Consumer Tech for November

You Can’t Make This Up!

Some overseas call center people are trying to sound like us!

By Richard M. Sherwin

Do you hear me Americas Online or American Telephone and Telegraph? I don’t care what accent my PC, TV, customer support person has. I just want to understand them. Is that so much to ask? It was difficult enough before when these giant tech companies went to a tiered (good, better,  best) tech support personnel in which you had to almost every time no matter whether, your call was handled in Texas, Mississippi or Texas.

Verizon has officially taken over AOL and the new America On-Line’s U.S. customer support is in Czechoslovakia. Yes! Dell Computer says it professional support is back in North America but that leaves most of us consumers with the Philippines.

AT&T has people answering with dialects. Are they in the Dominican Republic? Taiwan? Who knows?  It doesn’t matter since the training and problem solving is worse than ever.

How about TiVo? Desperately trying to stave off DVRs from U.S. service providers, the last independent DVR maker switches U.S. customer support to India. And Microsoft, still one of the largest tech companies in North America, has even switched its professional and consumer help lines to India and allegedly is building call centers in other non-English speaking countries to save money. 

These companies explanation that they use overseas support centers because they can be open when North America times zones need to be supported. Really? If you believe that, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

We talked to a Philippine based support manager who was trained in the U.S. He explained that he now makes less than a quarter of what he was making in the U.S. (about $20 an hour) and works more hours than he was allowed to work in the U.S.

But my two favorite overseas call center active stupidities are by Philadelphia based behemoth Comcast, whose call centers are in Mexico, Philippines, India and Europe and all American Sirius-XM, who recently switched their call center operations to several Latin American countries. They are training their overseas call center personnel to “sound” like North American English, by using names like Bob and Jane and Steve and Susan. Again I don’t care what they sound like, what their accent is, if they can reboot my PC, upgrade my TV system or get my phone service back….and most companies are still lacking in sufficient training to handle tech support.

My favorite tech issue is Major League baseball. Located in a sophisticated non English speaking country, when the MLB App, or MLB TV and Mobile service is not working. You threaten to cancel this $150 a year service, if they can’t fix the problem while the game is on.

The call center person then says, “We’ll call you back in a few days”….of course by then the World Series will be over. When you desperately ask for a second level support or North American call center, they explain politely, they don’t have a North American office or a second level tech support and the subscription cancellation department is closed. UGH!


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