked off when they realized their calls are going to some place outside the US. many of these people have a wrong sense of patriotism or are being protectionists. The second part about most of them being dumb 1) Most of the call center employees are young freshers. They don't have too much experience and they are forced to learn and follow a script. 2) They may be providing adequate support for majority of the customers. If a very highly technical person say from /. where to be on the other side of the phone call, I can understand the frustration. 3) Finally the language of technology is universal even, if you happen to get hold of some support person who is technical enough and you would be able to converse setting aside all other differences. So says an Indian who goes by Rocky.
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