Outsourcing sucks!
September 4, 2006 11:51 PM   Subscribe

Is there a list of companies that don’t outsource their customer support?

After having spent the last hour on the phone with someone (in some country in south east asia) that didn’t understand my problem but kept repeating the same set questions, I am frustrated and feeling completely helpless. I don’t know what to do since I cannot ask them to transfer me elsewhere since there is no other elsewhere.
Instead, I’ve decided that I would rather pay more to do business with companies that don’t treat me like shit. Can someone point me to a list of companies (credit cards, computers etc.) that don’t outsource? Thanks!

PS: Bonus points if you can tell me how to deal with companies that DO outsource (alas, I cannot close these accounts just yet). Is there a good time of the day to call? Are there other useful tricks?
posted by special-k to Technology (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
yes, it's called the S&P 500. seriously, every company does it and the notion of not american=bad strikes me as xenophobic.

but you did identify the problem correctly: some companies have too many customers calling in to handle the matter using skilled employees and simply use the monkey-with-a-script tactic to fend off the masses. considering that there are in fact a lot of dumb questions, that approach isn't all that stupid but your problem is frustrating, no matter whether you are dealing with someone in alabama or bangalore. a decent way to get by such people is to politely ask for their supervisors. or hang up and call again. that's how I do it when I just can't get along with the person.

or use a personal assistant. I love interns.
posted by krautland at 12:44 AM on September 5, 2006

(this thread may not go well)....

Are you just asking for any sort of company, in any business? If you are looking for tech companies that don't outsource, good luck. If they are of any significance at all they probably do it.

You do realize that customer service tends to suck whether you are calling Boston or Bangalor? The tips for getting get good help will be the same, outsourced or not:

* be polite, even if the tech isn't - being a jerk gets you no where and is usually counter productive
* cleary explain the issue, w/ any background info that could help someone diagnose
* if you have someone who clearly cannot help you, ask for their supervisor or hang up and call back - note that "supervisor" may often mean "guy in the next cube over", but at least its someone different
* do your research - double check manuals, search google, make sure you aren't missing something obvious. Reading someone else's experience with the same problem may help you explain it more clearly to customer service.
posted by rsanheim at 12:55 AM on September 5, 2006

Apple doesn't. It was great; in March, they announced plans to open a giant call center in Bangalore, and by June the plans were completely cancelled due to backlash.
posted by trevyn at 12:55 AM on September 5, 2006

Why stop at customer support?

You'll be quite hard-pressed to find a computer company that doesn't outsource its labor, however. Good luck.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:56 AM on September 5, 2006

Best answer: Outsourcing is not your problem.

Shit customer support is your problem.

Outsourcing ≠ shit customer support.

Imagine talking to a Merrican who is paid the same as the call-center drone you are talking about. (Which would mean they are unable to get a job flipping burgers). Yikes.
posted by unSane at 5:27 AM on September 5, 2006

Imagine talking to a Merrican who is paid the same as the call-center drone you are talking about. (Which would mean they are unable to get a job flipping burgers). Yikes.

Yes, this is what calling DirecTV's non-outsourced customer service is like. I thought I had accidentally dialed a group home.

Outsourcing does frequently exacerbate the problem with thick accents and weak English skills. Not always by any means, but I have dealt with call centers where I could barely understand what the person was reading off their script, and I have daily exposure to people speaking English with various accents and skill levels.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:39 AM on September 5, 2006

Best answer: Maybe special-k just needs to find a place that rates companies on their customer service.
posted by popechunk at 6:57 AM on September 5, 2006

One way of never having to deal with outsourced people would be to hire somebody to be your personal assistant. This person could come from one of the same low-wage countries that the call centre people do. I would recommend this Esquire article for a view.
posted by rongorongo at 7:25 AM on September 5, 2006

you know, when I wrote that first comment, I was thinking about that old esquire article but I didn't remember where it was from. thanks, rongorongo. I think I will actually give them a try.
posted by krautland at 8:02 AM on September 5, 2006

Best answer: Thread did not go as I had planned.

@Krautland: Thanks for the comment but I'd like to make it clear that I am not xenophobic in that I don't care who I speak to as long as they can listen and respond to what I am asking about. I mention SE Asia because this happens only when I reach a call center there. Trust me, its not the accent. Its really unfortunate that no matter how slow I speak or how polite I am, they seem to apologize for my problems and go right back to their script. My issues are fairly simple (account related stuff) and I can easily explain this to anyone (my neighbor, the guy at the corner store, you) with a little bit of common sense but the reps simply wont listen. If I could make the changes myself, I would.

@trevyn: Yup, I heard that too. great.

@popechunk: Yes, that would be great. I think that would be more what I'm looking for. Is there such a list?

@rsanheim: Yes, I think this is what happens when I ask to speak to supervisors. I find that it pisses them off more and they simply put me on hold for another 20 minutes and pass me onto the guy in the next cubicle.
As for more research, I definitely do that with tech stuff. Unfortunately, I'm stuck with a situation where I need specific changes made to my account and only a rep. can do it for me.

About hanging up and calling later: I do that which is why I asked if there's a particularly good time.

@rongorongo: I can't afford a personal assistant. boo.

@everyone: I should have been clear that I am not against outsourcing in general. Just the part where they outsource customer support to an ill equipped group. I dont care how thick the accent is (I grew up all over the world so I am not new to this). Just as long as someone listens.
posted by special-k at 8:09 AM on September 5, 2006

I've always found the best way to get to a supervisor is to ask a tough question. My latest example was "I have noticed the DishNetwork in the US has been offering DishPro based MDU services in the US, and since ExpressVu uses DishNetwork equipment, I'm wondering if you have plans, or have already upgraded any apartment buildings to that standard? If not, what is the procedure for me to have my apartment upgraded?". "Uhhhh, let me forward you to corporate, they might be able to answer your question..."

If your question isn't that hard, well, then they might be able to answer it eventually. All these places have scripts, you just need to ask questions so far outside of the scripts that they HAVE to get someone else to help you. Of course, some places are just manned by retards, in which case your call goes like:

"Yeah, I am having trouble with my DSL. I logged into a tester modem with a console interface and it has shown a log of disconnects every 5 - 10 minutes, a lot of line errors, and way too much attenuation. I can give you the stats if you li---"
"---I can't help you until you hook up our original modem"
"But it was hooked up, I just hooked this one up tonight to help diagnose the problem for you, and so I could give you useful feedback."
"Please sir, hook up your original modem" (I do that)
"Click (x). Is it working now?"
"Hell no."
"Click (y). Is it working now?"
"Of course not."
"Let me run a line test. Is it working now?"
"How the hell would that make a difference. Fine. [clicks browser]. Nope. Not working."
...etc etc for 15 minutes...
"Oh, well I see I am not able to solve the problem. Let me forward you to a supervisor..."

(That was sympatico, and definitely not an outsourced person, for all that wonder -- same idiocy when I called back to get my trouble ticket number and status, too -- my DSL doesn't even have to work for me to find that information useful. ARGH!)
posted by shepd at 10:00 AM on September 5, 2006

Best answer: I should have been clear that I am not against outsourcing in general. Just the part where they outsource customer support to an ill equipped group.

That has nothing to do with outsourcing. It's about companies with crappy customer service. The company is not giving the reps the tools (knowledge, authority) to help.

I have a friend that used to work in a customer service call centre for a major American wireless service provider. She was obligated to go through the stupid scripts, and she did not have the authority to reverse charges or anything of that nature. They monitored her calls and if she didn't do things exactly the their way she'd be subject to disciplinary action. Following their inefficient 'service standards' was THE performance measure and her compensation was (in part) tied to adhering to them. She also had targets for length of calls and very low thresholds for percentage of her calls that were allowed to be escalated to a different department with more authority. If she transferred more calls than what the mandated limits were, she was penalized.

In short, it was a miserable place to work, because anytime she tried to be actually helpful to a customer, she was penalized. When she followed the rules, the customers would be complete assholes to her because they assumed she was an idiot, or they'd decide she was in Asia someplace and rage at her for taking away American jobs.

As you can imagine, the place has a pretty high turnover in staff. This crap is par for the course in these call centers. Of course, there is a high percentage of idiots that work in places like that in North America, because employees with any sense don't stick around because they get sick of being hampered in their efforts to be useful to their customers.

Now this friend works in a credit card call centre for a credit union. She is valued more by this company - has extensive training, good benefits and the ability to actually assist callers. She is allowed to transfer calls if she needs to - without penalty - and is allowed to excercise a modicum of judgement within set standards. It's a much better place to work and results in both happier employees and happier customers.

The point of my long ranting?

The problem isn't outsourcing, and the problem isn't neccesarily idiots on the other end of the phone. The problem is companies that aren't interested in providing good customer service.
posted by raedyn at 10:17 AM on September 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I wholeheartedly concur with what raedyn said, particularly about the credit union experience. I've been banking with a credit union for the last 1.5 years. Every single time the rep on the line was capable of handling my query (seemingly advanced requests too, which other banks would transfer you to some supervisor/mgr), they are efficient, educated and empowered to satisfy their customers. Every time I speak to them on phone, I don't feel like I am speaking to a drone whose performance is monitored by the minute they spend on the call. And they don't fake pleasantries. They sound like they are genuinely interested in helping me and solving my problem. Moreover I guess most credit unions support quite a bit of local businesses and community programs for the area in which they are located. And yes, they pay dividends too. I'm not too sure how it compares against standard bank interest rates.

Your problem is not outsourcing. It's companies who add bad customer support as an after-thought.

Trust me, take your banking to a credit union. That's one less phone support you have to worry about. It's actually a v.pleasant experience.
posted by forwebsites at 11:20 AM on September 5, 2006

Raedyn is right. Bad customer service is caused (among other things) by using metrics to replace good supervision.

Others are right that outsourcing does not equal bad customer service. I've actually had better luck with Comcast's evening and weekend support (outsourced to Manitoba) than with their regular folks (out of Philladelphia).

There are some companies with good phone support (Unitrim, for car insurance, is one, IBM is another), but I don't know of a single unified list of companies that don't treat their phone support people like stupid idiots barely able to read a script, and paid worse than a burger-flipper.
posted by QIbHom at 4:22 PM on September 5, 2006

I'm a little late to this thread, but conpanies that do not outsource do exist. Jetblue has been fairly innovative in this area; it bases its call center in Utah (I believe) and uses stay-at-home Moms and retired citizens as their call center employees. They work from home and the calls are routed to their personal phones. I can't help you with a list but I do believe that other companies are exploring this sort of thing for precisely the reasons you mention.
posted by btkuhn at 5:20 PM on September 5, 2006

Just chiming in to agree with ThePinkSuperhero. Early this year I made the mistake of ringing the general Apple support number (instead of the super secret Applecare number) and was definitely connected to an Indian call center. The guy was nice enough, but even after patiently following his script for half an hour I was getting nowhere. When I called the proper AppleCare number, I was put straight through to an Australian (I'm in Sydney) who was able to diagnose and escalate the problem immediately. So while they may have responded to an American backlash, they sure haven't in the rest of the world...
posted by web-goddess at 5:31 PM on September 5, 2006

Most every customer services company I have worked for has a group called "Executive Relations" or some such. If you email the CEO's office about a problem, they have a crack team of support ninjas to help you with your problem. Please use this sparingly.

typically, ceo@companyx.com works
posted by Megafly at 6:01 PM on September 5, 2006

Don't forget prison call centers.
posted by Joleta at 7:07 PM on September 5, 2006

...well it would appear that if there is a list of companies that don't outsource then nobody here knows about it. I agree with those who say the issue is about customer service rather than outsourcing but I think you have identified a clear gap in the market for information of this sort.

Something along the lines of a restaurant rating system in which examiners would rate a business on the basis of anonymous calls - followed up by an assessment of the business processes behind them. It would be quite easy to objectively measure variables such as whether a problem was solved, how long this took and the nature of any obstacles that were put in the way. Different categories of award could be given for different types of business (financial services, technical support, etc). A high level of performance would be something that many businesses would want to advertise (as they currently do for, say, ISO9001 certification). Other organisations might aim to cut the costs of certification and pass them on to their customers - you could then choose whether or not to deal with them.
posted by rongorongo at 1:33 AM on September 6, 2006

Apple doesn't.
I went through a long series of calls to Apple support three weeks ago. Many of them were handled by staff in India. How do I know? I asked where they were located.

Apple may have cancelled their new Bangalore center, but that doesn't mean they didn't already have a call center there.

FWIW, the first representative I dealt with was a complete moron.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:48 AM on September 6, 2006

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