Are you sick of foreign call centres?

One of the biggest complaints amongst British people about customer service is the fact that when they need to phone a customer helpline, you end up getting transferred to a call centre abroad, where very often the person you are talking to has a bad command of the English language, and constantly has to put you on hold while they check things with their line manager.

It’s annoying for lots of reasons, aside from the obvious issue of not fully understanding English.

Firstly, because it’s a foreign call centre, the person you are talking to has absolutely no stake in the company or its products. They are just doing their job for the money, and you can tell they don’t really have any pride in the company that they are working on behalf of. If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you will know that I believe one of the most important aspects of good customer service is the employees having a stake in the company (see article dated 30.06.16 about the Marriott corporation). 

There are also so many subtleties and nuances in the English language, that even if the person can speak good English, they still very often don’t understand the more subtle points you are making. For example, try saying: “your product is not what it’s cracked up to be,” ...and they will think you are telling them that the product is cracked!!

And are you (like me) sick of being asked what the weather is like in Yorkshire, when you know that they are secretly basking in 90 degrees of sun!!

For me personally, the big issue is more to do with jobs. It just somehow feels wrong that a British company are prepared to subcontract their customer service to a foreign country, when this always means that jobs are lost here in the UK. I’d rather pay a little bit more and get good quality customer service from people working here in Britain.

But if you think this is a problem that only affects the UK, then think again. One of my American readers has just sent me a letter he spotted in his local newspaper, the Ventura County Star in California USA. It seems that ‘over the pond’ our American friends suffer from exactly the same problems we have here in Britain!

I have reproduced the letter below:

“I tried to call my local bank the other day to ask a question about my bank statement. The call was answered by someone in the Philippines whose English I could barely understand. This happened again to me today when I called a company about my postage machine. It is an American company headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, yet I got someone in India."

"Is anyone else as sick of this routine as I am? I realize few companies these days care about customer satisfaction, and it’s cheaper to outsource customer service to India or the Philippines, where people will work for $2 an hour and they don’t have to deal with oppressive OSHA, EEOC or EPA regulations. I’d rather pay more for a service or product and keep those customer service jobs in America."

"If you agree, do what I do. As soon as I hear a heavy accent, I say, “I want to speak to someone in the U.S.” In almost every case, they put me right through to someone in the States. Then, after I’ve finished with my issue, I ask for the contact information where I can write and complain about the difficulty understanding their overseas employees and about giving these customer service jobs to foreign countries, and I send a letter or an e-mail. If enough people do this, maybe someday someone will get the message.”

Greg Moses, Simi Valley

Ventura County Star, Camarillo, California, USA. 14th July 2016