On Outsourcing

Yesterday, San Francisco Chronicle had this article about outsourcing. Specifically about how the poor Indian call-center employees get a lot of abuse from their American callers especially. The whole time I was reading the article, I just felt really kind of confused (I mean, besides the anger/outrage cos I mean, how do people think it’s ok to yell racial slurs and insults and whatnot at people?). I mean, all y’all know how I love outsourcing already, but evidently, some people really hate outsourcing (and/or are racist).

I sympathathize with people who lose their jobs, but then shouldn’t they be calling the CEOs and whosywhatsits boss types and screaming invective at them? It doesn’t seem admirable to yell at and pick on people who are powerless instead of people who have power.

In any case, the people working at those call-centers rock. And I can give concrete examples. I’ve already spoken about how much help I got on a customer service issue at Dell, but I’ve gotten a lot of help with tech support type issues, too. It’s true, I can tell that when I call in about say a harddrive problem, sometimes they’re reading a script, taking me through troubleshooting steps. But you know, if they started handing out harddrives (or whatever hardware) left and right, their supervisor is going to be less than happy. So it’s fine. In the end, the issue’s resolved and I get what I want, and the computer works again, all’s well.

HOWEVER. Dell has yet to outsource their server tech support. (Or if they have they’ve outsourced to people who speak perfect English.) Last month, I had a problem with a certain server hardware. I called Dell and spoke with various tech support folk. Each time, they asked me to go through troubleshooting steps with them, which was no prob. Then they’d ask me to try something and call or email back. I didn’t leave a message even when I had an extension because I wasn’t necessarily going to be onsite when they called back and they never picked up their phone, but I tried email various times. I NEVER GOT A RESPONSE. Not once. In direct contrast to my customer service experience where I emailed back and forth for like a whole Saturday and when one guy went off shift another picked up where he left off.

The last three calls (which I remember the best) about the hardware went approximately thusly, just for example:
Me: Describe the problem.
John (the name he gave and the name on his email, not sure if any names are actually real though:p): Okay, let’s try some stuff.
Me: OK, but the last 5 times we had this problem, it got fixed when the part was replaced.
John, v. snotty and condescending tone of voice: Just because that worked in the past doesn’t mean that that’s going to fix it again.
Me: OK, fine then.
John: Let’s upgrade the firmware! (Maybe not as much enthusiasm as all that, but seriously, this guy loves upgrading firmware. It’s his preferred possible fix. Mine is restart personally, but you know, to each his/her own:p)
Me: Um…you know, when I called about this problem last week, we updated the firmware.
John: Well let’s try it again. Sometimes it clears out the <something>.
Me (thinking wha???): Okay. (I don’t think it fixed it, but can’t tell without testing.)
John: Starts going on about updating the software.

Which is fine but I don’t think the license we have will let us update more than we have. He sends me some links tells me to download and try em out and email him. I download, the license doesn’t work, email him for advice. Get nada. Call again. This time I talk to Brittany. Lots of same stuff, but at least she’s nice about it. Still wants me to try a bunch of stuff over. Also talks about updating the software. Sends me different links, even though I explained about the license. I agree, unwillingly. It doesn’t work again, so I email her. Nothing. So I call again. This time I get someone else, and funnily enough I don’t remember his name, which would make me feel bad but I emailed his supervisor to say he was exemplary already, so it’s ok:p I tell him that this hasn’t worked in a MONTH and it’s completely unacceptable and I’ve already tried all sorts of stuff with various people and I just need it fixed. He asks me to do that Remote Assistance stuff where he looks at my desktop with me and THEN I guess he finally believes me cos I get my part. Everything’s fine the next day.

IT TOOK SO LONG!!! I kept wanting to be nice to them because I know what it’s like to be in customer service. I know about having a bad day. I know about unreasonable demands for help I can’t give. But doooooooood. I wasted so much time. I feel like if I’d been transferred to India it would’ve taken one or two phone calls instead of like 6 over a month while the problem degraded.

And by the way, I’m not the only one with this sort of experience. I spoke with some of my co-workers and they agreed that they felt like they’d been getting more help since Dell outsourced. I also spoke with some other people though, and they mentioned some other companies (like credit card) where it was pretty awful. I think the concensus was, if the company empowers the call-center folk to DO SOMETHING instead of merely being conduits for information, then they’re pretty alright. It’s when they can only give information that it’s terrible. But that still seems like something that needs to be taken up with management.

Anyways, I don’t know. I guess it just doesn’t seem fair to them call-center folks. It seems unfortunate that now we’re giving a bad impression of ourselves on the other side of the world, and we don’t even have to step foot over there.


  1. My experiences with outsourcing have been less than stellar. I didn’t get any help and I heard the same lines over an over again like a broken record. I called multiple times because the issue was never resolved and in the end they never did help me. What a waste of my time and corporate money. Before, when that specific tech support office was run by stateside people, help was prompt, solutions were accurate, and the people were professional without having to read a script. I’m glad it’s working for some companies though.

  2. Yeah, maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s just that Dell has implemented the outsourcing properly.

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