Outsourcing and Call Center Blog

7 December, 2007

India – Masters of Customer Service

“If you want to provide your customers with really first class customer service, you have to go to India.” The Germans have developed a second-to-none ability to build cars, the Japanese televisions and, in my opinion if your HiFi isn’t Scottish, it’s crap. Now where in the world do they have more experience, more people, more managers, more executives devoted to providing customer service and technical support than here in India? So it just stands to reason that we are the world’s best, right?

How does that sound? Are you buying it? Seth Godin is on a roll this week about customer service and call centers. In his piece called The discipline of one ring he alludes to the vast difference in customer experience for customers of companies who have committed to answering the phone on the first ring and the experience many of us are more used to (I was in a 2-hour queue with my hosting company this week who tout their support as being “exclusively UK-based”). I will leave it to Seth to examine why this customer experience makes a difference, but I wonder how many Indian Call Centers are ready to promote, sell, staff and manage a one-ring level of customer service. If we don’t understand this concept, aren’t able to articulate the advantages, aren’t willing to sell the reasoning and move our prospects and customers (where appropriate) in this direction, then why not?

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10 Comments »

  1. As a call center employee I disagree that you have to go to India to get good service. Most of the callers to my center are happy to get an English speaking person since these outsources are more that likely NOT to get the issue correct and then give YOU the wrong information. This is after you spend 10 mins just getting them to say your name right.

    There are also complaints of them disconnecting your call due to not knowing what to say to you, and not having any written information before them to tell you. They have unusually high hold times and most times I personally have left the call without any more resolution than when I first called.

    So much for that theory…

    Comment by benzbaby — 17 December, 2007 @ 2:19 | Reply

  2. Hi Benzbaby,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I think I will take a pass for now on your gratuitous insult to the thousands of your Indian colleagues, who I can assure you speak English just as well as I do, and ask you to re-read the post as I think you have completely misunderstood it.

    As far as your second set of points, which have to do with training, knowledge management and AHT, I guess I will ask you who you think specifies the requirements for these things in an outsourcing contract? Let’s take AHT specifically, what, in your opinion causes it to be “unusually high”? How do you keep it lower in your call centre? This might be a good starting point for some discussion of this topic.

    /sch

    Comment by shamrin — 17 December, 2007 @ 3:30 | Reply

  3. well Shamrin… I don’t knock the Indian call centers, I’m sure they try there dandiest to provide excellent customer service. But your assurances are worthless as every American knows that it is even difficult to understand other Americans with thick accents. Being able to talk the words does not count towards effective communication. I’ve been to India and I’ve seen their training style. Most of the reps on the phones are given a week long crash course on how to pronounce words on a page. That does not mean they understand what they are saying and you can’t tell me that you could take a similar course in a language you have only heard in movies and music and be able to communicate as proficiently as in your native tongue.

    It is not an insult to the Indians to question their communication abilities; it is a compliment that they are able to pick up enough of another language for basic speech, but the fact remains that communication between two people of the same native language will be much more effective.

    That being said how can you even question the “unusually high” hold times? Say an American from the south calls into an Indian call center… the rep probably has just as hard of a time understanding us as we do them (some worse than others obviously.) The American must repeat his name and the spelling of it multiple times. The rep will indeed get it done eventually but another American would be much more suited to understand the caller and as such the call would proceed much quicker, thus lowering hold times.

    I’m not for or against outsourcing. As a business owner (call center) I have lost contracts to India on occasion and I don’t bare any negative feelings towards them or any other call center that won a contract over me. What gets me is the businesses that come back to me a year or so later and tell me… “well we got a better price from the Indians but the calls took much longer and customer complaints went through the roof!”

    You can’t tell me that the average American is going to take time out of their life to call and complain to a company just because they don’t like an accent. Especially if their issue was resolved (83% of the issues were indeed resolved.) But they awarded the contract to my call center and we lowered the average hold time, we lowered the time per call, and increased the resolved issue percentage to 91%. Now how can that be you ask? Effective Communication is the key.

    Comment by spence — 17 January, 2008 @ 6:26 | Reply

  4. […] off shoring — shamrin @ 13:16 I think I may have been a bit too subtle with my point in my original post on this topic. The title is meant to be ironic, and the post meant to challenge Indian call centres as to why, […]

    Pingback by India - Masters of Customer Service - Part II « Outsourcing and Call Center Blog — 17 January, 2008 @ 13:16 | Reply

  5. Personal experience with Indian call centers has not been good. It’s difficult to deal with ANY customer service department when they read their responses from a script. And on one occasion (the call center pulled my credit report without explaining they intended to do so) I tried to argue about the FCRA laws. If a company answers the phone for another country, they should be aware of credit reporting laws and privacy laws. Of course, the outsourcer should be aware. It would be nice if we could limit these types of functions – for example, outsource general inquiries to overseas call centers, and home-source more complicated transactions to people working out of their homes. It’s a major concern and cause of the current “homeshoring” revolution we’re having here in the US – striking a balance between cost efficiency and cultural understanding.

    Comment by Melissa Brewer — 17 January, 2008 @ 15:23 | Reply

  6. Hello,

    While I respect your opinion, as a former employee of an american call center that utilized a manila team as the first level of customer support, I have to agree w/ another comment made here that the “language barrier” is a major concern to most of our customers, and we experienced that a bulk of the callers would do/say anything to get an american on the line. I totally disagree w/ your comments on the quality of work produced in India-based call centers- while they are definitely a shrewd move to service customer needs/complaints/etc and cut costs for the business owner, the barrier of communication between the customer and the client ultimately lends the employing company a negative impression. IMHO, sacrificing customer satisfaction for lowered overhead ultimately does not work.

    Comment by Mr Watson — 6 February, 2008 @ 9:03 | Reply

  7. India-Now a great hub of call centers and you can say in customer service it is on top.The Indians aren’t to blame for wanting to use their English skills to feed their families,but still they are no. one in customer service.

    Comment by Ranjna — 9 July, 2008 @ 15:16 | Reply

  8. It is sales that draws in customers, but it is the customer service that keeps them loyal to a company. We must have the technology and the personnel needed to provide. We should assemble a competent, efficient, effective call center and call answering system to suit your needs in keeping in touch with our client, and still provide them with that important human touch.

    Comment by customer care representative — 21 July, 2008 @ 14:04 | Reply

  9. India is still a leading call center outsourcing service provider across the world wide. Next to India, the Philippines is also fast becoming a call center outsourcing favorite among various countries abroad.

    Comment by Answering service — 18 February, 2010 @ 17:09 | Reply

  10. I totally disagree with benzbaby for his commenting that indian call centers take unusually high times for resolving customer calls. According to my experience in call centers the call center employees are well trained in advance to resolve the customer customer calls as soon as possible and the team leads are responsible to see that the customers are not being devoid of the valuable time. If a process is taking a longer time it should the call is immediately diverted to the superiors or some one who can handle the call to the customers’ satisfaction.

    Comment by Hcall — 7 April, 2010 @ 14:51 | Reply


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