I'm tired of call centers in India

No offense to the people manning the call centers. Their English is generally impeccable, but my American accent, and their Indian/British accent, are just ‘off’ enough that it seems that I have to repeat every third thing I say to them, and vice versa.

I’ve had to deal with call centers in India a lot lately, and it’s never over anything simple, because I deal with all the simple stuff online if at all possible; it’s only when I’ve got a nonstandard problem that the company’s website doesn’t have a means of dealing with, that I call customer service. Like an automated service from United Airlines calling my cell phone. Or trying to give XM Radio the promotion code (and the - get this - activation code for the promotion code) on a radio that had been stolen, to get credit for free activation on the stolen radio, and get the credit for three months of free service applied to the new one. Or trying to find out from Amazon why an order placed on December 2 had completely missed arriving in time for Christmas, and was showing an arrival date of January 10-12 - complete with order numbers that were disappearing and reappearing online while I was trying to explain the problem to the customer service rep.

I’m used to having complex conversations with people whose first language isn’t necessarily English. But if you’re in the same room where you can see the person’s lips and gestures, and where none of the sound gets lost - unlike over a phone line - a lot less gets lost. Telephone conversations about complicated subjects with someone halfway around the world who speaks English well - but not at all like I do - just isn’t working for me.

What it comes down to, I think, is that I’m willing to do business with other airlines, online retailers, or whatever, even if it costs a little more, if their call centers are in an English-speaking country. Because it seems lately that difficult conversations with call centers in India are taking large chunks of time out of my life, in a not particularly pleasant way.

The trouble is, you don’t find out where a business’ call center is, until you actually have a nontrivial problem, of the sort their website can’t handle. And by then it’s too late, and you’re stuck, because you’ve already forked cash over to them. Damned if I know what to do about that. But it sure sucks.

Not much of a rant, I realize, but after spending an hour on the phone with XM this afternoon, I needed to vent. If you’ve read this far, thanks for listening.

How do you know the call centre is in India?

As a general rule if not only the first person you speak with has an Indian accent but so does everyone you’re transferred to (repeat if you call again) does the odds are the call centre isn’t in this hemisphere.

A weird little thing that my ISP (SBC/AT&T) does to try to trick you, but that merely adds insult to injury, is having the call center operators use fake “American” names even though their accents are so thick and comical and their English so poor that it sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit making fun of Indian people. There’s nothing quite like having “Derek Patel,” who can’t get through a coherent sentence, transfer you to “Tiffany Ramaswami” or “Jonathan Venkatesan.”

My company began using Indian call centers for not only its customer tech support, but also for its in-house desktop support. I have a computer problem, I call and talk to “Brian” (or some other guy with a curiously Western-sounding name) in India, who then sends the case back to the person who’s actually going to fix my computer, who is likely sitting in a cube one floor above me.

It doesn’t make much sense to me, but I guess that’s why I don’t get paid the big bucks. (Well, maybe compared to Brian.)

my road club is there, have them say ‘hi’. they’ll also nicely thank you for your patience in every sentence. which I really appreciate while I’m on my cell, they also don’t seem to understand that an abandoned building doesn’t always have a street address, and I’m not likely to know the zip code, either. wonder what would happen should I break down on the highway? (I’m on eastbound I-96 just east of the Okemos exit. there is no address. there is no building. there is no zip code. yes, I know you’re grateful for my patience, could you just trust me that I remember it from 20 seconds ago?_)

As I mentioned in that other call-centre thread, put your call centre in Sault Ste. Marie! Same time zone as Eastern US, same accent as General American, an educated populace, public health care means lower labour costs, plus, my sister gets work!

"If you are having a problem that is not covered in our online trouble shooting guide, or you have tried all the solutions and still need to talk to someone, leave your name, a brief description of your problem and a phone number that you will be able to answer in — Pause ---- 3-5 hours from now due to our current response levels.

If you will not be able to do that, you will be called during the next business day. If you do not answer, you will need to re-enter your question, name and number at this site.

Thank you for using XYZ products and we will do everything we can to help you solve your problem."

*Would you be willing to have this type of service if it got you connected you to a native language , same country, knowledgeable tech?

Would enough people to make it profitable for a business to do this? Are you willing to be penalized if your solution was one that was on the ‘online’ troubleshooting guide? *

What say ye all?

I wouldn’t worry too much about it. The time to really worry is when the call centres are located in the West to deal with consumers in India and China! (Give it a century.)

I work in a call centre in Melbourne. Being in Melbourne we have about 5% of our staff who are originally from India. There are also people from Pakistan,Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam etc. In fact it has been shown that there are staff here from over 200 countries who work in our Melbourne call centre.
The press here had to put out an official apology for writing a story about ‘our’ call centre in Bangalore.
So, we get lots of idiots asking how the weather is in Mumbai, or asking us to prove that we are in Melbourne. They ask me too, and I am not Indian.
My Indian friend who gets asked where she comes from responds with “Our company does not put up with any racism in any form. How can I help you with your enquiry?”

I could not care less where companies put their call-centres as long as I get good service. If you are talking to a call centre worker who does not know what they are doing or is rude or difficult to understand, then you are getting bad service. It does not matter what country that person is in.
When I call my credit card provider, I get thru to someone in Manila. The only problem I have with that is when the phone line is not clear. It does not bother me that they are in the Phillipines.

blinkingblinking - what alphaboi said. Also, on occasion I’ve asked.

Gus - they’re usually willing to deal with the problem right now, if possible. But the combination of the complexity of the problem and the difficulty of communication usually means their willingness isn’t enough.

aldiboronti - true dat. But I’m just going with a small gripe today. No Bush, no Iraq, no global warming, no decline of the West - just a failure to communicate.

So, is it racism to ask where the call center is, just to verify the obvious hunch? Because I’ve done that sometimes.

They generally know enough to respond to the standard sorts of inquiries quite well; they just have trouble with the nonstandard ones that they don’t have clear instructions on how to handle. They are almost never rude. But there is a problem in communication that seems to crop up routinely with Indian call centers.

You are making a big deal about racism here, but by equating this communication difficulty with bad service, you seem to be saying that call centers in India are generally giving bad service to customers like me. I think that’s a bad way to describe it, because it puts the onus on the people at the call center, suggesting that they are less capable of giving good service than persons located in North America are. And that’s just not the case.

The problem, of course, is a systemic one, from my POV: there needs to be a way for them to take the easy questions in India, and punt the complicated questions to persons who grew up speaking English with Western accents. Doing that would cost a bit more than handling all their calls in India, but should still cost a lot less than handling all their calls in South Dakota. The ‘bad service’ is an artifact of the system design, not something that originates with the call center personnel.

I called a guy on that once.
“Your name is really Brian?”
“Oh yes.”
I couldn’t push it. If he hadn’t helped with the problem, I admit I’d want to say, “And mine is Siddahartha”.

Working with a guy who sounded Indian on a printer problem, and being aware that “Ah talk lik iss onct and a wile” we both just spoke slowly and got the printer shared.

Don’t forget that there are millions of Christians in India, many of whom have typically Western first names, so it’s not implausible that someone might be an actual Indian in India with a name like Brian.


I hate being on the losing side of fighting ignorance.

If you are whoosing me about The LIfe of Brian, I will track you down and find you… :slight_smile:

The CIA World Factbook says that the Christian population is only 2.3%, but with an estimated population of 1,095,351,995, that’s still about 25 million.

This would probably shut me up too, because it seems like a non sequitur. I don’t doubt that she has to put up with crap from customers (as anyone who’s worked in a call center will attest), but starting the conversation off with an accusation of racism seems like a rather questionable strategy.

If a caller says “so, busy night, eh?” should he be given a terse summary of the policy on corporate espionage?

I can just imagine me with my Boston accent talking with a call center in Okemos Michicagan.

"Hello, this is Dan. I was falling a truck hauling tonic and a case fell on my roof (ruef).

“A truck carrying what fell on your what?”

“Sorry, it was carrying ‘pop’ and it fell on my ‘rough’”

“OK, where are you”

“On route (root) 180”


“Sorry, ‘rowt’ 180”

“And where were you going?”

“To do my wash”

“Your what”

“My ‘warsh’, oh never mind. click”


Yes, but the fact is that these people are assigned false first names to use with customers.

Complicating things unneccessarily, I suspect a lot of things online are purposefully crippled and/or crippleware, forcing one to call. I’ve had nothing but reasonably quick and competent online help, overseas or not, but the cloying “thank you for being patient” every 2.3 seconds gets to be a bit much.