Friday, March 02, 2007

Cox & Forkum: Charmed

(Nice cartoon at title link)

From the Mercury News Article:

"Language fluency was a big reason some of Sun Microsystems' technical support jobs were moved from India to Nova Scotia. Customers in the Americas who needed tech support had griped about having a difficult time understanding the English typically spoken in India. ``This move offered a better fit for our customers,'' said Sun spokeswoman Dana Lengkeek."

I don't think language is the main issue though. Consider an example recently relayed to me (I have less recent personal examples though):

You call about a brand new printer/fax/scanner combo that after a month has started issuing a grinding sound when you do certain operations and refused to feed paper from the sheet feeder (but otherwise scans and prints fine). After asking several sensible questions, the telephone support suggests that you download and install a newer version of the devices firmware. ("Newer version? I just got the thing!") Furthermore, since this will take quite a while, they suggest you call back when the process is complete.

This has nothing to do with language, although it may have something to do with culture. In North America (and other places I''m sure) we have struggled with high-tech devices for long enough to know when the support person has exceeded their competency as is merely stalling for time, or worse, trying to get you off the phone so that they meet some sort of efficiency standards at their call center. These lame tactics might have been common at call centers in Texas or Baltimore in the 80s, but they don't fly any more. In other parts of the world though, callers might have a different, more tolerant response to the "authority" of the call center personnel. It has little to do with language, or accents, which in this melting pot we have here are all too common in daily face to face life.

As to the economics of it all, I suspect the average consumer if given a choice of being on hold for a minute and speaking with someone anywhere in the world, versus being on hold for an hour, and possibly being disconnected in the process to get some bleary eyed tech-seminar graduate from big-city USA, most of us would take the former.

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