Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Out Sourcing Frustrations

It's cheaper in the short run, this off-shore customer service project. But I feel certain that it will prove to be more costly in the long run.

Three days ago I called Time Warner customer service because I was not able to connect with the internet. I waited twenty-five minutes, all the time being assured that "all agents are busy but I would be taken care of shortly". Finally an agent came on the line.

I suspect the fellow I was talking to ("Francis") was in India or some other place far away. He spent ten minutes attempting to verify that I was a TW customer. "I don't find you in either of our customer data bases." Reading off my latest bill all sorts of identifying numbers did no good. Finally, he used the serial number of my modem to determine that my modem belonged to someone named "Polanski".

Another ten minutes or so of mystifying instructions (turn off your modem, turn it on, click the standby button, turn off your computer, turn it back on) and the verdict was rendered: I needed a new modem. Francis would transfer me to a local number and they would tell me how to get my new modem.

Okay, Harry came on the line (he sounded like a Texan) and told me I did not need a new modem. He said he could tell by looking at some dials on his computer that my modem was working fine. I thought, "why couldn't I have talked to Harry first?" but then he told me that my router was the problem, and he could not help me since Time-Warner does not issue routers.

Frustrated to the core, I went into the living room and drank a Coke. Fifteen minutes later I returned to my computer, and lo and behold! I had internet.

The Next Day:
I tried to reach Sears to get an automatic garage door fixed. I will spare you the details, but they did not have me in their database either. [Is this a ploy?] This time I spoke to "Aldo" who sounded just like Francis. After fifteen minutes of search around I was told that a repairman would come to my house the next day. I hung up wondering if Aldo had a garage, or if he even knew what it meant to get you garage door track bent out of shape.

Okay, the next day I get a call from someone, saying my repairman needs directions to my house. She asked me to call 800/469-4663 to give directions. If you call that number, you will get ahold of Francis, Aldo or some compatriot; and more than likely they will not have you in their database. After fifteen munutes of being unidentified, I told Aldo I would try to handle it locally.

On my cell phone, there was a "missed call" number this same morning. Suspecting it might be the repair man I called it and got lucky. However, when I told him my problem, he said he could not fix it. "But Aldo in India said you could fix it. I explained the problem very carefully to him." "Sorry but I only work on garage door openers, not garage doors." And, as in an act of consolation, he told me that if he had made it to my house, I would have been charged $65 to hear him tell me that he could not fix my problem. This smells like a racket. First Aldo assures me that the repairman can do the job; then the repairman comes and if he had had good directions he would have charged me $65 to tell me he can't help me.

Get this: in spending around two hours with Time Warner and Sears the last three days, the final word, from both of them was "we can't fix your proglem". I wrestled with their customer service on three different days and came up completely empty. Well, Aldo did say he was sorry.

If my experiences with these off-shore customer service folks is common only a third of a time, I cannot help but think it will hurt the reputation of the companies using them in order to cut costs. Some companies have already returned their call centers to the United States. Even with higher labor costs, in the long run, local help is cheaper that foreign bungling.

And now, I sit here waiting for the Dish TV man to show up. I have a scheduled appointment with him: sometime betwen 8 am and noon today. He has six more minutes to make it on time.